Army Half Marathon – 6 curios

This is about 6 weeks past the event but I feel that’s in keeping with the general feel and organisation of this event and I’d like to share some things I noticed about this event. My result in itself isn’t worth writing about – 5th in 72.53 behind 4 Kenyans. It was won in 68.30ish. I felt ok and half marathons really are hard in this climate. I went with the Kenyans, dropped off, and picked up a couple later on – with a gap to the locals behind me including my training partner Melvin Wong who was first Singaporean (or “race winner” as Singapore call it).

  1. The elite starting pen

So the 50 or so elites nearly missed the start. We started on a bridge which makes getting to the front quite tough. However the race organisers had arranged for the elites to gather on the pavement and then cross a hand-built staircase to get over the race barriers to the start. Not a bad idea all in all. But when we heard the “ONE minute to go folks!” call and we’re all still on the side we got agitated. The Kenyan athletes started trying to climb fences and things got edgy. They had forgotten to finish the staircase to get us to the front. Luckily someone drew their attention to this and they delayed the start to get us on the startline.

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Staircase gets built on right hand side. Just in time!

2. Have we started yet?

There were a few schoolkids lined up in front of us to stop us edging forwards before the gun went. But as they counted down these kids sprinted off in front of us. Was that the start? What’s going on? With no expectations set as to how we started we sort of half started and then a couple of seconds later the gun went. More confusion. I have no idea why these kids didn’t just move to the sides….

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Is this the start? Can we start??

3. Water stations

The race started at 4.30 am. It was dark. And it’s Singapore so it’s really hot. I wanted to get water to pour on me and grab a drink whenever I could. There were plenty of water and sports drink stops which is great. However they didn’t really label which was which so many times I poured sticky sports drink over me. And of course the drinks are in paper cups so the chance of getting any in your mouth if you want to drink are tiny….. I ended up very sticky……

4. MEN WITH GUNS – WTF??

I get it’s the army half marathon, and the army memorabilia like tanks and soldiers is completely fine. But men pointing rifles at you while you are running is just WEIRD and freaky. They may have been pretend rifles – again it was dark so you can’t see a huge amount – but even so – why would you do that?? I thought it was a terrorist attack the first time.

5. I’m finished – water please

So I finished the race – pissed off with myself for cruising the past few km thinking I had no hope of catching the 4th Kenyan – only to turn the final bend and see him jogging in and I ended up 2 seconds behind him. Oh well. Now I am HOT (and annoyed) and just want water to pour on myself. But that’s fine, EVERY race finish has water right? Wrong. I asked all the marshals at the end where water was. Blank looks. There is none. Eventually I found a sports drink station (they hadn’t set up yet though) and they gave me something to drink. It turns out there was a water tent later on – they just hadn’t bothered to set anything up for about 20minutes after the leaders came through.

6. The prizes

I won $200. That’s nice. I guessed there was some decent prize money on offer as the Kenyans wouldn’t have turned up otherwise. There was NOTHING on the website beforehand about the prize structure or even that there was any prizes at all. The first Singaporean prize was $3,000, handy. I left the race to get water, and then got a Whatsapp message from Melvin that I was due a prize but he couldn’t collect for me. One week later I got an email telling me to bring my bib number and ID card to a centre on a certain week to collect. I said I threw away my wet useless bib number. No prize for you they said. What the actual fuck I said. I KNOW what my bib number is, and I have an ID card. Why do you need it? Eventually they told me management had said it was ok to get my prize, on this occasion. Thank you I said.

To be fair, the race itself was pretty good – some bands and entertainment on the course and well marked out and everything. I just found these details quite funny….

I’m not leaving early – I’m working

Ever since I left university and started doing proper jobs I’ve always wanted to make time for running and intentionally avoided industries where working long hours is expected. This is probably why I quickly fell into the advertising industry when I moved to London and then a start-up!

At this stage of my life, working was just a job and running was very separate to that and was the main focus for me. This focus shifted over time and I definitely now see running as something I do outside of my work. As my professional life has taken up more of my headspace I’ve also noticed something quite interesting – running actually helps my work.

