As One Year Ends, Another Begins… 

Posted in Uncategorized on December 24, 2015 by pacepusher

…and with it come new challenges!

So, it’s almost the end of the year, which can only mean one thing. A review of my running throughout 2015. But, why would I want to do that? I know what I did last year. The big question is what can I look forward to in 2016?

Ok, so 2015 was pretty cool. The Rio de Janeiro Marathon and running the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu being the obvious highlights, but 2016 brings a whole new level of excitement!

I have a ‘Good For Age’ place for the London Marathon. Exciting yes, but I’ll be deferring my entry. The thing with the London Marathon is its timing. You see the problem is that whilst I was running around the streets of London, Mrs pacepusher would be staying at home. And by home, I mean potentially being in the Royal Alexandria Hospital giving birth to our son or daughter! Now as good as the London Marathon is, that is not an event I want to miss, so there’ll be no London trip for me in 2016!

I haven’t really planned anything after the ‘due’ date. I don’t know how I’ll feel. How much I’ll be able to, or indeed, want to train. I don’t know, although many have tried to warn me, how much my life is going to change. I don’t know if I’ll even give two hoots about running post 17th May 2016!

So, I needed to find a marathon to run before the mayhem begins. The obvious choice was Manchester. I’ve done it before, it’s a great race and, like in 2014 when I ran it, our good friend Katrina will be running it. I was on the verge of signing up. Making the most of the early bird discount. Thumb hovering over the one click, no going back now, entry button… and then it happened. 

There it was, like that guiding star, so bright in that first Christmas sky. A post on Facebook. A post by Sarah Teapot & Trainers Self. A post not intended to catch my attention, but to remind others that they may wish to sign up. To sign up for a 50km race in Perth. Sounds glamorous, doesn’t it? Well, it’s Perth, Scotland, not Australia and it involves running laps of the North Inch Park on the banks of the river Tay. Laps that measure just 2.381km, which means you have to run 21 of them to complete the race!

This did not appeal to me at all. I have never even considered doing a 50k race before. Why would I? 

The 100k however, and it’s 42 laps of said park, now that I would do. That was my star. Sorry Manchester, but I have something else to follow as I run towards the birth of a child hopefully not born in a stable!

The Self-Transcendence 100km/50km Race incorporates the British & Scottish 100k & 50k championships as well as the annual Anglo Celtic Plate home countries event. There will be some serious runners there, including the brilliant Marco Consani (who last weekend ran 159 miles in 24 hours around a 400m track in Barcelona) in the Scottish team. 

It is however, also an open race, so on 27th March 2016 I will line up with (to date) 10 other people as stupid as me, as I begin what could turn out to be the biggest challenge of my life… well until the baby is born and I have to change my name to prampusher anyway!

In the words of Shakin’ Stevens, ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ and here’s hoping you have as much to look forward to as me in 2016!


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on June 18, 2015 by pacepusher

As runners we all set ourselves targets; weekly mileage, race times, pacing strategies or even completing 100 parkruns. As a bunch we tend to be pretty realistic in our setting of these targets, or goals. In running, you very much get what you give. Through our training, and subsequent awareness of our own bodies, we can usually predict fairly accurately what we are capable of achieving. Perhaps this is also due, in part, to a fear of failure, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard a runner predict something unattainable for themselves. In fact, I would suggest the reverse of this is true. 

In 2009 when I ran the West Highland Way Race, I predicted my finish time would be about 19 hours. Some people thought I was being stupid, that I was overreaching, that after pushing the pace (pacepusher by name…) early in the day, I would blow up and the rest of the field would run past me with glee. I completed the race in 18 hours and 42 minutes flat. I knew from my training, from my experience and from knowing my body, that I was being realistic, even when others doubted me.

Also true of runners is that we are never content with our performances. We strive to attain our goals, and then promptly reset them. We break our sub 40 minute 10k target and then promptly start working towards a sub 39 minute time. I guess that’s what keeps us running. We all have that desire to improve, to train as hard as we can and to attain our latest targets. For me, with my sub three hour marathon achieved, my next target is sub 2 hours 55 minutes

Actually I’m still undecided about that. My coach has told me to aim for a sub 2:55, but I’m still deciding whether I believe I am capable of a sub 2:50. If I do decide to aim for 2:49:59, and I don’t attain it, I won’t consider it overreaching. If I believe I am capable of it, it will be based on my training and my performances prior to that day. That to me is not overreaching, but striving to be the very best that you can be.


