Runner, Runner and well, I’m a Runner.

For those that don’t know me personally I am a community sports coach at Barnsley FC, as well as a active personal trainer, in my spare time. I mainly work sessional around communities in Barnsley, working on programs such as Fit Reds, Streetgames, UsGirls and School Sport. I grew up playing football for various clubs, and my weekends used to embrace travelling up and down the county to different fixtures, I have played with some now great Players, Friends and had some great Managers. I have been to college and university, now with a First Class Degree in Physical Education and School Sport.

I began running in 2008, mainly to supplement my football training; regularly hitting goals to run 5 mile in a month. Like seriously smashing them. However it wasn’t until 2012 that things took a turn, I entered ‘The Survival of the Fittest‘ (Men’s Health Series), in Manchester, with a friend of mine Clayton Davidson. Completing the 10k in 1 hour 8 minutes. You could say this was my official steps to becoming a runner.

Following that, I made the decision to run a marathon, not knowing anything about running, how challenging a marathon actually is, I didn’t even know how far a marathon is!! Milton Keynes marathon 2013, with training based on 30 mile weeks, supplemented by the football season and the first year of university. I aimed to also raise money for Cancer Research UK, having recently lost my Nan to cancer in 2012.

I completed Milton Keynes in 4 hours 4 minutes and 22 seconds, walking, crawling the most of it, but there was no better feeling than completing the marathon. Being the genius that I am combined with my ignorance to recovery, it was the Sheffield Half Marathon the week afterwards, so I thought ‘Yea, go on enter that, you’ll be fine.’


This is probably where the bug started for racing, running and improving.

At this point I probably still didn’t know what running is, I wasn’t aware that there was even another event, other than those called a ‘marathon.’ Until I was working over in the Rother Valley area of Sheffield and saw a 10k poster, in July. Well I entered that and completed it in 43 minutes, giving myself a new 10k PB, well my first official 10k PB?

After that the races came mostly every weekend, take a look at my runbritain profile:

http://www.runbritainrankings.com/runners/profile.aspx?athleteid=601866

The Era of Parkrun

I call it the ‘era’ but that could be the wrong term, because parkrun, it just never ends. Surprisingly I live 400 meters away from my local parkrun’s meeting point, but I didn’t even know about it. I am in actual fact closer to the start, than the car park!

Well anyway, I registered for parkrun and printed my barcode to attend on the 21st of September 2013. Nervous as hell, I couldn’t get off the toilet that morning and in all honesty, I am still the same 3 years+ later! I went to the run completing in 21:34 seconds. My slowest one to date, I would love to know what I would’ve done a year prior to that.

I used to skip weeks at parkrun when I first started and was back 2 weeks later running 20:43. It took me until January 2014 to break the 20 minute barrier, running 20:01, 20:02 some weeks. The 11th of January came the new PB of 19:39, after that and what felt an age, came the 4 weeks of PB’s at the end of February 19:20, 19:19, 19:09 and the sub 19 minute barrier of 18:46. I must not have been trying hard enough to PB consecutively like that, but every week I would go home and collapse on my step and still do!

The next PB was seriously an age, a whole year in fact, before I dipped under 18:46 and got 18:39, 18:36, 18:35 and 18:26. Before the PB of 18:39, I ran a 18:48 the week before achieving my first parkrun win, and my first win in a run ever! My second win came on the 18:39 PB day (Apart from in the Rother Valley half marathon the year before, but the winner in actual fact got lost and I really finished second, so we’ll not count that one)

The barrier obviously being the 18 minute to break, I attended Rother Valley parkrun completing the run in 17:55 before taking part in the Three Lakes Classic 15 mile trail run, 60 minutes later. But I just couldn’t do it at my home parkrun! It doesn’t count if it isn’t your home parkrun.  The sub 18 didn’t come until a week before my 22 birthday, running 17:58 so scraping it just, and finishing in 1st place. Happy Birthday to me.

The current PB at Barnsley stands at 17:55, but we’re working on that. My overall PB is 17:45 at Rother Valley.

The Marathon

I have completed 13 marathons, something of which my training centers around, with all other races coming in the build up to a marathon or in post marathon recovery and building towards the next one.

  1. Milton Keynes 2013- 4:04:22- 704th
  2. York Marathon 2013- 3:19:35- 211th
  3. Manchester Marathon 2014- 2:55:02– 120th (NEW PB)
  4. York Marathon 2014- 2:58-17- 83rd
  5. Manchester Marathon 2015- 2:50:04– 131st (NEW PB)
  6. Edinburgh 2015- 2:53:45- 63rd
  7. Hull Marathon 2015- 3:08:46- 41st
  8. York Marathon 2015- 2:58:05- 61st
  9. Snowdonia Marathon 2015- 3:13:58- 69th
  10. Manchester Marathon 2016- 2:45:49– 64th (NEW PB)
  11. Milton Keynes Marathon 2016- 2:52:48- 11th
  12. Snowdonia Trail Marathon 2016- 4:41:19- 23rd
  13. Hull Marathon 2016- 2:51:01- 6th

2013- I had entered the York Marathon in the January before Milton Keynes, thinking I’ll still want to run by then. Reviewing my ‘success’ at the Milton Keynes marathon and my unfinished business, with the distance; I picked up the training to 40 mile weeks and begun racing more regular as a means of speed work. It was either run fast or don’t run at all, it still is. Getting a new 10k PB at Cusworth (41:37) at the beginning of the month was evident of the training and now an attendee at Barnsley Parkrun, well I’d been 3 times? I knew I could do it, I went and run the first of hopefully many York Marathons, in 3:19:35, a massive improvement on Milton Keynes and I didn’t walk at all.

