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A Running Decade In Review: From Cake to Deadpool!

A Running Decade In Review: From Cake to Deadpool!

How can you possibly link cake and Deadpool? By reading my thoughts on my running over the last decade. This works out nicely as I think it’s roughly the amount of time that I have been running ‘properly’ as well. LET’S DO THIS!

I Changed How I Run

At the beginning of 2012, I tweaked something in my knee. There is no fancy story behind this: I was on a treadmill and just felt something give. It felt weird. I finished my session without thinking too much of it, but the burning sensation grew and it niggled at me pretty severely.

…. To the point where I was wearing a knee brace for some relief. I even found a picture:

No, it’s not a big sock.

Through some training in CrossFit, I found out a bit about minimalist running. This was advocated by the ‘shoes of choice’ at the time: inov-8. I was very much a heel-striking runner, and very heavy with it as well. Now, the whole running gait thing is very much up for debate, but for me personally I could feel how my knees were getting a battering.

So I changed.

I started working on the ‘natural’ style of landing more on the forefoot. No pun intended, but this felt much more natural to me, and the issues with my knee cleared up very quickly. I did do the classic mistake of ‘Too Much Too Soon’ by not easing into it gently, and my calf muscles were exceptionally sore for a few days, but all good after that!

I Got Faster

Running is enjoyable in its own right, thanks to those lovely chemicals that get released.

Hitting goals, such as getting faster, are the icing on the cake. (Note: It’s pretty much the Law that runners have to love cake).

When I first started out in parkrun in 2010, my time was 24:10. That was doing my best at the time. In 2018, I hit a PB of 20:52. Still 52 seconds to go for my fabled ‘Sub Twenty’ target, but I will get there!

I ran the Great South Run seven times over the decade. I started off at 1:24:18 in 2012. The times varied a bit after that, but I set a PB in 2019 of 1:15:24. The stars aligned a bit on that one. I have written an extensive account about what happened there, should you want to know more!

I’ve confident that I can built on all of this over the next year or so, provided I keep the right focus. Improvement is going to need hard work.

I Met Great People

The running community is full of wonderful, positive people.

Joining a running club was one of the best decisions I ever made. Training with like-minded people brought immediate and sustained improvements, let alone the social aspects!

I started off in Farnham Runners, then moved to Waverley Harriers after moving house. A shout-out to the wonderful people of FitStuff as well!


I Ran In Some Cool Places

Not An Actual Olympian
Spot the film….

I Learned Cross-Country Is Fun!

Cross-country running is the best running. I need to do more of it. It’s challenging but the conditions just make it FUN. Plus as the events are club-focused, they are very social as well. Which adds to the FUN. You should do more cross-country too!

Effortless. Narrator: “Not effortless”.

I Didn’t Always Wear Standard Running Kit

Blame the Bacchus events for these…

The Best Costume
Yes, animals were the theme…

I Dabbled A Bit With Other Sports…

Well, I did exactly one triathlon… c/o Blenheim !

Scenery better than the rider

I did really enjoy the event, but it highlighted just how bad I am at swimming nowadays. I have total respect for those that do triathlon regularly due to just how much training is required to be good at all three of the disciplines. I don’t think it is for me though: Ultimately, I enjoy running to the extent that I struggle to find the motivation to cross-train.

100 MILES!

I did some standalone cycling too. The Ride 100 was really enjoyable (despite doing precious little training). I also did the London to Brighton a few times, but the most gruelling was the Farnham Bike Ride… I did the 75 mile version, as a warm-up for the Ride 100, but… the hill profile was insane. Not an enjoyable experience near the end!

I Got Somewhere In Refereeing

I started football refereeing in 2009. That meant youth football and the lowest possible adult leagues, including Sunday mornings.

I did something right, as I was able to progress to referee on the Contributory Leagues, and act as an Assistant Referee and 4th official on the National League.

Refereeing is challenging, that’s for sure! I’ve learned a lot about myself in experiences of taking charge of so many games over the last decade.

Supply league refereeing. I was promoted after this season.
My first National League game (Eastleigh v Sutton United)

I Embraced The Running Tech

I think the pictures alone help show how things have evolved:

Key ways that devices have evolved that I have enjoyed:

  • They aren’t bricks on your wrist.
  • GPS acquisition doesn’t take about four years.
  • They look good enough to wear in non-running situations.
  • Performance analysis tools (I like statistical eye candy)

How will these tools evolve over the next decade?!

I Learned That Running = Cake

Running and cake goes hand in hand, it seems. So much so, we had a cake ‘bake off’ at our wedding…. BEST WEDDING EVER.

Want to have more cake? RUN MORE.
Always have your running shoes with you. Always.

I Started Running For Three

The wonders of running buggies (thanks Out’N’About !) has meant being able to share the joy of running with a (current) 10 month old and nearly three year old!

Buggy running is a challenge in its own right, but it has solidified my desire to want to set a good fitness example to my children as they continue to grow up….. OK, maybe I should cut down on the cake then…

Speed training: 1000m repeats and new PBs!