Sometimes, it is not the act of training, or the race performance itself that leads to the assessment of overreaching. Sometimes, for some people, there are other things going on in our lives that affect our ability to reach our potential, no matter what we think we are capable of. Far too often, we don’t back down from our challenges in these situations. We push on in the hope that it will all work out and that we wont have wasted our weeks, months or even years of training.

Six weeks out from this year’s London Marathon, I was in great shape. I honestly believed that I would be going for a sub 2:50 marathon. Then one Thursday night I did a club training session. I took it relatively easily as I was running the Alloa Half marathon that weekend. I got home and started to feel unwell. The following morning I couldn’t get out of bed. That weekend I didn’t just miss the race, I also missed a family wedding. I had the flu, and I had it bad.

Fast forward to race day. I’ve struggled to get back into shape, my mileage has been greatly reduced and I’ve been given an inhaler by the doctor to try and resolve the wheezing I’m still suffering in my chest. Did I give up on my time? Not until about mile 10 of the race I didn’t. I should have lowered my expectations from the start. This was a case of overreaching due to illness affecting my ability to perform to my potential.

Last weekend we took a trip down to Liverpool for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon – a very well organised event with some great race bling!

The fact that we only returned home with one of these medals between the two of us, is the reason for the title of this blog post. The plan was that I would pace Mrs pacepusher round the course to a sub 3 hour 45 minute finish. This would be a fairly substantial PB for her, and perhaps more importantly, a ‘Good for Age’ entry for London next year. Again, this target was not overreaching, tough, but it was certainly attainable.

Within the first 2 miles I could hear that her breathing was laboured for such an early stage in the race, and she told me that her legs had, “got nothing”. I encouraged her to go easy up the hills (there were quite a few, it’s certainly not a flat course) and that we would make up the time on the flat and downhill sections. Unfortunately she just never got going and we were not making the time up, in fact we were slowing further. At about 11 miles Mrs pacepusher looked like she wanted to cry and her day had gone. She told me to go on, that she would try to run/walk the rest of the course.

I was like a dog that had just been let off the lead and ran on with the proverbial ears flapping and tongue hanging out! I had great fun and made it home in 3:27:25, continuously passing people all the way to the finish. I’ll class it as a great training run for The Rio Marathon in 6 weeks.

Mrs pacepusher didn’t have as much fun. In fact, she had none! You can read about it here, but basically, she struggled on for another half a mile or so, then took the decision that she would be better saving her legs for further training for Rio. With what would be almost 15 torturous miles remaining, this was probably the sensible option. I certainly can’t imagine attempting those last 4 miles into the wind when you were already broken. They were hard enough feeling comparatively fresh!

Overreaching? Yes. But not of her ability. Mrs pacepusher is a Head Teacher and as the end of the school year approaches, whilst Class Teachers begin to wind down, her stress levels go through the roof. Her work/life balance is non-existent and her running suffers. When she does run, she struggles to run well, unable to switch off from the stresses of her job. The overreaching on this occasion, was planning to run a marathon at this stage in the year. Adding a further stress to an already stressful period. She should, as she says, have switched her entry to the half (which she could have done even as late as the day before the race at registration) but as I stated earlier, we always hope that these external factors will somehow not affect us come race day. But they always do!

I’m lucky, running acts as my release. I can walk out of the door and for the time it takes, that run is all that matters. I don’t get stressed at the thought of heading out the door for a run, be it a track session or even a 20 mile long run. I don’t care too much what others think. I run. I run to the best of my ability. It’s my passion. For others, like Mrs pacepusher, their real passion lies in their work. That’s why they’re successful at it after all. 

Running is a hobby for all of us that have failed to make it as a professional. How seriously we take it, how much time and effort we can afford it, is something we all have to address as individuals, and when setting our targets we must be careful not to overreach. Not in our abilities as runners, but within the schedule that life throws at us.

