GER

Last weekend I ran the Perkins Great Eastern Run in Peterborough. It kicked off my marathon training, and the aim of setting a new, fast PB at the half marathon distance before I knew I had to slow down and increase the miles over the next few months.

The set up was great. The week before I tapered properly, ate well and slept an enormous amount. I wanted to see if I could pace without the use of gels and used it as an experiment in what worked and what didn’t in terms of pre race nutrition.

The race was well organised, super local and very well attended by BRJ runners. The course, which runs through Peterborough city centre, and then north through the local housings estates before looping back is a club champ course and advertised as a PB race. For that, I was looking forward to seeing what I could do.

I had the ambition of running at sub 1:50:00 pace. That meant averaging about 5:15p/km which I knew was going to challenge my endurance. The weather was great, no wind and it was dry so I was excited to get going. In the pens, we met our pacers. Two seasoned runners from Yakley, In fact for both of them it was their 25th GERs.

The race started promptly, and we were soon off. I was shoulder to shoulder Wight eh pacers. It’s a bit like catching the bus. You have this awkwardness between you, trying to build a relationship so that when’s it’s tough you know they are they’re however not enough so they talk the whole way round. People come and people go, some don’t make it as the pace is too quick while others speed off and jump back on later.

We had a good rhythm, supporting each other and pacing evenly for the first 8 miles. For the first time I also really enjoyed it. The atmosphere and support was fantastic. As we approached 10 miles I could feel my legs starting to drag. I was puffing and my confidence was starting to slip. I can remember myself thinking it’s only another 3 miles to go, but my body and legs were telling me otherwise. I took on a gel, which was maybe too late and as I struggled to take it from my pocket the pack continued at pace and were soon ahead. I was gutted to lose momentum.

It now become a race. I had two challenges - one to get back on pace and re join the pack and two, to beat the watch and achieve my goal. Every stride felt dull and heavy. People were overtaking and I knew my race was over. It was now about finishing.

As I approached the end, 12, 12.5, 13 miles… The support was incredible. Fellow runners giving encouragement and also the odd BRJ runner tapping me on the shoulder as they passed, heading for the finish. I crossed the line in 01:52:35.

I learnt a lot running the GER. Setting a goal is really healthy. You run quicker, mentally prepare to achieve a good time and although I didn’t meet it, I wasn’t far off and still achieved a new PB, improving by over 8 minutes. I know I need to focus and dig deeper when i start to drag. 10, 11 miles is when the fatigue set in, mainly due to the pace however the distance isn’t by any means impossible.

I’ve got another 2 races before Christmas when I really need to slow down and increase the miles, so hopefully with some speed work and true determination I’ll crack 01:50:00 this side of Christmas!

B

You’re in…

April 2014. I’ve been running for the last 2 years, nothing too serious but enough to join the local running club and enter a few races. Early this year, I was watching the London marathon, just like hundreds of thousands across the globe. It was special because Mo Farrah was racing this distance for the first time, and what a place to do it; London. Completing a marathon is a phenomenal feat. I’m sure anyone you speak to will say it’s not easy. In fact, everyone I’ve spoken to always says ‘congratulations and commiserations’ to anyone lucky to gain a space. I had never dreamt of running 26 miles, nor did I have a dying need to do that distance, however I found something about it attractive. The spectacle of the event, the unknown and it being in London were all reasons to enter the ballot.

Over the last 2 years I’ve realised that the body is an incredibly versatile and powerful machine. I had never really experienced what it can really do, until putting it into the unknown where actually mind and body have to work to get from A to B. In 2011, me and my partner, Liz bought our house and moved from home. Of course, life at home with our parents carried the luxuries of lovely dinners and all the home comforts. If we look back now, it’s fair to say we were both slightly out of shape.

Liz had always been fitter than me. She, along with her brothers had this weird thing going on. If one did it, the other would always do bigger and better. They all swam to an incredibly high level and would hold a certain arrogance about what they achieved as a family. I’ve never held that sense of self satisfaction as a trait, however there was something really attractive about it but something me and my brother never had.

As we got settled into our new house, I wanted to do that thing. That thing that no one else was doing. Between us we had friends who have climbed mountains, play sport to a high standard but nothing really jumped out. I was lazy, fixated on excelling and pleasing at work and often would work until midnight most nights through choice before grabbing a McDonald’s and catching the last train home.

One evening, Liz asked if I wanted to go for a run. I probably didn’t even process what she said…I’m sure I laughed it off and continued to eat the tablet sized bar of dairy milk while guzzling beer in front of x factor on what was a dark, wet September night.

I went.
It was horrendous.

My shirt was wet through, my shorts rubbed and after walking most of it I was cold and miserable. Liz had an air of satisfaction to her passing comments as if to say ’ I beat you’ which after initially infuriating me, made me want more.

The jogging, running, walking continued. Every day, further and faster. We live at the top of a hill, so going down was always easy. The road was broken into 25m sections with traffic calming bollards which helped me pace my distance and effort. I started running and walking between the bollards, alternating the speed and distance every day.

After about 2 months, I got good. I could run for 10 minutes without stopping. Some mean feat, hey? For Once, liz saw change. No longer did I want to work late and stay at work. In fact, I was first out the door, chewing on a carrot stick, taking on water ready for my next run. I wanted to be home, outdoors and pushing my body because I had never done or experienced it until now, aged 25.

Liz kept running with me, encouraging me every step of the way. She would threaten me with no dinner if I didn’t push the pace or run that extra 10m to the front door. It was amazing how quick I improved, and more so how I felt inside. I started to feel good about myself and started sharing my achievements, however small with my friends.

Within 4 months, I had lost about 3 stone and easily dropped 4” from my waist. Loosing weight was never really the objective. To be honest, however naive… I didn’t really expect it. People started to notice the difference. It was like getting a high 5 every time someone said ‘wow Ben, you look great’. These are people who had been my friends all life. Never had they battered an eye lid at what I did or how I looked, but strangely something had changed and people become interested.

As the months passed, the running continued. The distance increased and I was up to about 4.5 miles in about 45 minutes. I needed more… I became obsessed and needed to look past the bollards down the hill as now they were the welcome gate home.

I decided to join my local running club, having met the membership secretary at my local park run. I was petrified. I thought it was for the Lycra wearing, vein popping elite however I couldn’t of been more wrong. The club was a network, a support ring of people who wanted everyone to enjoy running at what ever level. I went on my first run, pumped with adrelin. I had to push myself, go further and faster then when by myself. We did over 7 miles that night. I was exhausted, but it felt amazing. At the end the captain, Alan said ‘you’re in’ so I went back the following week.

And so it continued… Every week, down the club doing something I never though I could. I’ve run half marathons and a hand full of 10k races since joining the club, to gain me that much needed race experience. Last week however, things changed.

The postman delivered my marathon magazine having entered the ballot earlier in the year. I was away with work, and liz called me. I was on the platform at Norwich station, and remember picking up the phone to silence.

'Hello. Liz?'
‘Ben…. You’re In’ she said.

I was a bit confused, I didn’t really get it. She kept saying ‘you’re in, you’re in’ and then it clicked. I had been sent my marathon pack confirming my space at next years Virgin London marathon.

And so it begins… From 1 step, just over 2 years ago to doing 33,000 across London next April. I’ve decided to keep this blog as a diary for my training and emotions over the next 7 months. I hope you can relate to it, share it, enjoy it and maybe even laugh along the way with me as I take on the impossible.

B