No problem is so big it can’t be solved by a two hour run – Anonymous (I made it up)

I’ve found that running is the only time of day I let my brain just drift and wander. I’m a mobile phone addict otherwise and a chronic multi-tasker where I flit from one task to another in a haphazard way that seems to work somehow. However when I run I daydream and my brain drifts towards areas that require problem solving. So many times I’ve finished a run with a much clearer plan of how to tackle a work problem – or mentally rehearsed things without even knowing it.

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I don’t think this is anything new – it’s just a form of meditation and applies to any areas of life. However it’s something I’ve sort of built into my working day. I know I can think about things when I go running and I can put off trying to have a solution until I’ve let the run “work it’s magic”. It could well be no coincidence that as I’ve started to see running as more a way of life than “training” for performance that I think about different things while doing it.

I don’t have a formula for how long I need to run for to get a problem solved – I’m not sure it can work that way. Also, after a while all you can think about is when the run can stop as you get tired (or hot in Singapore!) so there’s probably a sweet spot before your brain focuses on survival rather than secondary problems!

So now when I leave work early and I get jokey comments like “Half day today is it?”, I respond with the title of this blog. Please don’t hold me responsible if your employers and colleagues are less understanding than mine though!

4 of the best, 4 of the worst: Singapore

Hi all,

Right, I haven’t blogged since before London marathon last year, when to be honest I was falling out of love with running – at least the intense marathon focussed grind aspect of it.

So I moved to Singapore 3 months ago. I wasn’t sure what running I would do, but I’ve got into a good routine of running 6 days a week, and hitting 80-120km a week. My hamstrings can cope with this volume, and it doesn’t seem too invasive to my life. Quite frankly, I don’t have enough water in my body to do the volumes I used to do!

Here are some of my observations of running in Singapore:

First, the BEST:

  1. The wildlife! I’ve seen otters, turtles, eagles, macaques, monitor lizards, wild boar all in or nearby the city which is pretty amazing. So much running is near the water that the nature ecosystem is woven into Singapore.
  2. The adoration. I can’t lie, I’m a biggish fish in a very small pond and I can’t say I don’t enjoy the fact I don’t have to be at my very best to be much more than competitive. That has helped motivate me for sure!
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  3. The Park Connector Network. This is a series of towpaths and bridges/underpasses which link up parks and various places of interest throughout Singapore. It means you can run almost anywhere just by following signs and not keep waiting for traffic lights.
  4. People are helpful and humble. I’ve had so many people reach out to me to help me train, and to run with, as well as last minute entries to races. The welcoming attitude has been a huge driving force in me wanting to get half competitive again.

 

Ok, so what’s bad?

  1. The climate. I come home absolutely soaking wet from every single run. Either because of the intense humidity meaning I am soaked in sweat (even my shoes squelch from the dripping) or much more favourably – an impromptu monsoon. There have been occasions it’s been so hot/humid that I thought I may not make it home!
  2. The average pedestrian. There seems to be some innate unawareness of people around them and people zig-zag around footpaths and seem not to understand that they could move to one side when you are running towards them. Even WORSE is the electric scooter craze – so people are unaware AND motorised!
  3. Athletics tracks are free to use. What? Why is this in the “bad” section? I’ll tell you why – people wander onto tracks and treat it like they are ambling around a supermarket (see point 2). They bring their shopping, their kids, all sorts. Shouting “TRACK” just confuses them and so track sessions are intensely frustrating.432a6d12-686c-4aac-9bf2-583a6aa273c8
  4. Not much grass. While I enjoy the connector network, and there are also some great trails around the nature reserves – I do miss grass and big parks…

I will write more, I promise. Again.

Niggling injuries, Chicago aborted, all eyes on London

Wow, 7 months since my last update. That’s very poor form of me. The reason I haven’t updated is due to a host of niggling injuries that have hampered me since July. It all started with me dropping out of the M7 half marathon after 8k with an IT band issue that led to me walking 8k back to the start and feeling extremely sorry for myself while enduring “you can do it! Keep going!” cheers of encouragement from most of the field passing me. This issue cleared up quickly but led to hamstring issues. The right hamstring. Then the left. then the right. Then both. Then the right. Finally it culminated with a right hamstring tendinopathy and after repeated failed attempts to train through it I received a PRP (peptide rich plasma) injection around the tendon in December.