Reach for the stars folks, but maybe start with the ones that are closest to you!


Are Dogs the Enemy of Runners?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on March 11, 2015 by pacepusher

Just got home from a run? Breathing hard through fear, not exertion? Teeth marks in your leg? Stinky brown stuff all over your shoe, which is now embedded into your carpet? Dogs, the enemy of all us runners!Or are they? Aren’t dogs simply just animals that happen to enjoy running around the local parks as much as we do? Animals that get excited at their relative freedom and want to play with anybody else keen on a game of chase? 

Perhaps, in fact, the dog is scared and wants to protect itself as the big person runs towards it at breakneck speed, and as for the brown stuff, if you were kept locked up for a number of hours at a time, unable to go to the toilet, wouldn’t you take the chance whilst you could too?My view is simple. Dogs are not the enemy of us runners. The true enemy of all us runners are people, people who own dogs. More specifically, those people who own dogs badly! You don’t really expect dogs to pick up their own poo do you?

A dog is an animal. It is not, and never will be a human being. If this surprises you, then you might want to consider how you treat your own dog!A dog is not born into this world with the same basic instincts as us humans; it is the role of the dog owner to manage their pet’s behaviour, and to train it accordingly. Training a dog takes time and commitment; it is not something that happens overnight. But then you knew this when you bought the dog, right? No, then you maybe shouldn’t have bought it!The brilliant ‘Eddie’, star of TV’s Frasier, shows just how well a dog can be trained!Trained well, a dog can become a great running companion. Ask those that take part in Canicross, run regularly with their pets in the park, on the trail, or at a Saturday morning parkrun. I speak from experience when I say that running with your dog can be a joy, and a great motivator. Your dog doesn’t get that you’re tired or hungover, he just wants to go outside and play, and once you’re out there, you’ll find that their enthusiasm is contagious.

So, let’s look at that dog that just, ‘tried to bite you’ whilst you were running in the park. You instinctively blamed the dog, right? You may have shouted at the owners, or given them a dirty look, but you thought, “Bloody dog!” as you ran on, didn’t you?. Well, why was it the dogs fault? The dog was just playing, or as I alluded to earlier, protecting itself or its pack. Whichever of these is the case, the owner should be aware of how the dog will react, and should prevent it from happening. The dog should either remain on a lead, or be called to heel before the runner approaches. “Sorry we didn’t see/hear you coming”, they’ll say. Well thanks for apologising, but it’s funny how you never do see me in my fluorescent running kit, or hear me breathing heavily as I approach.

I run on the cycle paths around Paisley a lot, and I’m yet to see a dog get hit by a bike! They are just as likely to see/hear a runner as a bike, but the truth is, the bike will hurt their little baby, a runner won’t. It is the owner’s responsibility to keep control of their dog when faced with a runner, not their dogs!

Of course many owners get it right, and the dog will walk at heel, or just ignore you as you passAre you as quick to thank these dogs and their owners as you are to abuse the bad ones?

I was once running on one of the local cycle paths. I was doing a long run and was about 7 miles in. Looking ahead, I saw a woman pushing a large pram, accompanied by two children, one swerving around on a bike, the other on their scooter. She also had two dogs running around off the lead. If you’re a runner, you’ll know what went through my head as I approached. To my amazement, with one shout, she moved into the side with her pram, the children jumped off their respective modes of transport and the dogs lay down on the grass on either side of the path. Well drilled dogs and children! I took my earphones out, slowed down, then not only thanked the woman, but admitted to being rather impressed!  

What about the dog that goes for you despite being on a lead, or the “he’s never done that before” dog? Ask yourself, what was your reaction to the dog as you approached it? Did you instinctively fear the worst? A dog can sense fear, and interpret human facial expressions (Read more). You might be presenting yourself as aggressive towards the dog, in which case you shouldn’t be surprised if the dog then responds with aggression.

As the article discusses, first and foremost, don’t stare at the dog, trying to work out if it wants to eat you for lunch, keep an eye on it, run around it as best you can, and don’t get all tense and nervous. The chances are, the smell of pee on a lamppost or a fine looking stick, are far more interesting to the dog than the idiot running along the path in Lycra!

