Hills and ramblings

29th November 2019       

I’ve got a little out of step in my diary updates this week and I haven’t got much to report on as a result. I don’t want to overload the end of week update so for now I’ll give a quick summary of the last couple of days and then some musings on a topic that has been on my mind for a while. I might go ahead and work through some more of these issues in the future to break up the routine updates.

Wednesday is a rest day and coincidentally it was also my daughter’s sixteenth so we had a nice family evening being mean about the Apprentice candidates. I had lost interest in it for the last few years but my kids are coming to it fresh for the first time so I’m enjoying it again through their eyes. On Thursday I tried something new and while my daughter was having her dance lesson I tackled some solid hill training for the first time since I started prepping for the marathon. From the car park where I dropped her it was a 1k jog to a bus stop at the top of the hill before heading down to the train station at the bottom turning and heading back up to the bus stop. Each there and back being about 1k. This hill is a favourite at my running club and is about as tough as hills get around this leafy suburb. When a run leader announces this on their route you might find yourself thinking about moving up or down unless you’re feeling strong. I’m not great at hills and often give in to walking when on my own which is why I want to include more into my plans. This time I was aiming for three round trips, managed four and would’ve done a fifth but I ran out of time. I felt very good and on the 1k stretch back to the car gave it the beans, well, my equivalent of that anyway, and came home at something approaching my parkrun pace. All in all a very successful session and I think I’ll do the same again next week. If I can get my act together a bit quicker I might even fit in that fifth climb.

Distance covered 6km.

So, for now, something a little different…


Headphones are such a thorny issue for runners and my use of them has troubled me down the years. I’ve always run with them, sometimes with music and more recently with podcasts. In the past I’ve used a carefully curated playlist at my local parkrun so that I get a feel for where I should be as each track starts and if I miss my target time I crash into some jarring track as punishment. Sadly, as I am so far off my PB I haven’t used that for a while. I also have a general running playlist of indeterminate length made up of tracks that generally get me up and that is quite helpful for getting through longer races.

I’ve tried apps that use music metronomically to encourage a particular pace but these tended to be bpm based dance tracks that drove me mad so I quickly ditched them. The music I have isn’t especially pace driven rather they are tracks that I like and will therefore be distracting and they need to get my energy levels up. So, yes, the theme from Rocky is on there plus a couple of tracks from Riverdance , inspired by my Spin instructor.

I tend to run on my own. Even at events I will place myself in a bubble and run in my own little world, I might occasionally challenge myself to catch up to the runner in front but most of the time I will try and find a good pace and hold on until the end. A solid distraction seems to help with this.

For most races and training runs I always have them. I’ve become blasé about reading race info packs but I feel that most events advise against or outright ban the use of headphones but it was only at a recent 10K event that I was actually told off by a marshal for using them so finished with them in my pocket. There were still many on the course persevering with theirs.


When I run with my club I don’t use headphones. I think it would be rude to the group leader and the other runners. While I don’t normally chat a whole lot on these runs (due to lack of puff usually) I enjoy the conversations and chit-chat around the group.  

I occasionally run as a pacer at my local parkrun and again I don’t wear them so that I don’t isolate myself from those following me. As with the club runs I don’t really chat much but it is nice to keep track of who is still with you, give updates on progress and generally provide words of encouragement. On neither occasion do I feel their absence nor do I detect any impact on performance.


One of the biggest problems I found when training and running the half marathon was the boredom I felt running for so long. I’ve done so many 10k races that I’m conditioned to running for an hour at a time, running for two hours was bordering on tedious even during the race itself. How am I going to cope with five hours?  I’ve never run with a big crowd before, does that make enough of a difference? If I run on my own without headphones, especially on very familiar routes, my mind is invariably filled with those little worms telling you how tired you are and how that twinge in your ankle probably means it’s broken and I really need to fill my head with something else. If I can hit on something I find the time can pass quite easily. This can be a presentation I’m planning for or, God forbid, developing a new graphical way for representing large datasets (I don’t have a very exciting job) but these don’t always come to mind. On a recent run I spent the whole time preparing a Run Director’s briefing even though I’ve never done this role and have no plans to do so in the future. Have to say it worked a treat though. The other time in my life I ever ran vaguely seriously was during my A Levels, a very long time ago. My venerable Sony Walkman wasn’t up to the rigours of running so I would set out with just my thoughts for company. I used this time to help with revision and would write essay answers or practice maths solutions in my head as I ran and this meant the time and miles drifted by. I’m not sure how far I ran in those days, long before GPS and Garmins it would take a piece of string and the A To Z to work that out, but I would usually run for 90 minutes or so.

Is there that much difference in planning an essay answer and listening to a podcast? They are both serving the same purpose; a podcast is just more passive.

Given that I run solo most of the time there is also the question of safety. Most of my runs are on suburban pavements so I don’t feel a physical danger from traffic and as a driver myself I am very conscientious at junctions. Male privilege also means I don’t have such a sense of personal vulnerability either. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my share of yelled comments and had a few half eaten burgers thrown my way but I’ve never felt personally under threat. On the occasions I have found myself on narrow country lanes I would usually pop the headphones off until I got back to the safety of a pavement.

Yet while…

 I like running in headphones I never see fast runners wearing them, am I giving myself the wrong message? Does that mean I’m not a serious runner? Maybe listening to a podcast is detrimental to my pace. The time passes and the miles get covered but is my energy a little down.


I’ll just keep them for the distance crunching runs and ditch them for the shorter, threshold runs.


Yes, that sounds like a plan.

Regular running updates will resume at the weekend.

First Week Done

19th October 2019

The first week of marathon training is over, how have I done? OK, I think. I ran a little further, ate a little better and drank a little bit less. And I’m not bored yet.

I was able to fit in a second yoga class on Wednesday, less intense than my other class it involves a lot more stretching and prolonged holding of poses. It felt good but some of the poses were beyond my middle-aged frame and an element of frustration seeped in. I like the instructor though and I hope to include this on a regular basis as it will break up my running nicely.

I intended to do some more speed work on Thursday but the biblical rain put me off. I know I should be weather agnostic but there is a reason. I hadn’t seen my son all week and we were going to run together while my daughter had her dance lesson but with the playing fields getting wetter and wetter we decided to cosy up and watch Tuesday’s Bake Off instead. Sometimes quality of life must come first.

To make up for this I decided to run on Friday evening which I don’t normally do. A day working from home meant I could get in a run at five and still spend the evening with the family. I chose an unpleasant hilly route for no good reason and set off. I hit two snags on the way round, firstly I’d forgotten that I’d changed my Garmin’s default from kilometres to miles the other day so couldn’t get my head around the slow progress. Secondly my Bluetooth headphones ran out of juice about two thirds of the way round, right in the middle of a really good podcast. Switched back to kilometres, distance covered 7.7km.

No parkrun today. Rugby World Cup quarter-final this morning so we were watching England v Australia. Took a trip up to London this afternoon and clocked up over 15,000 steps. Is that training? It may not make it to Strava but it was a lot of walking.

Weekly Training summary:

2 Spin classes

2 Yoga classes

2 Runs (total distance 20.8km)

Current weight 13” 9’