Archives for posts with tag: running

In May of 2010, not long after I’d limped over the finish line of my first ever marathon in a time of 4:18, a friend looked up what time I’d need to run to achieve a BQ (Boston Qualifying) time and told me “well, that’s never going to happen.” Winding the clock forward seven years, I’m pleased (actually bloody ecstatic!) to say that in fact, last Sunday at The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Marathon, it just did. Read the rest of this entry »

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“Act your age and take up golf”. This was the advice given to me by a passing neighbor as I struggled to the end of one of my runs this week.

I’m sure I looked pretty tired, (I was totally knackered truth be told) having just finished a tempo run with a cooldown mile straight up a hill, but swapping running for golf – well, that’s just not going to happen is it? I mean, I don’t have anything against golf (other than I’m comically bad at playing the damn game), but as I wrote in my post ‘old enough to run better‘, I most definitely do have something against acting my age. One of the primary reasons I run is to try and stay ahead of the march of time, and comments like that, even made in jest, only serve to spur me on. I have to admit I did allow myself a small pat on the back the other day when my heart rate app told me I had the resting heart rate of a ‘trained athlete’, and I’m not sure that would be the case if the sum total of my exercise was pushing the go pedal on a golf cart.

As far as the actual business of running goes, this cycle is going pretty well. I’ve completed 4 of 13 weeks of training for the ‘Light at The End of The Tunnel’ marathon in June, and notwithstanding a few little injury niggles and the staggeringly awful spring weather in Seattle, I feel quite good about things. I’ve been here before only to have things blow up on me pretty quickly, so I’m a long way from counting my chickens, but still, it’s nice to feel I’ve made it nearly a third of the way through my training plan feeling strong and ready for more.

One of my goals this year is to run faster. I’d like to see if I can break the age group PR I set for myself last year (3:35), and maybe if the stars align, beat my all-time PR of 3:30. To this end, I’ve been hitting the track over the past 4 Tuesdays running 400, 600, 800 and last week 1,000-meter repeats, as well as tempo runs on Thursdays.

‘Fast’ is a somewhat relative concept in my case, and I am quite sure I look a right old state waddling around the track at something less than warp speed. That said, whatever the optics, I really do enjoy pushing myself in this way, and seeing if I can get just a little bit quicker. It’s about as far away from ‘jogging’ as I can get, and it’s definitely a different kind of challenge from just running long. Of course, I won’t know the impact of the speedwork until I actually get out and race, but I’m absolutely sure I stand a better chance of running faster by training for it than by merely using hope as a strategy (and I’m speaking from experience here!).

The next 4 weeks will see me transition off the track to run longer strength repeats (1 mile and up), longer tempo runs, and a month from now I’ll hit my first of two 20 mile long runs, so no rest for those of us running to stay ahead of Father Time.

I’ll sign off with a short postscript for those of you struggling for the motivation to make it out of the door and run by asking you to spare a thought for my good friend John, a keen runner who is trying to come back after injury. He broke down less than a mile into one of his come-back runs this weekend and is facing some more time on the sidelines. So if you’re fortunate enough to be able to run (or swim, bike, walk, hop, skip or jump), you really should just do it while you can!

Here are my numbers for the past 4 weeks:

Marathon training

The first 4 weeks

Keep moving my friends.


Day 1 image

In 13 weeks I’ll run The Light At The End of the Tunnel Marathon. This will be my 14th marathon. Between now and then I have approximately 75 days of training. Today was day one.

I love day one because today is the day things kick-off. Just me, a goal, and a plan to get it done. No bells, no whistles, no fanfare. Just me, the open road, and my desire to test myself against the distance, the elements, and the physical and mental obstacles that will contrive on a daily basis to get in the way of my wish to run yet more marathons in 2017.

I love day one because it’s the day when I transition from the important but somehow more  mindless work of pouring the foundations, the easy-paced, base-building runs that establish an aerobic platform, to the more technical, more precise activities where time, distance, pace, heart rate and type of run all arrive on the schedule in a fairly remorseless and unforgiving manner. Six days a week of speed runs and strength runs, tempo runs and long runs – you can’t get your time if you don’t put in the time.

I love day one because I know that 75 days of training later, I’ll be stronger, fitter, and leaner (please God yes, leaner), than I am today.

More than anything, I love day one because I’m one day closer to one of my favorite places on earth – the start line.

I hope you can keep me company along the way.

Keep moving.


UPDATE: OK, the streak died at 23. I underestimated the challenges of transatlantic travel and a packed holiday season seeing family and friends, and while I did run a number of times over the holiday period, the streak did in fact end prematurely.