2014- Off the back of all Marathon training comes PB’s and more marathon plans. The next was to smash the 3 hour mark. As running goes, I’m not really interested in completing the London Marathon, the plan at this stage is running fast and finding a flat course to do so. So I searched around for a fast spring marathon, Milton Keynes has too many dips and turns! I came across Manchester Marathon, promising to be the fastest in the UK! Again I reviewed and planned for the next bout of training hoping to get faster and faster over the distance. I raced every weekend in the build up, PB’ed over the 10k distance, Half Marathon distance and broke 19 minutes at parkrun. I was feeling good, doing 40-50 mile weeks, I actually knew what running was. The race also truly delivered, it was fast and flat and not at all boring, I PB’ed massively at Manchester 2:55:02. Sticking to 2 marathons for the year, I have the ambition to run every York Marathon there is, I knew a PB would be hard to come by at York, mainly because I don’t run at my best in the autumn and well York has a few long drags in it, with a cheeky uphill to the finish. The challenge was to beat my course PB on here and hopefully break 3 hours if I can. I had a place in the Great North Run in the build up the aim was to just enjoy it and say that I have done it, and well I’ve done it, but I won’t ever do it again, it felt rushed and kind of like I was at a festival. I had not PB’ed officially in my training in the build up to York and in all honesty probably plateau’ed, but what I had done was learn. I ran 2:58:17, so broke both my goals that I originally set out.

2015- after running having an ace 2014, and my first full year of running events officially; 2015 had to bring something out of the ordinary. I had already entered 2015 with entry to York and Manchester marathon, so they were booked and packed! However the New Years Day double parkrun, brought on the healthy challenge of 2 parkruns in one day! So I did Nostell and Pontefract, with Banrsley being cancelled due to the snow… So off I went, taking my spare barcode for parking at Nostell. I ran well at Pontefract and enjoyed the route, however a talisman from Barnsley Parkrun, I remember him not enjoying it so much. We got chatting and I think I’ve spoke to him at every parkrun since! I lent him a barcode for Nostell and off I went to Nostell parkrun, it was between here and there. That I really met Bryan Harrod, an insane man who tempted me with the idea of running the snowdonia marathon in late October. 2 weeks after York marathon, he told me, ‘it sells out, you better enter quick, but a man with your capabilities, you’ll easily complete the course.’ I think I spent the whole journey home contemplating it! But that was enough, as soon as I got home, I was in, mentally anyway.. The year of Snowdonia had begun, well the start of it. Marathon training began well for Manchester this year and was better than ever, I ran Hull 20 mile in the warm up, the furthest I’ve ever run in preparation for a marathon before. With a fair few half marathons in the build up, I was feeling great. I ran Manchester in 2:50:04 so not quite sub 2:50, finishing alongside Keith Littlewood, despite not seeing him for the entire race. But that wasn’t it, I felt like I struggled massively after I hit the 20 mile point. So that was where I would build and the only way to do that was more miles.. This is where I decided to run everyday, taking inspiration from Ron Hill. Some things seem to stick in your mind as a runner and Keith had said in the build up to me, that he’d been training using ‘long slow miles’ 80-90 a week.. So that stuck with me and he finished a lot stronger than me. So I learnt and built my mileage up for my big October that was coming up with York and Snowdonia approaching.. However after finishing kind of alright in Manchester and still having the training in me, I really wanted to break the 2:50 barrier.. So the choices were to enter the fast Edinburgh marathon or return to Milton Keynes. I decided I would use Edinburgh and gain a good for age entry. Booking a shotgun Airbnb right on the start line, it seemed perfect! Off we went for the 3 hour drive. For those of you that don’t know the Edinburgh course, it is a fast downhill start and point to point. I started well and was running fairly comfortably up until the turn around point at mile 18, where you turn back on yourself to the city center again. At this point it was a headwind and light rain came in, on a very lonely road. I still had some momentum, but couldn’t keep the pace for a sub 2:50, I finished in 2:53:45. That was it for marathons until the Autumn season came around. In the Autumn I had already planned the York and Snowdonia trip, however in an attempt to do my last long run in a race, something that had worked well for the spring. I entered Hull Marathon at the last minute, making the journey through with Simon Haywood, also doing the same. I ran well in Hull finishing in 3:08, however crumbled and ran 7:00+ minute mile from 13 to the finish. Even though I was on for a sub 3:00 time until this point. This was probably evident that I had not put enough endurance training in, so I had to pick it up for York in a few weeks time. I ran York in 2:58, beating my last years PB by 17 seconds or so; in all honesty probably holding back in anticipation of Snowdonia in 2 weeks time. But I had achieved my target of beating my York Marathon PB. Snowdonia marathon and what the full year of running had been tailored towards had come around and it seemed a very short journey from new years day and my conversation with Bryan. I met him before the race, it was raining, cold and I was wearing a waterproof jacket! I didn’t want to take it off. The plan was to go out steady and just finish, ideally in 3:15, I wrote the start and finish miles for the hills on my arm and off we went. Climbing, Climbing and more Climbing, there were 3 main hills for me in the race, the start, around half way, and the last one thrown in around 22 mile-25 mile. The rest of the race relatively flat, but a massive descent to the finish, of which I slipped and fell on the wet grass, like Bambi, 3 times. But in 3:13:58, I finished with my slowest mile being the descent to the finish! I enjoyed the ups more than the downs. That was that, the marathon season over for 2015, 5 marathons done, 2016 had to bring something special.

