It’s seems that I can’t close off the year without telling you a little about how it went. In short I have ran 26 events in 2016. It has been a very good year, and this includes:
And I paced 9 events
It has been a big year for me, with an increase in marathons, pacing and my first Ironman. It is certainly challenging with two young children, and training is not what it could be, but this year it got a little easier to get out. I couldn’t do any of it without such a loving and understanding wife. As the year has progressed I am becoming a stronger runner again and enjoying it more and more, but I will come to that later.
My year really started in August 2015. Strange I know, but it’s true. Up until this point I was a runner, not getting to train much, with distant ambitions to be an Ironman. I did not swim, nor cycle more than the 3 miles to work. Admittedly I did buy my bike to complete triathlon, but that was 2 years earlier and at this point my longest ride was 3 miles and I had not been in swimming lanes for far longer.
So what happened in August? First of all I had my second child, Amelie, but that did not inspire me to complete an Ironman. Quite the opposite, this would no doubt reduce my training time. Just a few days after the birth of my darling daughter we ventured to nonsuch park for a little picnic. During this picnic I decided to kick a ball around with my little boy, Benjamin. What this turned into was me kicking the ball past him, jumping over his head and so on. Unfortunately one time I landed on the ball with my whole body weight. I have never heard such a crack as my left ankle gave way and immediately I was in the floor in pain. At that point I thought my ankle must be broken, it was already swelling, and when I eventually stood I could not weight bare. I do not tend to go to the Doctors, I get on with it, but I knew I had to go to A&E. My mind was awash with the races I had to come, the events I was due to pace. As it turns out I was lucky. It was a serious sprain and the Doctor said I should RICE but try walking on it for strength. My natural instinct was to keep weight off but I’m glad I didn’t. It was this moment, in my hour of need, that rather than give up and worry about not running, instead I thought, ok I will cross train. But I don’t do things by halves, if I’m going to cross train I’m going to be an Ironman. Forget my first triathlon, the first event I booked, before the end of the year, was Ironman Weymouth.
Let’s fast forward to 2016, that’s what I’m here to talk about. By this time I had completed my first duathlon, and true to my style (I like a challenge) I picked the Boxhill Ballbuster as my first. Those that know about this event will know why this is a challenge.
My first event of 2016 was the Windsor Duathlon series. This was a flat and fast course. It was strange as my first event that I had the opportunity to put my head down and power through the bike. It felt good, I was not massively fast, but I think I did good, and felt strong on the run. I found my run to be out of sync with my bike, so lots of people passed me on the bike, but I enjoyed the final run where I constantly overtook people. I went with my new training partner Keith and we had a good laugh.
February was all about pacing. A highlight of my calendar is always pacing for Xempo, and in February I had two great events at Hampton Court and Kingston. I got into pacing with Xempo and I am forever grateful. I will continue pacing with them each year whilst they still want me, and I’m still optimistic that I will qualify for my “Red sub 3 Marathon top” one day soon. Unfortunately I think Silver is beyond my grasp at any distance… maybe.
A very quiet month for me, and one I had to miss a number of regular events. This was because of a month long holiday in Australia, so I shouldn’t complain. But before I went I did manage to fit in one half at Silverstone where I once again paced the 1:45 group for Runners world. Not the most exciting course out there, but it certainly is unique. If you are an F1 fan it’s one not to miss.
For the past two years I have ran a marathon abroad, and this is a trend I want to continue. Owing to this huge holiday, I was concerned I could not afford to fit in a marathon specific holiday, so I looked everywhere to fit something in, and I did one better, I found two events.
I ran a 10k in Perth with my younger cousin. It was beautiful running in Perth, and even better running with my cousin. It was hot, and even if I wanted to, I was not in the shape needed to go hard at this event. I was happy to enjoy this one.
I then ran the Bunbury marathon. With much more to come when I got home to England it was important to take it steady. I ran to enjoy it, and it was a beautiful 2 lap seafront route. Running in Oz is not as big as it is here, and my cousin was surprised that I found two events with medals. This was a well organised event, and by all accounts, very well done for WA. It was hard, and hard, and I was happy for anything sub 4. I ran harder at the beginning and then slowed, coming in at 3:52.
The following weekend I was back in UK at the start line of Brighton Marathon. This was my 10th marathon, and again I wanted to take this easy. I ran with my mate David aiming for a steady consistent pace to practice pacing. We ran 3:40 together and our splits were pretty spot on. I was happy with this.