So I’m 20 for 20 on my mini quest to ‘run the holidays’.

As I wrote about here, I set out on Black Friday (Nov 25th) to run every day through to New Year. So far, so good, although no doubt I’ve been bailed out a couple of times by having access to a treadmill at home when time and circumstance have defeated me during the day.

It is certainly harder than I thought it was going to be. Day in, day out, day in, day out, the simple act of maintaining a daily physical commitment, however fun, rewarding, and in this case, self-inflicted, is actually a little tough, and I can totally see how that adage of needing to do something 21 times before it becomes a habit has come to pass.

I’m actually a bit more tired than I expected to be at this stage. I’m surprised by this because although my goal was to hit 35 miles per week during this streak, I regularly run much more than this when in full training (anywhere from 40 – 60 miles at a peak), and at least 20% of my runs at a much more aggressive pacing level than I’m doing right now.

The main difference is I get no days off (that’s kind of the thing that makes it a streak dontcha know), and I’ve learned to substitute short and slow treadmill runs in lieu of rest days. In addition, I’ve had to remind myself to run more slowly generally, which is a good thing as everything I’ve read and been told (thank you Leah Kangas) about the development of aerobic fitness, (not to mention injury avoidance), lends itself to running at an easy pace for around 80% of one’s workouts. 

Finally, I had also hoped that daily running during this festive period would lend itself to a better and more balanced diet. And you know what? That hasn’t happened.

Streak to date by the numbers:


Keep moving and stay festive my friends.



Good habits are hard to form and easy to break.

It’s a little over three weeks since I ran my last marathon (NYC), and truth be told, I’ve barely been able to muster the enthusiasm to lace up since then. To some extent, that’s only to be expected. I’ve run two full marathons within the past two months, and I think I deserved some rest and recuperation, a little time off for good behavior if you will. In any case, all of the trusted sources of training insight and inspiration advocate doing very little in the immediate aftermath of a long race, and it’s hard to argue that the beating I’ve given my body over recent months needed some time to work itself out of my system.

My go-to bible for training is the Hanson’s Marathon Method, and even this pretty hardcore training regimen recommends no running whatsoever for 3 – 5 days post race (check, got that one down), and then just light cross training for the next two weeks.

This all makes total sense, and I’ve ignored this advice in the past to my cost, paying the price with injuries down the road. But, (and it’s a big but with me), beyond that 2 -3-week window, every day that goes by sans running is another day further out of one good habit, and another day further into a bad one. The fact is, the longer I stay away from regular running, the harder I find it to re-establish a good rhythm when the time comes to pick it up again. It’s almost as if every day I miss, I’m going to need two to recover lost ground.

The time of year doesn’t help. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we’re deep into the wet and gloomy autumn season, the temperatures are dropping and there is generally very little about the great outdoors that is enticing me to get out and run. It’s hard enough to run in inclement weather when you are focused on training for an actual event, never mind heading out in a deluge when you’re in maintenance mode.

Dark and cold nights combined with the holiday season also seem to bring out the worst of me when it comes to eating and drinking. I mean come on, the weather is cold and wet, therefore I must have cookies, or it’s November, therefore I must drink more beer. These are thoughts normal, well-adjusted people have right, or is it just me?

And then there is simply the question of general motivation and focus. No matter how much you love running, I don’t think I know a runner who doesn’t, at some point in the year, have that internal debate with themselves around should they, or should they not, go out and run today? Within the course of a regular training cycle, these mental skirmishes are easier to win, because the impact of lost training time come race day, is something most of us just don’t want to deal with. But, without the accountability of a race, the shall I? / shan’t I? debate can be a little harder to win, and before you know it, another week has gone by while you’ve stayed in getting dumb, fat and saggy on the sofa.

And so a vicious circle begins; you lack energy because you haven’t been out for a run, so you don’t run. You didn’t run so you feel crap about yourself so you cheer yourself up with bad food, meaning you lack energy and you put on weight, so you feel even less like running and, well, you can see how this story goes.

So there’s only one thing for it in this battle against inertia and creeping bad habits – it’s time to get my streak on.