So, to conclude, don’t blame the dog itself, they don’t know any better, blame the owner who hasn’t taken the time to train their dog, or who isn’t responsible enough to keep them on a lead if and when required. There’s been many an occasion when I’ve considered this to be the more appropriate scenario:Remember too that maybe, just maybe, you need to blame yourself a little. I get that we don’t all love dogs, but don’t expect the worst as you approach them – they’re called ‘Man’s Best Friend’ for a reason. 

This blog post has been a bit of a fun challenge after a Facebook ‘discussion’ with my fellow blogger Dave. If all went to plan, this will have been posted at exactly the same time as his post with his alternative view. You should be able to read it here, and take your own side!

In the meantime, I’m off to find ‘The Littlest Hobo’ for a run. “There’s a voice that keeps on calling me. Down the road, that’s where I’ll always be…”

‘London’ aka The Littlest Hobo








Arbitrary Numbers and Weekly Mileage

Posted in Uncategorized on February 24, 2015 by pacepusher

Arbitrary numbers play a factor in all of our lives in many ways. Our ‘Big’ Birthdays for example, our 1st, 13th, 16th, 18th, 21st, 40th and 60th years, or Wedding Anniversaries that inform friends and family as to the expense of the gift, be it paper or diamond!

They are also apparent in other areas of our lives.The age we can legally have a drink, learn to drive, vote, or even retire, although these often coincide with the aforementioned birthdays.

As runners, we are generally obsessed with numbers. Race numbers, race times, number of miles, number of races, split times, average pace, elevation gain, the list goes on, but it is the arbitrary numbers involved in running which I feel are worthy of discussion here.

Take the number of parkruns we’ve completed, be it 50, 100, 250, or 500. Yes we get a free T-shirt, but other than that, what really makes 50, better than 49 or 51? Why are 150 or 200 completions not deemed worthy of a mention? I understand that these milestones are there to motivate us, to encourage us to return week in week out, but is it the promise of a t-shirt that really drives us to keep returning? Is that really what parkrun was hoping to achieve?

For me, and I’m sure for many others, I would be there week in week out regardless of the t-shirts (I’ve completed 65 parkruns to date and still haven’t received a t-shirt anyway!). Whilst it’s true that I often need prising out of bed on a Saturday morning, I love the social side of parkrun, meeting friends and family for a run and a coffee and getting my Saturday off to a great start, but what really makes me keep returning are the kind of arbitrary numbers that I want to focus on here – race time milestones!

Like the birthdays and anniversaries we celebrate, I have no idea who decided these milestones should exist, but as I see it, the basic arbitrary numbers in race times (relevant to my ability level anyway) are as follows:

5km – sub 20 minutes
10km – sub 40 minutes
Half Marathon – sub 1 hour 30 minutes
Marathon – sub 3 hours

Targets (or goals) are set as we strive to reach these times, take the 5km parkrun as an example, we might first strive to break 30 minutes, then 25, then the magic 20 minutes. We then look to get below 19, then below 18 and so on. Striving for these goals may not have too much of a detrimental effect on our performance, in fact it might benefit us, but what about over the Marathon distance of 26.2 miles?

With London now just under 9 weeks away, I’m in a position to start considering target times. Having achieved the sub 3 hour time in October last year, I now need to decide on a time that will hopefully take me further under that magical mark. With the marathon though, we don’t tend to deal in single minutes, but could this actually hinder our performance.

Some time ago, I listened to a ‘Runner Academy’ podcast on this very subject. The guests on the show had been involved in studying race times across a number of different marathons and found that the number of finishes within these races grouped around certain times. You won’t be surprised to hear that these times were 4 hours, 3 hours 45 minutes, 3 hours 30 minutes, 3 hours 15 minutes and 3 hours; although smaller groups also formed around 3 hours 10 and 3 hours 5 minutes. The discussion then developed into how these arbitrary times could affect our performance, for the better and the worse.

Take as an example, my time of 2:57:09 at the Yorkshire Marathon last year. I had been highly motivated from the start of the year to attain a sub 3 hour time, and this was my third and final attempt for 2014. In the end, I attained it reasonably easily, but the question has to be asked, “Could I have gone faster without the existence of these arbitrary target times?” Your first sub 3 hour marathon is a massive achievement for mere mortal runners like me, and in all honesty, I probably ran more easily in the latter stages of that race than I may have done if I wasn’t so worried about something going wrong, and subsequently not attaining my sub 3 hour target.