 

Just before this all happened I had been in pretty good shape: regaining the NSW long course XC title, my fastest time at the 4K road relays, and a decent 64.31 at the Gold Coast half (having gone with the pace of 14.40 through 5k).

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Falls Creek – looking forward to getting some great runs done here

In the midst of the niggly issues I aborted my attempt to run the Olympic qualifying time of 2.14.00 at Chicago marathon. I was gutted at the time as felt I was in good shape to try and run sub 2.14 but with the typically late release of the Olympic qualifying criteria by British Athletics I have actually had some good luck. The criteria is such that London Marathon is an effective trial – the first 2 Brits under 2.14 past the post get picked. So had I run sub 2.14 at Chicago it would have effectively meant nothing. I don’t think this is a bad selection criteria, but releasing it so late is poor. I feel really sorry for Scott Overall and Callum Hawkins who have run the time and now have to go again. On the other hand, it makes it more of a lottery and the luck of the draw on the day so it’s good news for me I guess!

So plans from here? Well I am pinning all my hopes on a successful recovery from the PRP injection which after a week off and a week of running feels good so far but will need to see how it recovers from sessions and proper training before I can say for sure. I am currently at Falls Creek enjoying the serenity and champing at the bit to get some good running done. All going well I will get fit and put a plan together for London Marathon in April.

5,000m PB; more recovery, time to apply some pressure.

Hello all,

I’m sorry, this post has been way overdue – I’ve been very busy at work, and did a bit of travel to San Jose and Borneo for work as well, and generally haven’t got round to updating this. Nothing incredibly exciting has happened, although for those that missed it, I DID run a 5,000m PB at Melbourne so that was pleasing, although I really wanted to break 14.00. The whole race felt like I was hanging on for dear life, what you’d expect from a marathon runner I guess!!

Hanging onto the field at the Melbourne Track Classic - 14.04 PB!

Hanging onto the field at the Melbourne Track Classic – 14.04 PB!

So what’s next? Well I want to run Chicago marathon and take some serious time off my marathon PB. I don’t have an entry yet, but currently that’s the aim. Why Chicago? Well the timing is good, the course is fast, but the real reason is I identified it as a race where I’ll have a big group to run with to 20-30km at 2.12 pace. I’ve never had the experience of a group to run with in a marathon, since my 2010 London marathon, so I’m hoping this will get more out of me than a solo effort on a fast course.

My next block of training will be geared towards that. I’ll do a mix of XC and road races in the build up, and I have committed to myself and my coach Ken that I will do better at the recovery side of things. This means less socialising, more sleep etc. This will be vital as I include some longer threshold runs and really focus on my long runs as part of my build up.

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More recovery – Endura can help with that

Another thing I’m going to explore is the psychology side of things. I’ve thought about this in the past but what really hit home that I should look further was a presentation I experienced at work by a guy called Andy Meikle. Andy was an Ironman athlete but didn’t win as many races as he liked and started to wonder what sets the winners apart from the nearly-winners beyond fitness. He started to interview extreme high achievers – Nelson Mandela; CEOs; scientists; sportsmen; Zen Masters; even guys who broke out of high security prisons! What he started to discover was they had unwavering belief in their ability. His next step was to understand how this belief was instilled and how to apply this to himself. A lot of what he said resonated with me – lowering expectations to take the pressure off of myself, setting sub-conscious ‘limits’ on ability based on training/races, and finding reasons not to really hurt myself mid-race. I want to understand if and how I can change these things and see if I can get much more out of myself.

I have some time arranged with Andy to discover what is possible – I’ll update on that soon!

Take care y’all.

Operation 5,000m PB – Final chance

So next week I shall be taking to the blue track of Albert Park to have a final attack on my 5,000m PB of 14.09.96. Although really I want to break 14.00, but I’ll be happy with a PB. To recap the build-up, I did a good training block at Falls Creek over New Year, but probably lacked some speed. I then ran in Hobart and was just 2.3 seconds outside my PB, but tweaked my hamstring in the process. I then had a month of less than full training before I returned to full training 3 weeks ago. Despite the lay-off, my fitness doesn’t seem to have gone far – I’ve done a Mona fartlek and Quarters session that has been better than I have done for quite a while.