The following weekend it was time for my favourite event of the calendar year; London Marathon, pacing for Runners World. This year I was pacing sub 4 for the first time and I was joined by Susie Chan. This was fantastic as always, and I cannot explain how much I enjoy this event, so I won’t even try. Let’s just say I have not run another event that the crowds, atmosphere, runners are so amazing. If I can go here every year I will. If I have a choice to race it, or pace it, I will always pace it. I have nothing to prove now, and it is such better experience bringing others over the line for a PB than it is doing my own thing.
With a crazy April out of the way I was straight into May with another half marathon, pacing at Milton Keynes for the first time. I paced 1:45 again on the money. I enjoyed this event, which has nice potential with a stadium finish. It was a little busy at the start with both marathon and half starting at the same time. It was also confusing with pacers for both groups starting together, and with it being so crowded we were not aligned perfectly as we would desire. It went well, and I enjoyed this event, and have already been invited back for 2017. A new regular to my race calendar.
My next event was a big one. For the third year in a row I took on 100k with David, and this time Sean was back, and we were back at London 2 Brighton. Up to this point you must be thinking how much I have ran, but this is just the events. Outside of that my training was far less than it should have been, and this meant I was severely underprepared for this event. Sure I could pace a marathon, but the endurance beyond this was something else. I enjoyed it, I ran hard, but I suffered and failed towards the later stages and the final 10k felt like a marathon. The main thing is I did it, my 3rd 100k!
By this point I had decided I want to join the 100 Marathon Club. Not in a crazy time completing 50 a year like some, but I want to start increasing my marathon numbers gradually. I found Phoenix Running and took part in a 6 hour timed event with a friend from work. I slowed down with him for most of it, and after his umpteenth toilet stop I went ahead and finished in little over 4 hours. You get amazing medals at these events, and this is a perfect training event for me to get numbers up, but not take it to seriously.
I also paced St Albans for the first time with Xempo. I paced my usual 1:40 pace for them and came on bang on target as usual. It was interesting running a summer event, and a nice touch being given an ice lolly at the end. This was a tough hilly route, but a really enjoyable event that I hope to pace again next year.
Fun fact for you, it is because of this event that I joined Twitter. I had previously been active on Facebook and involved in a number of running groups, and never even considered twitter. Xempo gave us some hashtags to use if we posted on social media, and this was one of the first in partnership with TomTom. I didn’t even know what a hashtag was at this point, so I thought I would join twitter to post a few bits. Wow, this opened my eyes, and what have I been missing. It is like access to a huge running group, and I just wish I had found it earlier.
As you can see, a whole lot of running, minimal training in between, and hardly any preparation for the Ironman I had booked myself in to.
In July I completed my first every triathlon, and I did this in a group event with Epsom Triathlon Club. I had a wonderful time at Bananaman held at Dorney by Human Race Events. The lead sponsor was Lidl and there was a free BBQ for the whole family, and mine had a wonderful time. This was the 3rd time I had ever done open water swimming, as I had managed it twice in training. This was a rough start, but good to note at the end that other experienced triathletes thought it was particularly rough. I completed this with my team mates well. I didn’t go too badly in the swim, was clearly the weak link in the bike, and I just jogged the run gently.
I was happy taking my first triathlon easy as training. Also, this was held on the Saturday, and the very next day I paced the British 10k. I paced the 45 min group which was a tough, fast group, but I held the pace comfortably. Lots of improvements have been made at this event, still more to do, but one of my favourite 10k.
The following week I ran my second triathlon and this time it was a half Iron. The Marlow Fugitive organised by F3events. This was very low key and basic, but put me to the test. The bike section was hilly, but I managed it. I also surprised myself in the swim as I found it more comfortable than I would have thought. I enjoyed the run again, putting in minimal effort and overtaking many who had overtaken me in the bike.
My fourth event of July was on the last day of the month. The Cookstown half marathon. I didn’t push too hard, and I enjoyed this event. I was more than happy coming in at just over 1:30, and feeling that my pace was slowly coming back to me more comfortably. This was the first time since my ankle injury that I pushed myself a bit more. Truth be told, to this day it doesn’t feel perfect, but I’m getting through ok.
I was in Northern Ireland for a week, and I decided to set up a blog, on my mobile. I have spent years talking about running on Facebook in groups, and after joining Twitter a couple of months earlier a whole new world was opened. I was talking with like minded people and reading their blogs… why the hell am I not doing this? I enjoy running and talking about it… so I just set it up and Cookstown half marathon was my first review. I only wish I did it earlier to include the 3 100k events, and multiple races in various countries. But we have to start somewhere, and this is where I started.
