Reflections of 2015

My running year effectively ended on November 1st when I crossed the finish line of the White Rose 100 mile ultra but the lead up to that had an immensely satisfying year of races and experiences.

I had a lot of goals going into 2015 but I’d set myself 2 “A” races for the year – London Marathon in April and the White Rose 100 mile Ultra in November and fill in the remainder of the year with a mix of local fell and trail races as well as a trip to Romania with Ally to celebrate her 40th by doing the Transylvania 50k mountain ultra.

Much to look back on then!

Starting with a 10k flyer & The Grizzly

The year got off to cold but fast start with the Dewsbury 10k where I wanted to run somewhere below 37 minutes and if possible 35:xx to give me a boost for the London Marathon training. In the end a decent 36:34 on a windy day was a great result for me and a big PB over a distance I rarely race.

With a lot of road miles needing to be done for the marathon it was a good indicator my target of a sub 3 hour finish at London was more than realistic.

A month later we headed down to Devon to take part in the brutal Grizzly Race – 20 miles (and 4000ft of climbing) of coastal running up and down steep clifftop paths and starting with a quad burning 1/4 mile run along a pebble beach. They say your Grizzly time is roughly the same as a marathon and as it happened I ran 2:51 to finish inside the top 50 (of 1500 runners) so not far off in the end.

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Not long now #GrizzlyRace #trailrunning #trailteam2014

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It’s a great race and a good weekend as we stay with family and have a blast. My legs took a beating though, it’s incredibly tough but as with Dewsbury 10k is a good marathon guide time wise but it’s mostly about family and fun. I normally feel fairly confident in a sprint finish but I got so utterly owned by the guy I finished behind when I kicked with about 200m to go I had to laugh at how poor my effort was.

Big PB at London Marathon

Looking back over all the races and experiences this year, London was my favourite. I wasn’t expecting that to be the case but the sheer size and energy of the crowds took me by surprise and combined with running a great race for an official 2:54:55 time I couldn’t have asked for more and the training paid off.

I’d thought that I would be able to stomach training on the road for the marathon but I felt my legs were getting pulverised on the tarmac and I spent most of the first 3 months of the year running trail and hills instead. I didn’t slack off though and got the result I wanted and more.

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YES! LON-DONE! What an incredible race!! #vlm2015 #marathon

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Meltham Club Championships

I’d decided to take a crack at the Meltham club championships this year – my aim was to complete enough races in both the Road/Trail calendar and the Fell championships so a week after the pounding of the Grizzly I had to take on the Ian Roberts fell race.

It was a tough one and climbing Pule Hill along with the famously gnarly last mile and a bit over moorland tussocks and no path gave my legs a beating but I just about managed to finish with maximum points from being first back from Meltham.

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Fell racing this weekend looking up at a beast of a climb! #trailteam2014

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I’ve completed another 5 of the fell championship races – West Nab, Saddleworth Fell, The Trunce, Denis Stitt & Gravy Pud finishing first Meltham runner in each and have the final race in the championship (Windy Hill) in Feb 2016 to complete to win the Fell Championship. Looking forward to that race which will no doubt be a tough challenge again!

Having also looked at the races on the road/trail calendar it looked possible to complete enough to qualify there but in the end it didn’t work out and did a few favourites like Dovestone Diamond (41:33 mins/9th) and Marsden 10 (1:07/6th) where I ran times and races I was immensely proud of.

parkrun

Much as a I love parkrun – it’s honestly changed our lives – I’d not expected to run more than a few parkruns over the course of the year but it’s turned out to be an unexpected regular weekend activity because as I’ve moved up the Meltham club parkrun championship table the desire to push and push for that championship has seen me turn into a regular at Huddersfield and we’ve done a number of tourist runs too.

It also turns out that once you reach a certain speed, you have a great chance of finishing 1st at a lot of smaller parkruns and so it’s been that I’ve been first over the line at Gibside, South Manchester, Huddersfield, Black Hill, Stamford and Waterstone (Dublin) recording 8 first place finishes in 2015 and dropping my PB to 17:11.

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The start line for Huddersfield #parkrun yesterday. #running

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Kapow! Another one to add to the collection! #parkrun #parkrunireland #dublin #running

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Couple of seconds off the #parkrun pb today. Unexpected but I'll happily take that! #running

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It pains me that I couldn’t quite squeeze below 17 minutes this year but looking back, I’ve done no speed specific training and it’s all been about a marathon and a big ultra so can’t really complain!