A ‘streak’ (and to be clear, I’m referring to an ‘uninterrupted series of activity’ and not a naked sprint across a sports field on live TV), is a great option for a number of reasons:

  1. in the absence of a pre-defined objective like a race, they enable you to hold yourself accountable
  2. they establish a regular pattern of behavior
  3. they give you structure
  4. they enable good habits to be maintained
  5. they stop you getting dumb, fat and saggy on the sofa

So here’s what I’m going to do:

Run every day from Black Friday to New Years Day

Every run will be a minimum of 1 mile

I will run a minimum total of 35 miles per week (or an average of 5 miles per day)

(At least) 80% of these runs will be at a very intentionally easy pace.

The ‘easy pace’ thing is critical. If I don’t do these runs ‘easy’, and by that I mean running at a pace where I could quite happily, (metaphorically speaking) , run all day, I really will run the risk of burning out or worse still, injuring myself, so I do need to be a little careful.

The benefits here are several:

  1. I create behavioral discipline which will leave me in good shape for when I next start a formal program for my next half or full marathon
  2. I’ll maintain a good base of aerobic fitness, hopefully avoiding injury (by running easy), and I’ll be able to hit the ground running when the time comes to focus on my next race
  3. I’ll minimize the dumb, fat, saggy-ness

Now I know what you’re thinking, how hard can it be to run every day be when you do it all the time anyway? Well, the truth is, quite hard actually. When I’m in full training I actually have days off for a start, and these are a valued and necessary part of the program. Doing anything, every day, for a relatively extended period of time takes discipline. It’s not the specific act, it’s the day in, day out consistency that’s hard.

Who knows if this is the right thing to do? Every year I get to this point and try something different, only to end up less than satisfied with where I’m at. Bad habits begin to take root and it’s downhill from there. I just think that setting myself some basic parameters and going for a bit of a streak is just the best way to set myself up for success in 2017.

Of course, I’m also hoping that this will, in turn, motivate me to moderate some of the worst excesses of holiday eating and drinking, and the New Year weigh-in will be less of a shock to the system than in previous years. I live in hope on that front.

So, that’s the plan. What about you? How do you plan to keep on track as you head into your off-season? Whatever you do, however you do it, just keep on moving.

P.S. I’ve been off the blog for some time now, so perhaps it’s time for a little writing streak too.

I’m awarding myself a polite golf clap today for achieving a small personal milestone, passing 2,000 miles of running for the year.

My previous annual best total was 1,402 miles in 2012, so to blow past that by nearly 50% with still a couple of weeks of the year to go feels like good progress.

I think it was fitting that I passed the 2,000 mile mark alone, on a cold, wet, deserted section of the Burke-Gilman Trail, near my home in Seattle, because in many respect these are the times, and the miles, that running is all about.

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Races are great – I LOVE the races. The crowds, expos, the bling, the adrenaline rush and sense of community that you get and so on. But races are also just a moment of time – I covered just 52.4 of those 2,000 miles running actual marathons, so this milestone is for me really  a celebration of the grit, determination, resilience and self-motivation needed to run 4, 5 or 6 days a week, month in, month out, rain or shine.

I’m also happy that it means I’ve had my first injury-free year for a while. Aside from a short illness enforced break early in the year, I’ve pretty much been able to run when I wanted, and after a couple of injury interrupted years, that feels really good too.

What feels best of all though is that I’ll be back at it tomorrow.

What about you? Have you been able to hit any big milestones this year? Whatever you’ve done, I hope you take a moment to stop and smell the roses. Enjoy and celebrate your progress, however you measure that, and then keep moving….

So the Marine Corps Marathon, my 11th race over 26.2 miles, is done, dusted and will go into the books as definitely one of my better and more enjoyable marathon experiences.

For the record, my time was 3:42:21 and was my best time in 2 years, and my 4th best time to date. It was significant improvement over the dismal 4:15 I ran in Seattle in June, although perhaps my time in DC was more a reflection of how bad that Seattle run was, as much as how good the DC time ended up being.

Without a doubt, I would say I was as well trained as I’ve ever been for a marathon, and on reflection, probably ended up finishing with a little left in the tank at the end, which is OK, and good to know for future races where I’m really pushing for a stretch time goal. Here are a few observations on how the race went for me, maybe you’ll recognize some of these things, or find them useful reference points for the future:

Training doesn’t lie. The training is actually something I’m really proud of. 101 runs and over 900 miles covered including the race itself. Over 130 hours of effort, focus and discipline over 18 weeks. I learned to properly incorporate speed and strength runs, tempo runs, and learned the importance of easy runs in building aerobic fitness. I went into the race with some confidence that I could run a good race, because I knew I’d put the effort in.

Day 1 to the race itself. The numbers behind the run.

Day 1 to the race itself. The numbers behind the run.