IMG_1518So my fitness isn’t too bad, although I’m still short on 1500 type work that would have made a difference. The race itself should be a great opportunity to run fast – the Melbourne IAAF World Challenge and also the Australian National Championships. Suffice to say I’ll be hanging on for dear life for as long as possible.

Let’s hope that my next update is a positive one! Here’s my training for the past few weeks:

March 2-8

Monday: 67 mins steady home from work at 6.51/mile. Kept it easy after the horrible long run the day before. (10)

Tuesday – AM – 37mins easy (5)

               PM – Quarters session on the track. Very even, and Nipper got away on the 2nd half. Consistent 67/38’s for a 13.58 4.8km. (8)

Wednesday – 86 mins steady at 6.37/mile and 135bpm average. (13.5)

Thursday – AM – 39mins easy (5.5)

                 PM – 61 mins with 5k threshold in 16.10 around Centennial. 5.58/mile and 147bpm average (10.5)

Friday – 54 mins easy at 6.39/mile and 135bpm average (8)

Saturday – AM – Mona fartlek in Centennial Park. 4.51/mile average for 20mins. Felt pretty good. I think this is the 3rd fastest I’ve done this session.  176bpm average. 183bpm max. (10.5)

PM – 38mins easy (5.5)

Sunday – 2hrs 17 long run. Much cooler this week but didn’t push it too much. 6.32/mile and 146bpm average. 165bpm max. (21)

97.5 miles. 2 good sessions. Surprisingly not that unfit!

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My last PB attempt fell just short at 14.12

Mar 9-16

Monday – 66mins steady at 6.35/mile and 137bpm. (10)

Tuesday – AM – 38mins easy. Had to get up super early for this – explains the 7.37/mile average. 127bpm. (5)

PM – Track session. 3 x (4 x 300) off 30secs, 45secs, then 60 secs per set. 5 mins between sets.

63, 65, 64, 64

62, 62, 63, 62

63, 61, 62, 61. Hung onto Nipper until the last set. Not too bad seeing as I’ve not done much work at this pace. (10)

Wednesday – 89 mins with Carter around Centennial. A decent brisk pace – 6.23/mile and 143bpm. (14)

Thursday – AM – 39mins easy (5.5)

PM – 67mins with 5mile threshold in 25.50 with Tom Do Canto. Averaged 6.22 and 147bpm. Felt like I was working pretty hard.(10.5)

Friday – 52mins easy at 7.07/mile (7.5)

Saturday – AM – Centennial Park session. 7 x 2mins hard, 1 min float. Covered 6.95km and averaged 4.52/mile. Pretty solid. 174bpm average, 181bpm max. (10.5)

PM – 41mins easy at 7.15/mile (5.5)

Sunday – 2hrs03 long run. A bit shorter with the 5k race next week. Kept it controlled also. 6.34/mile and 141bpm. (18.5)

96.5 miles. Ready for the race next week. The fitness is there.

Operation 5,000m PB – De-railed but back on track. Puns.

I haven’t posted for a while, mainly as my appetite to write about running always wanes when I don’t have good news to write about. The hamstring ‘tweak’ I picked up in the final 25m of the Hobart 5,000m actually set me back about a month. I did manage to run in this month to varying levels but had to take about a week off, and then thought all was ok, but it wasn’t quite and returning to hard training too soon cost me even more time.

The good news now is that it seems to be ok – I am back to full training and hopefully can be fit enough to run a 5,000m PB in 3 weeks time in Melbourne. Here’s a summary of the past few weeks:

Jan 26-Feb1

Mon – Ran for about 25 mins but then hamstring was really hurting so walked/jog back….

Tues – REST

Weds – REST

Thurs – 4 x 4mins jog off a minute walk. Felt ok but not brilliant.

Friday – 5 x 4mins jog off a min – a bit better than yesterday.

Saturday – AM – 5 x 5mins jog off a min walk. Felt better again. Much less pain.