Those people grouping around 3:05:00 and 3:10:00 were probably either pushing hard to get under these times, or running a little easier realising that the faster target was no longer attainable. To our friends (especially non-runners), there isn’t much difference between a 3:05:01 and a 3:09:59 – they are both over the arbitrary number of 5 minutes past the hour and under the arbitrary 10 minutes past the hour. They don’t know if you pushed hard to get yourself into this time bracket, or eased off to comfortably stay there!

The faster the time, the more I feel that this is important, and so although my first thought for London was to strive for a sub 2 hour 50 time, I’m not sure if it is really sensible? Would I not be wiser aiming for a sub 2 hour 55 time? Or, and this is the whole point of this waffle, should I be aiming for something more specific like a sub 2:53:00.

Listening to the latest podcast episode of ‘Cloud 259’ today, American elite runner Nate Jenkins talks of looking at a 2:15:00 in Boston this April, but states that if training progresses well, he might aim for 2:13:00. Thirteen. Not ten.

It seems to me that aiming for a sub 2:55:00, could result in me ‘taking it easy’ in the latter stages if I am comfortably attaining my target. Similarly, if I strive to break 2:50:00 and struggle with the pace, could I fail to even achieve a PB? As I alluded to earlier, going out too fast in a 5km will not do you too much harm (within reason), but in the marathon, you WILL pay for it later!

The margins appear small, the average pace for a sub 2:55:00 is 06:39 m/m, whilst for a sub 2:50:00 it’s 06:28 m/m pace, a swing of only 11 seconds. It doesn’t seem like much, but try telling that to the guy at the front of the field trying to take the world record from 02:02:57 to below 2 hours (yet another arbitrary number!). That would be 4:41 m/m pace down to 4:33 m/m pace – only 8 seconds per mile faster!

The sad fact is that if somebody were to run something like 2:00:15 in London, it would probably be seen as a relative failure due to the arbitrary 2:00:00 barrier!!!

Incidentally, 2:53:00 pace is a nice round arbitrary 6:35 m/m pace #justsaying

When it comes to weekly mileage, I’ll put my hand up and admit to doing unnecessary miles just to reach arbitrary numbers. Nobody wants to do 47.5 miles in a week when they could do another pointless 2.5 miles and make it a 50 mile week! Do we gain anything from this, I’m going to say no, but there’s certainly nothing wrong with setting weekly targets.

The point I wanted to raise regarding weekly mileage is the ‘week’ itself. I’m not suggesting anything radical like changing the calendar to a 5 day week, but I am going to question the way we track our miles over a 7 day period. I, like most fellow runners, count my week from Monday to Sunday. However, recently, even on lower mileage weeks, I’ve taken to struggling on a Thursday club session and then subsequently having to take Friday as a rest day. I couldn’t work out why this fatigue was so bad until I remembered something addressed on a blog previously by good friend and Scottish international Ultra runner, Thomas Loehndorf. Thomas moved the 7 day week goalposts to change the way he looked at his mileage and by doing so, realised that he was often running greater weekly mileage than he realised.

This might sound ridiculous, but let me explain. Most of us do our long runs on a Sunday, the last day of our ‘usual’ training week, so, when we start again on Monday, this is forgotten about. However, especially early in a training block when we are increasing our mileage, we can’t afford to forget that long run. I set out this week to do 50 miles, an easier week, the lower end of my weekly mileage when marathon training. By Thursday I headed to the club for the session and I was really tired, I’d only done 22 miles in the 3 days previous and the 6 miles the night before had been very slow as I had been tired and without energy. Moving the goal posts showed that I had actually done 42 miles in the four days previous, starting with a very tough 20 mile effort, that’s why I was tired! Adding that evening’s session which totalled 15 miles, and I was already on 57 miles on a week I was aiming to do just 50. No wonder I was ready for my Friday rest day!