I had a good race strategy. I studied the course, knew by and large what to expect and when to expect it, and figured out where I wanted to attack, and where I wanted to hold. I didn’t panic when I got stuck behind slower runners at the start and was able to run negative splits – my fastest mile was actually a 7:59 at mile 24. Like I said, I probably finished with a little left in the tank, which was fine.

I fueled properly, and to plan. Having studied more about a body’s nutritional requirements during endurance activity, I was way, way smarter about it than I’ve ever been. My pre-race fueling was spot on, and during the race itself I took my fuel when and where I wanted to. Hard to believe I’ve completed races with little to know in-race nutrition in the past, and totally helps explain some of my poorer efforts of the past.

The extra-curricular and peripheral activities were well managed. We got into DC 3 days ahead of the race, which definitely helped from a body clock standpoint, and I was careful to rest up the day before, rather than spending the day on my feet sightseeing (and God knows I’ve made that mistake before). No thanks to the race organizers (see below) I got to the start in good time and was able to do the bag drop, porta-potty and warmup thing without any stress. Any one of these things is small on its own, but added up, they can contribute to making the race itself a less than happy experience if you’re not careful. Put it another way, what a shame to undermine 18 weeks of training by not paying attention to some of these details on race weekend itself.

So what about the Marine Corps Marathon itself? Did it live up to it’s billing as ‘The People’s Marathon’ and one of the US’s biggest races?

First off, DC was a brilliant place to visit and for me this is a ‘must-do’ marathon if you are in to the idea of destination marathons. I’d never been to the nation’s capital before and I was not disappointed. So much history, great art, fantastic monuments and museums – I’ll definitely go back and spend more time there, no doubt, and for that reason alone I highly recommend the MCM.

Secondly, the course was, by and large, a great course. Apart from the first two miles and a few rollers later on, the course was reasonably flat and fun to run. The course was generally scenic, and took us through some parks and past some of the great monuments (although I’d be lying to say I paid much attention to them while I was running!). There are quite a few twists and turns in the course, and I got some solid advice from my fellow blogger ishouldrun who advised me to take care to run the tangents, so consider those wise words shared.

Leaving the Capitol Building behind at around mile 19

Leaving the Capitol Building behind at around mile 19

The crowds were fantastic and super encouraging, and the ‘Blue Mile’ where there were pictures of fallen Marines  lining the route was incredibly moving, and brought tears to my eyes. Being able to finish in the shadow of the Iwo Jima statue and have my (awesome) medal presented to me by a Marine were also absolute highlights. So lots of positives.

Loved getting my medal by this incredible memorial

Loved getting my medal by this incredible memorial

That said, there were a few well documented missteps in organization that the race directors and sponsors really do need to iron out going forward, a couple of which were really surprising given this was the race’s 40th anniversary.

Expo lines. Personally I’m always grateful for the sponsors who put their money into the staging of these events, especially a great Seattle HQ’d company like Brooks. No doubt it was unfortunate that the credit card machines went down (at least I think that is what happened) but it didn’t look like there was much of a Plan B in place, and the lines to buy race branded merchandise were horrendous. I figure it must have cost Brooks six figures in lost retail sales, not to mention some brand frustration.

Security lines on race morning. Especially after what happened in Boston, the MCM is always going to be a high profile event requiring some thought around security, and as a participant I’m grateful for every measure put in place to keep me, my fellow runners, the spectators, volunteers and emergency services safe. That said, the level of traffic flowing into the runners village was entirely predictable in terms of volume (they knew how many people planned to run the race) and timing (they knew when they planned to start the event), so the entirely inadequate number of security check points and metal detectors (which were eventually turned off anyway) was completely inexcusable in my book.

Why were spectators allowed into the Runners Village at the start? This was just crazy, and added to the general confusion and mounting frustration at the start. There were people with strollers and rucksacks etc, etc, all trying to jam through the same number of checkpoints as the runners themselves, and if you think I’m over-reacting, think about this next time you are running late for a flight, and you get to the security line only to find that everybody who came to drop off departing passengers were also going through security to wave them off at the gate. I know of a number of people ended up starting 15-20 mins late despite arriving the requested 2 hours ahead of the scheduled start – not good enough.

Lack of structured corral management. Some races do this very well, and with good reason – it makes total sense for the fastest runners to start first, with progressively slower runners starting behind them, so that people do not have to expend precious energy dodging and weaving through traffic so that they can run at their own pace. This didn’t happen in DC – it was entirely voluntary, which resulted in a ton of slower runners starting ahead, jamming up the course for people who wanted to run faster. Again, it might seem like a small thing, but if you’ve trained hard, and are seeking a personal record or BQ, losing precious minutes at the start to an entirely avoidable issue is a big deal.