Speed training: 1000m repeats and new PBs!

My weekly speed training session was courtesy of the lovely Waverley Harriers. There was a strong turnout on a lovely Tuesday evening, and I am very pleased with how the session went.

Following a warm-up, the protocol was:

  • 5 x 1000m
  • 2 minute rest period between each run

This meant shorter runs with a shorter rest period compared to the previous week’s 1200m session.

Interestingly, most people seemed to cut the rest periods short, starting the next interval once they had completed walking to the start point again. I was taking the line of sticking to the protocol pretty rigorously, as I feel it is the best fit for my ‘get faster at 5k’ goal.

It was good to see first-timer Monica visiting us from the local FitStuff running group, with her goal being to get faster at parkrun. The more the merrier!

I felt strong during this session, and clearly went off waaaaaay too fast, as my splits show:

  • Split 1: 3:28 km/h
  • Split 2: 3:43 km/h
  • Split 3: 3:54 km/h
  • Split 4: 4:07 km/h
  • Split 5: 3:55 km/h

Ideally, each split should be run at a consistent pace, and this did not happen. You can also see where I deliberately dialled it back on Split 4 to save energy for the end.

That said, I felt strong, and I set new half mile and 1 km PBs during that first split! That’s a great feeling.


Plenty of work still to do, especially around pacing, but my confidence on getting my 5k times down has certainly grown.

parkrun at Lanhydrock, the Clay Trail and the beautiful coast of Cornwall

parkrun at Lanhydrock, the Clay Trail and the beautiful coast of Cornwall

A family holiday in Cornwall gave the perfect opportunity to check out some of the local places to get running!

Naturally, parkrun needed to feature, by way of a visit to National Trust property Lanhydrock. It was a beautiful day and the grounds there are stunning. Although I have now done 38 unique parkrun events, this is the first one where cows have been present at the briefing!

Cows moo-ving in
Cows marking the back of the running field…

It was my turn to walk this one (toddler in running buggy, baby in carrier!), and even that was a challenge given the elevation on offer. According to the unofficial stats over at parkrun Elevation Rankings UK, Lanhydrock is the 2nd most challenging out of 519 events! The particularly punishing uphills are near the end, although there is a beautiful descent right before the finish. It is also a one lap course which is how I prefer things, and the scenery throughout is excellent, featuring open views, forest views, running water, bridges and more.

It took me 50:36 to walk round. I can do my ‘standard parkrun’ in about 40 minutes with the same child load!

Bugle and the Clay Trails

As well as some speed training during the week I wanted to do some ‘normal’ running as well. Research revealed the Clay Trails. The most local one for me was the Eden Project / Bugle route, so I did that one, albeit starting at Bugle.

Clay Trail: Starting at Bugle

Running to the Eden Project and back again added up to just over 10 km. The route was a little weird though. Only about half of it was actually what I would call a trail run. The other half directed me onto roads which you stayed on until hooking up with the next bit of the real bit of trail. Somewhat bizarre. The local roads are quiet but also do not have the best visibility so I did feel a bit exposed at times.

The lake that is mentioned (‘Great view of the lake!’) is a little over-egged, as it was surrounded by heavy amounts of metal fencing, which made it feel more like a military installation than a tourist attraction. There were some other natural views though:

Why the long face?

The coast at Perranporth

Finally, to the beach! Perranporth was perfect for this (very family friendly) with the added bonus of coastal trails being readily available.

Family commitments meant I could only fit in just over 5 km, but the terrain made this great fun and the views were outstanding:

Straight out of one of those old Dr Who episodes that always seemed to be set in quarries?
Getting as high as possible…

This was heading along the south west path. Very well sign-posted, with the option of going slightly ‘off piste’ for variation or extra challenge.

Overall, I’m happy that I did a variety of activities during the week to explore as well as enjoying the holiday. The coastal running has inspired me to try and find similar beautiful and challenging routes nearer to home. I’m pretty sure the Surrey Hills have all sorts of options here – I just need to get familiar with them!

Speed training: 1200m repeats in Cornwall

Speed training: 1200m repeats in Cornwall

This week’s speed training was ‘Track on Tour’, as I got the opportunity to visit a different athletics track out in Cornwall!

The track in question is part of the Par Track initiative. To quote their own description:

Green space, community meeting place…somewhere to meet friends, kick a ball about, run free, ride hard…run by the community and soon to be owned by the community…

What a great facility to have available to the local community! Predictably, I went along to take advantage of the track. I had to wait for a large schools’ sporting event to finish, but that just highlighted how the facility is really helping out in the area. (‘Ethopia’ were the winners!)

I found the track to be in great condition and a joy to run on.

The session itself was inspired by the session run by Waverley Harriers the previous evening:

  • 4 x 1200m intervals, at ‘Target 5k’ pace. For me, that is 4 minutes per km (20 minute 5k).
  • 3 minute rest periods. This time around, that equated to ‘slow walk’.

This is a staple workout for improving speed at this sort of distance.