2016- came around and again I had pre-booked on Manchester, York and Snowdonia. The target this year again, sub 2:50 with the potential of sub 2:45.

But this year, I had something else to beat, I had to run further, faster and more than my previous yearly totals. This is where my training reached different heights. I was previously content with barely scraping out 200 miles a month, and I knew what sort of times that would bring me in races. But I was still fading at the end, and eluding to Keith Littlewood’s idea of long slow miles I picked it up again, aiming to target 90 miles a week minimum, I didn’t just go out and smash 90 miles out. I built it up from November to January. Before I knew it I was pushing on 100. Doubling my previous workload but it was more comfortable once my body became accustomed to it. I again ran Hull 20 in the build up the Manchester, getting more half marathons pretty much every weekend out of the way. But it was in the new year, I had an idea, stemming from the snowdonia marathon the previous year. Off the back of that I felt strong and my legs could take any hill. So that was it, why wouldn’t I do a marathon that ran up Snowdon. Around the same sort of time Bryan must’ve had some sort of connection and posted the Snowdonia Trail marathon on Facebook. Well that was that and I would enter the full marathon 5000ft of ascent and going up Snowdon. I remember Terry Forrest had run it the previous year in some sort of costume and had said it was tough. Having not had much experience of fell running, despite my usual routes being on trails and the occasional climb up and over cut gate. I needed some more, so I ran a few trunces in the build up. But anyway more about that in a bit. Manchester marathon, for me delivered its usual charm, queues. A massive one into the car parks.  A worse one for the baggage afterwards, but thankfully I don’t use that. I was on for 2:45 at Manchester however like an inexperienced fool, I thought it would measure bang on 26.2 on my GPS however it was more like 26.5, so my pacing was thrown and I finished in 2:45:49. A new marathon PB, but left a little frustrated and wanting another marathon, I wanted to either enter Edinburgh again, or why don’t I go back. And by saying that, I meant Milton Keynes. We booked a marathon package at the Hilton hotel, 400m from the start line. I entered late, so had to collect my number on the day. There is a DW gym in the same area, i had a all you can eat buffet the night before and it was an all you can eat breakfast on the day of the marathon. They had changed the course a little from last time, but really it was just as I remember it; with underpasses various roundabouts and straight roads! It’s not as busy either as Manchester or Edinburgh, so I was out on my own for most of the run after the half marathon runners split off. But I had done it, I had gone back and conquered my first marathon, 2:52:48, finishing in 11th place. With the city marathons out of the way, it was now time to focus on the task of 2016. The Snowdonia Trail Marathon. In all fairness I raised the mileage and was hitting 100-110 in a week; I only wore my rucksack to stop dehydration. I was hitting trails and threw in some hilly training runs. I targeted some hilly half marathons like Ashbourne and Buxton, running well and finishing high in positions in both of them. I went into Snowdonia not knowing what to expect, was just taking it as it came and going for the ride. Ultimately it was to become the most enjoyable marathon for me. My running has taken me to some beautiful places and I hope that it will take me to more beautiful places to come. It was a first for me also to run a marathon in the summer, but I believe it has helped in laying foundations now for the Autumn marathon’s. In the build up to York Marathon I ran the Hull Marathon again, having struggled here last year, I had to either struggle again or better that and finish comfortably. My plan was to take it easy and aim for 3 hours, 6:50 pace, something that has now become comfortable with recent half marathons being at 6:00/15 pace. I set off a little quick at 6:20 pace but settled after the first 10k, comfortably running past the point in which I struggled the previous year. I reached mile 20 feeling relatively strong, hitting sub 6:00 mile pace in the last 5k; ultimately finishing in 2:51:01 in 6th position, climbing from 30th a mile 6.

 

And then…. I started writing a blog. So to find out more, check out my updates sections.

In short, I’ve gone on to win the Milton Keynes Marathon, complete the Barnsley Boundary, finally break the glorious sub 2:40 barrier and get faster and faster in my shorter races……

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