Finishers and family meet-up area. This wasn’t an issue for me, but I read a number of complaints about how narrow the area was where runners exited the course and met up with their family and friends. Looking at the geography of the area, it wasn’t clear to me exactly how else this could have been done, and to my it seems a small price to pay for the honor of finishing by the Marine Corps Memorial.

Happy to see these guys at the end. Never underestimate the value of your support team!

Happy to see these guys at the end. Never underestimate the value of your support team!

The good news is that any one of these gripes are easily solved by better planning and forethought, and ultimately none of them ruined my experience at all. Doesn’t mean it could not have been organized better, and I’m sharing these things with you now more as a heads up to anyone planning to run the MCM next year. Whatever the problems mentioned above, I unreservedly recommend running it, both for the experience of the race itself, and the great time you can have staying in DC.

What about you? If you ran the race, what did you think of it? Did it live up to your expectations and would you do it again?

That’s all for now folks. I’ve had a week off and am now just enjoying getting out on a few easy runs and thinking about what I’m going to do next. In the meantime, lets all keep moving.

T- 9 hours and counting on the road to DC and the Marine Corps Marathon.

So this is it. A fitful few hours of sleep and I’ll be off to the start of my 11th marathon. The training runs have been done, the expo has been explored, and the carbs have been loaded. All that remains is for the race to be run.

Yoko, Ken and Rob -

Yoko, Ken and Rob – ‘preparing to launch’

I can’t speak for any of my fellow marathon runners, but even after having done ten of these, I still get nervous (or should that be ‘excited’?) as hell before each and every one of these.

It’s definitely become a ‘thing’, this running habit of mine, something I often underestimate during the long months of training that have gotten me to this point. I couldn’t have imagined even just a few years ago that I would call myself a runner, yet it’s become something so integral to my way of life today that it’s hard to believe it was just 5 1/2 years ago that I crossed my first marathon start line.

I’m grateful I found this ‘thing’ in my life, and whatever time I manage to complete the course in tomorrow, there is no doubt in my mind that I’m a better person for having made the commitment to do it.

Speaking of gratitude:

Thank you Jo – for the years of love, support, encouragement and dare I say tolerance of my habit. Without you I don’t ever make it to the start line xxx.

Thank you to my girls – my inspiration for each and every step.

Thank you to Yoko, Adam and family. My extended running family since the very first race, and here with us yet again.

Thank you to Ken for his wonderful hospitality and generosity to us on this visit. Amazing.

Thank you to all my friends and family, runners and non-runners alike. So many of you have inspired and encouraged me in ways you won’t even realize, whether through your own achievements and dedication to your own passions, or just even a friendly acknowledgment of what I’m up to here.

Finally, thank-you to The Marines, to whom this marathon is dedicated. Us runners make some small personal sacrifices along the way to achieve a goal of running of 26.2 miles. As I run tomorrow I shall do my very best to keep these efforts in proper perspective and remember all that you, and your brothers and sisters in arms do and have done, all too often paying the ultimate price, in defense of the rest of us, without question or debate. It will truly be an honor to ‘Run With The Marines’.

Goodnight, and good luck tomorrow everyone.


16 weeks down and 2 to go on the road to DC.

Whenever I talk to non-runners about marathon running, one of the comments I almost invariably hear (other than “you’re crazy”), is “I could never run 26 miles”. Of course this palpably isn’t true Read the rest of this entry »

5 weeks to DC

A small golf clap to myself for setting a new personal benchmark. I ran 61 miles in the past week, the first time ever that I’ve taken my weekly running total over the 60 miles threshold.

There is no special significance to this other than the fact that I set out to achieve it as part of this training cycle and that I did it. It isn’t close to an elite distance (it’s about half of what an elite athlete might run in a week), and no doubt tens of thousands of other recreational runners ran more than that this week, but somehow 60 feels good, and worthy of note.

I know how hard it was for me to train to this point, and it felt really good as I ran the last couple of miles of my long run today, knowing I was going past the 60 mile barrier for the first time (and feeling strong at the same time).

There are still five weeks to race day and i’m glad for that time. There are still things I need to work on, and many more miles I need to run before I can line up at the start feeling confident and ready.

So, for now, “yay, 60 miles!”, and lets keep moving.

The breakdown of the 60 mile week:

week 13

Cumulative training to date:

week 13_cuml

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