(Half) marathon man

If you’re fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to be one of my Facebook friends, you’ll probably be aware that a few times a week I post a map with a route marked out on it. And even the least technical of people will know that this indicates that someone has either run along that route, or cheated by traversing it sitting down on a bicycle (only joking cyclists). You may also be aware that I’ve shrunk over the past two years – not in height (still 5 foot 11 inches, or 1.8 metres), but in weight. At my heaviest, and I don’t remember the exact date, I was 14 stone. For the benefit of my American friends that’s 196 lbs. For Europeans and the like, that’s 89 kg. For astrophysicists it’s 4.46979-29 solar masses. Anyway, for me that was too heavy.

I know from my Fitbit records that on 27th May 2014 I was 184 lbs. A year and a bit later I’m 11 stone… 154 lbs… 70kg. I have lost 42 lbs. I used to buy XL shirts from A&F, now I buy M.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the Fitbit played a big part in my weight loss and improved fitness… and it still does. Today (at the time of writing this paragraph) I’ve done 2,051 of my 10,000 step target, and 0.95 of my 5 mile target – the perils of working from home. Not good enough, especially with two half marathons coming up.

I’ve actually stopped going to the gym, and prefer to run as my primary activity. Running on the treadmill in the gym was boring, and became exponentially more boring as the distance increased. This wasn’t a problem at first – the first time I stepped on a treadmill and tried to run 1 km I had to stop half-way for a walk. Seriously. That’s how unfit I was. Gradually I increased the distance, and one evening pushed on to run 10 km for the first time since I was a teenager more than 20 years ago. I did that 10 km in 1 hour 5 minutes, although that included jumping from one treadmill to another, because they’re set to a 45 minute maximum.

In the dead of winter I started to venture outside to run, and after getting the 10 km distance to under an hour I thought it would be fun to enter a race. Now I say “race” but I had no expectations of winning – just picking up the medal at the end, hopefully not coming last, and finishing under an hour would be fine. And so I entered the 10 km Hot Chocolate Run at Eton Dorney lake (22nd March 2015) – so named because at the end they give you a free hot chocolate. Unfortunately, three weeks before the race I tweaked my left Achilles tendon. Tweaked, pulled…? It hurt, I couldn’t walk on it for a few days, but clearly hadn’t snapped it. So I had to forget running for a week… which then turned into two weeks. It was better but still hurt. With a week to go before the race I bought a strapping and this appeared to improve it. With the race on the Sunday I attempted 5 km on the Friday night and it felt okay, and so then participated on the Sunday. My time on this mostly flat course was a slightly disappointing 56 minutes 11 seconds, but I was half-way through the field of seventy-three finishers and didn’t aggravate the injury.

Since then I’ve participated in four more 10 km races:

  • Run Frimley – 54 minutes 34 seconds (tough course, very hilly)
  • Royal Berkshire – 51 minutes 7 seconds (finishing in the top 33%)
  • Yateley 10k race 1 – 49 minutes 22 seconds
  • British 10k London Run – 52 minutes 21 seconds

At this point I don’t want to say “10 km, check, done it” because it’s a good distance to run for training and general fitness, and for a ‘race’… and having broke 50 minutes I’m still looking to break 49, and then 48, and maybe some day get down to 45 minutes. But if you can run 10 km then 11 km is an easy step-up. And then 12, and then 15, and 18. The furthest I’ve now run in one go is 19 km (1 hour 47 minutes), and that’s only 2 km off the half marathon distance. That’s the next challenge, and I’ve entered two during September. The first is the Maidenhead half marathon on 6th September – I’m told it’s a fairly flat route and a good intro to running that distance. The second on 27th September is the Windsor half marathon, which I’m told is more challenging due to its up-and-down nature. However, living in Camberley I can’t avoid a hilly run, so every run is the right training.

My goal for both is to finish in under 2 hours – right now I’m hitting the right pace but mindful that I do get a little bit slower with each passing kilometer. My other goal is to raise some money for Sebastian’s Action Trust, a charity which supports seriously and terminally-ill children and their families. And thus you won’t be surprised that this ends with a link to my Just Giving page, if you’re feeling generous, even if it’s just a couple of £s or $s… thank you. And if you want an extra incentive, Microsoft will match what I raise (yes, you can take money off Microsoft).

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