Mostly writing on Twitter, and developing my blog on my mobile. Minimal training, and putting my bike through a service ready for my Ironman attempt.
It was finally time for the big day. I was going to attempt an Ironman, whether ready or not. 4 open water attempts in training, including 2 events. The longest bike ride was the half Iron and this wasn’t accompanied by many other rides. On the plus side I had ran, and the whole way I thought to myself “just get to the run”.
I won’t go into too much detail, as I have a blog that does just that. But in short – I AM AN IRONMAN. The swim went far better than expected. I started the bike feeling fresh, but the bike was hilly and relentless. It took longer than I had hoped and it was a struggle, but I did it and got to the run. Unfortunately the run was not the experience I had hoped for, not because I felt tired, but my lower back was in agony. It hurt to stand up straight, and that is not a good way to start a marathon. I know I can do so much more, but I need to find time to improve my bike section.
The following week I was straight back into my pacing. I paced Reigate half marathon for xempo at my usual 1:40 pace. It did not matter that I had completed an Ironman the previous week, and had a fresh Ironman tattoo. This was back to my comfort zone and I completed it without any concerns. This was a hilly course to rival St Albans, and started with an immediate incline. But overall an enjoyable race.
Again there was no time to rest on my laurels as 2016 was just getting started, and the following week I was in Disney Land Paris for the Inaugural half marathon. Kirsty ran the 5k, my kids both ran their first race (100 metres), and I thoroughly enjoyed running my first half as Spider-Man. What a wonderful family holiday.
It was time for my favourite half marathon, and the first I ever paced. The Royal Parks Half Marathon. I have now paced this event 4 times at the 1:40 pace for Xempo, and I never fail to enjoy it. It is a large event with lots of people running with me, and great crowd support. A lovely event which I would recommend for anyone.
I had completed my international run in Australia, and then took the opportunity for a second in Disney Land. So, I never expected to be traveling again in 2016 for a race. However on a Facebook group I was offered free entry to Lucerne Marathon. I managed to find cheap flights and a good deal on accommodation, so I made it happen. It was a beautiful event, but a race of two halves. I found the support to be lacking by comparison to the first half. One of the most beautiful races I have been to, I completed it in a modest 3:19. I did not go all out, but paced it for a good time and giving myself more confidence that my speed and endurance is returning.
The following week I went back to visit family and took part in the Grand Pier Half Marathon. I ran with a friend for the first part, before he struggled and I finally went off ahead. My legs were still tired but I still managed to get very close to 1:30, a nice little run for me.
It was then time for the winter Ballbuster. Arguably one of the most difficult duathlons out there. I completed this in 2015 as my first ever duathlon, so I had one goal, to beat my time. I managed this by a few minutes and very happy with the overall performance. This was a grim day once again, and I added in a 20 mile return cycle trip to get to and from the start. This is not a course for a PB, but certainly one to challenge you.
I then ran a further two marathons with Phoenix Running in November, with only 4 days between them. I was close to 3:30 in both events, and I finished with a 2nd and 1st place for the marathon. Very happy with these comfortable runs.
My running year was over. I had finished all my events and feeling a little like my year had been stopped too early. So I decided to enter late to another Phoenix Running event and took part in the Frozen Phoenix on 30th December. Finishing in 3rd place with a 3:29 I was very happy with this last instalment to the year.
In 2016 I have enjoyed so much more than I had expected. I have completed more races than I ever imagined and become involved with the Twitter universe. I have become a member of #visorclub completing reviews for RaceCheck regularly. And asked to be a Fitness Rewards Ambassador, owing to my continuous activity and social engagement. Very happy to be asked to be an ambassador, but even happier to have found them in the first place and be benefiting from their rewards.
I hope to continue getting involved in all things running/triathlon related, and already I have over a dozen events booked for next year. These include numerous pacing opportunities (including Berlin Marathon); running the Limassol Marathon and Kalmar Ironman. I am increasing my marathon numbers and looking forward to working more with Fitness Rewards, RaceCheck and of course Xempo.
Run more marathons;
Improve my Ironman time;
Improve my Ballbuster time;
Stay injury free and enjoy running around the world.
I want a sub 3 hour marathon, but this is something I intent to do in 2018.
This year has been great for me and I’m looking forward to 2017. My wife is starting to run again and she is running her first half marathon since Amelie arrived at North London Half. My family make this all possible and I will always put them first.
I hope you ok have a great 2017, and I will see many of you on my travels I’m sure.
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