PM – 30 mins jog continuous. Can feel it but it’s runnable on at a slow pace.

Sunday – 46 mins easy. Better again.

16 mile week – BOOM!

Feb 2 – Feb 8

Monday – 58mins steady at 6.41/mile. Getting back in business. Better again (9)

Tuesday – AM – 37 mins easy at 6.54/mile (5.5)

PM – 66mins steady at 6.36/mile. (10)

Wednesday – 79 mins steady. Progress again. Kept it slow at 7.11/mile with Nipper. (11)

Thursday – AM – 37 mins easy (5.5)

PM – 60mins with 20mins threshold. Hamstring held up fine! 5.47/mile (10.5)

Friday – 57 mins easy at 6.54/mile (8.5)

Saturday – AM – 8 x 2mins off 1 min float. 4.58/mile average overall. Felt pretty good and no hamstring pain. Took the pm off to help recover. (10)

Sunday – 93 mins. Hamstring was sore…. Could feel it from the start and after 50mins or so it was getting noticeable so I cut the run short a bit. 6.41/mile and 143bpm average (14)

84 miles. 2 steps forward, 1 step back….

Feb 9 – 16

Monday – 62 mins steady – hammy got sore after 40 mins or so, will need a few easy days I think… 6.34/mile and 134 bpm (9.5)

Tuesday – 32mins jog. It felt ok 6.43/mile and 130 bpm (5)

Wednesday – 33 mins jog at 7.03/mile and 136bpm (4.5)

Thursday – 45 mins steady at 6.48/mile and 134 bpm. (6.5)

Friday – 53 mins steady at 6.55/mile and 132bpm (7.5)

Saturday – 65mins steady at 6.25/mile and 144bpm (10)

Sunday – 2hours steady. It was hot and hamstring felt fine but I felt awful. 6.33/mile and 151bpm. Although hit 181 at one point!! Still, a good long run at least (18.5)

60.5 miles. Had to ease back but getting there.

16 – 23 Feb

Monday – 68 mins steady at 6.45/mile and 137bpm (10)

Tuesday – AM – 36 mins easy at 140 bpm and 7.12/mile (5)

PM – 69 mins steady at 6.49/mile and 139 bpm (10)

Weds – 91 mins steady. Felt awful. Too early in the morning. 6.56/mile and 137bpm (13)

Thurs – AM – 38mins easy at 7.02/mile and 136bpm (5.5)

PM – 64 mins with 2 x 7mins pick-up. Hamstring fine but felt crappy again. 6.29/mile and 147 bpm (10)

Friday – 49mins easy at 7.14/mile and 130bpm (7)

Saturday – SESSION! 6x2mins off 1min float. Hamstring felt fine again. Held back a bit just to protect it. 4.58/mile (10)

PM – 37mins easy. No pain! Progress! 7.00/mile and 129bpm (5.5)

Sunday – 2hours long run. 6.25/mile and 143bpm. Felt miles better than last week. 162max not 181…. (19)

95 miles. I think I’m properly back running again!

Feb 23 – Mar 1

Monday – 45 mins steady. 6.28/mile and 141 bpm (7)

Tuesday – AM – 39mins easy at 7.13/mile and 139bpm (5.5)

PM – 6x800m on the track off 2mins. Started slow and built into it, but no pain! 2.20, 2.14, 2.13, 2.14, 2.13, 2.13 (9)

Wednesday – 88mins steady at 6.58/mile and 144bpm. Felt CRAP but hamstring fine. (13)

Thursday –  AM – 38mins easy at 7.04/mile and 130bpm (5.5)

PM – 62mins steady at 6.30/mile and 136bpm (9.5)

Friday – 55mins easy at 7.00/mile and 131bpm (8)

Saturday – AM – 8 x half lakes off 1min. 1.59, 2.17, 1.58, 2.15, 1.57, 2.15, 1.55, 2.13 (10)

PM – 38mins easy at 7.03/mile (5.5)

Sunday – 2hr15 long run. Man it was hot and the last 40mins were horrible. Still, got it done and Nipper hated it as much as me so that’s comforting.6.28/mile and 150bpm (21)

94 miles. Hamstring seems fine!