Annoyingly, I forgot to turn off ‘Auto Lap’ on my watch before starting, but the paces of the intervals came out roughly like this:

  • 1st: 3:43 per km
  • 2nd: 3:47 per km
  • 3rd: 3:57 per km
  • 4th: 4:00 per km

I’m happy with this overall. I am hitting the pace required, although I need to put in more hard work in order to sustain this for a full 20 minutes without stopping. I also need to work on more consistent pacing (This has been a real bugbear of mine since I started this blog: Starting out too fast on runs and then reaping the consequences).

I felt strong during the workout which in itself is a good sign, and no undue stiffness afterwards. Perfect.

Finally, this is meeting my goal of doing at least one speed or hill training workout each week! Admittedly, I have only done two in a row, but one step at a time…

Week 3 Review: Time trial and Cross Country!

Week 3 Review: Time trial and Cross Country!

This has been a good week, both in terms of sustained weight loss and a step-up in training volume without breaking anything! This included taking part in a club Time Trial and a local cross-country race.

Scores on the doors:

Weight change: LOST 0.6 kg (Remaining: 6.1 kg)
Training: Tempo 8.5k, Tempo 10k, Time Trial 1.5k, Walking parkrun 5k
Events: MABAC Holmwood XC 7.6k
Total Training Distance: 39.2 km

Weight loss

It has definitely been an ‘on the wagon’ week, and as expected, the rate of weight loss has slowed as the initial shock to my body is now over. There was also plateauing during the week where everything was just standing still a bit. It’s really just a case of keeping on with it!

Tempo Runs

These were pretty straightforward. The 8.5k run featured some of my ‘favourite’ hills in the area which highlighted my distinct lack of hill training over recent months. It will get easier! The other was a very flat London based 10k. The weather for both of these was excellent so it was easy to get myself out there.

Time Trial

My running club (Waverley Harriers) are running a monthly handicap time trial at the moment, which is great for assessing progress. Your starting time is based on your previous time (so the fastest people start last). The intention is that you should all end up finishing at the same time!

It was my first entry this year, so I declared my best recent 5k time. I was happy to therefore overtake several people during the race as that indicates improvement. It was also good practice for running at the pace I would need to to hit my 20 minute parkrun target…. although this was only over 1.5 km so more work needed…

Cross country

MABAC Holmwood – The start!

Another benefit of my running club membership is the option of doing various local cross-country leagues, of which MABAC is one. They are also FREE and run in a ‘turn up on the day’ basis.

I popped along to the Holmwood Common event, and it was a fairly straightforward two lap course without any particularly evil hills. As mentioned earlier, I still have a lot of work to do regarding hills, but I enjoyed the experience complete with a burst of speed at the end!


I’m really happy with how the week has gone. Strava is reporting my training effort to be ‘Well above weekly range’. Although that means I am stepping up, I also have to be cautious to avoid anything breaking. Hence today is a well-earned rest day before getting back to training tomorrow…

Roll on week 4!

401 marathons in 401 days… and beyond!

401 marathons in 401 days… and beyond!

I had the opportunity to go and see Ben Smith of the 401 Challenge last night, who was speaking as part of his USA 2020 Talk Tour. I went into this pretty blind, only knowing that Ben had successfully run 401 marathons in 401 days, during 2015 and 2016!

This was a very raw and emotional talk. No PowerPoint, just a very direct and honest account. The journey took us starting from Ben’s childhood, unhappy schooldays (bullied at boarding school), and suicide attempts. At age 39, weighing 17 or so stone, drinking heavily, and smoking 40 (!) a day, he suffered an incomplete stroke. This was a catalyst for a life change, ultimately leading Ben to running…

This was a great balance to the talk: Ultimately, I think it is more interesting to hear about motivation and overcoming adversity, than just the fact someone has run a lot of marathons. So kudos to Ben for being so forthright about his life experiences here.

Who needs PowerPoint?

Ben and his team are now preparing for the next challenge: Running in every state over 104 days. Oh, and cycling between each one in between! A total distance of 18,500 miles! The logistics alone make me come up in a bit of a cold sweat.

Ben has done great work for charity throughout all of this, as well as getting schools involved to feature the project as part of their education.

Perhaps I should actually do a marathon one day?

Thanks to Waverley Harriers for organising Ben’s attendance in Godalming!

A parkrun visit to Cranleigh

A parkrun visit to Cranleigh

I’ve made it to Day 2 without falling off the wagon yet 😉

Saturday is parkrun day! This time it was a visit to Cranleigh, which combines hills with lots of bumps and long grass at times. This was particularly relevant as I was pushing the buggy with my toddler throughout!

When running solo, parkruns are the perfect way to gauge my process. It’s a little more difficult with the buggy. Today, I came in with an official time of 26:35. To put that into context, my ‘Buggy PB’ is 24:08, set about a year ago. We have to factor in here that my son weighed less then though!

I enjoy running with the buggy as it keeps things interesting, and at the moment I am happy to say that my son absolutely loves it. Enjoy it while it lasts, I think!