It’s a major target for 2016 though along with dropping a chunk of time from my 10k pb. I’m not focusing on ultras this year so we’ll see what some dedicate speedwork can bring.

Billy Bland and the Bob Graham Round

As a club, Meltham AC has a good mix of runners but mud and trails are always popular and there are more than a few strong fell runners so in July we put together a group of paired runners and took on the famous Billy Bland Relay around the Bob Graham Round in the Lake District. 42 peaks, 27,000ft of climbing and somewhere around 66 miles – all to be covered in less than 24 hours.

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Keswick. 1am after a 24:59 Meltham AC team attempt at #BillyBlandRelay.

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In end we missed our goal by the slimmest of margins – just short of an hour – but as a team we had a great time and experience and we’ve got another attempt booked in for 2016 with at least one club member eyeing a solo BGR in 2017. Can’t wait!

I’ll fondly remember seeing another solo BGR finisher jogging up to Moot Hall at midnight where a group of drunks stopped their singing and swaying long enough to sincerely applaud his efforts before swaggering to their next pint.

Racing 100 miles

As I mentioned in the lead, my year effectively ended when I crossed the line at the White Rose 100. I got round the course relatively issue free and it felt really weird that after such a big run – by far my furthest – I felt a little deflated and that never really went away. I knew it was a big achievement, I’d had wonderful support from family and friends and a truly amazing experience combined with finishing in 23:38 (14th) was more than mission accomplished.

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Kit ready for #whiteroseultra #wru100. First 100 miler! #nervous

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I knew at 70 miles going out onto the 3rd and final 30 mile lap I would finish and waving goodbye forever to various road junctions, signs, buildings and inanimate objects on the way round that particular loop was pleasing! Friends and family and the amazing support online from people tracking my progress was the big reward. You were all a big part of that success.

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Done it! 100 miles in 23:38. So grateful to Ally and all my friends and family. Absolutely couldn't have done it without you :)

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I’d decided before that if I finished, I wasn’t going to make 100 milers a “regular” thing – the commitment (and luck with injuries) to just make the start line is massive and the recovery time after wipes out weeks of a sport I love doing daily. I’d had a lot of niggles leading into this race and 6 weeks before I’d also run the Hardmoors 60 in 13:04 having got lost in the last half mile costing me a couple of places and a sub 13 hour finish but I ran it all and paced my effort well.

For me I felt at this point the reward of finishing didn’t outweigh the time out. I do still want to do 2 massive ultras – UTMB and Spartathlon one day but not any time soon.

From finishing the race, I spent 4 weeks injured with peroneal muscle problems caused, not surprisingly, by the stress of 24 hours running. Physio has fixed it but my legs have definitely felt fatigued way into December. I think you can run ultras to about 50-60 miles and still run fast but much beyond that you need to make a choice of speed or distance.

2015 in numbers

Reflecting on 2015, I achieved both my A goals – Sub 3 at London and finishing a 100 mile ultra and done pretty well in most races I entered with some solid top 10 runs and successes at parkrun.

Overall

  • Miles run: 2,179
  • Elevation Gain: 189,600ft
  • parkrun 1st place finishes: 8
  • Longest run: 100 miles

Races

  • 15 races
    • 2 road
    • 10 trail & fell
    • 3 ultra
  • 22 parkruns

PB’s in 2015

  • 5k/parkrun – 17:11
  • 10k – 36:34
  • Half Marathon (during London Marathon) – 1:23
  • Marathon – 2:54
  • 100k – 13:04
  • 100 miles – 23:38

2016 goals

Despite all the success and enjoyment I’ve had throughout the year, one thing burns…

That 17:11 parkrun time. It’s stupid in the light of everything else and the fact it was done with no speedwork but I’d hoped at the start of the year I’d be able to get under 17. It wasn’t to be but it’s been something I’ve not been able to shake out of my head and my full focus of 2016 is to go way down below 17 and also to knock chunks out of the 10k time too.

Everything else is secondary to that. Good to have some focus.

Ally and and my family and friends have given me so much support and encouragement in the many long races in 2015 I’m looking forward to paying that back supporting other folks in their ultra endeavours while I flog myself along straight flat roads!

Happy running for 2016.