I know that we would then have to subsequently move each other week back a day too, and it would just balance out, but the point is this, and it’s a good one. Next time you start a session tired, don’t question what you’ve done since Monday, question what you have done over the last 6 days, imagine a rolling week in which everyday is your Sunday training day. Now do you see why you’re more tired than you think you should be?

So, whatever your target, whatever arbitrary time or mileage you strive for, even if your t-shirt still hasn’t arrived in the post, in the words of the Spencer Davis Group, “Keep On Running”

Patience. Now That’s a Virtue!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 17, 2014 by pacepusher

Outside the afternoon rained on… He sighed heavily. The books were stacked up all around, finished and bleak-looking. He was tired of reading. He sat his mug down on the table with a grunt. He was tired of tea.

He hauled himself to his feet, walked stiffly over to the picture window… He was tired of walking around with his joints creaking like an old man. He had a sudden passing desire for broccoli.

Afternoon workout was an hour and a half away; time to begin thinking about it. He was tired of psyching himself for workouts.

He was tired of being tired.

From, “Once a Runner” by John L. Parker, Jr

We’ve all been there. Tired. Tired to the point of being so tired, that we’re tired of being tired. Tired of doing all the things in life that we love. Tired of running, of reading about running, of drinking tea instead of alcohol, of eating right and of course of being sore. Tired because perhaps, our goals seem so distant, or perhaps, not as important as we convince ourselves that they are. Does your race time really matter? Isn’t work, friends and family more important?

Well to this runner, and I imagine most of my running friends, that race time, and the period of training leading up to it, is pretty much all that matters. Tired, because all our energy is engaged in a task. A task that will see us arrive on race day in perfect shape to achieve our goal. Me? I was tired. Tired of striving for better times, tired of not achieving what my training suggested I was capable of. Tired of having PBs that were not in the same league as my training partners. Tired of not being a sub 3 hour Marathon runner!

This was me as I began a twelve week block of training leading up to the Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon. I was struggling to snap out of a negative, tired phase in my running. Like everyone else, If I’m not running, I generally think about running and of how to improve. This generally doesn’t help lift my mood. Books, podcasts, films, websites, anything that might light the spark that turns me into a better runner, or at least just gets me motivated again. We read and/or listen to articles by runners, coaches, nutritionists, bio-mechanical specialists and anybody else that wants to have a say. But rarely does something strike a chord with me quite like this one simple word.  A word that stuck with me throughout my training, and throughout the race itself.

One morning I was listening to Cloud259 on the way to work. Cloud259 is a podcast, the USA’s version of the excellent Marathon Talk. Cloud259 gets it’s name from the search for a sub 3 hour marathon – 2 hours 59 minutes. On this particular episode, they were interviewing American runner, Christo Landry (Team Mizuno runner, but small fish in a big pond really!).  Like Marathon Talk’s, “If you had 6 months perfect training… how fast could you run a mile?” Cloud259 have a final question. “What one piece of advise would you give to somebody looking to break 3 hours for the marathon?”

Christo Landry said just one word. PATIENCE.

Further questioning revealed that yes, he meant in the race, but also in training. That we shouldn’t expect things to happen too quickly. A block of training is designed to get you to where you want to be at the end of that block. Not at the start of it. The penny dropped, the spark was ignited.


I’d had some hideous races over 10k and 5k in the lead up to this 12 week block of training. That’s when I got stuck in the ‘tired’ phase of running. Everything was negative and I had no confidence. Hearing the word ‘Patience’, suddenly made me stop stressing. Even before it was explained, I knew. Your ‘Target Race’ – the same as I’ve discussed previously regarding Charlie Spedding’s autobiography – is the race to be patient for, the day to become the butterfly. Anything in the lead up to that moment is not important. Yes, I want the best times I can produce, but ultimately, its just more training in the bank for your main goal.

Patience is not something I am blessed with. Put me behind the wheel of a car, in front of a computer screen or in a queue at the supermarket checkout and you’ll soon see my lack of patience in abundance! Even the fact that I have become known as pacepusher perhaps reflects this. But somehow, hearing the word in this context, especially with regard to the training block, it all made sense. Follow the plan, trust the training and don’t judge the results, or your ability, until the race you are targeting.

Patience on race day is something I would read about and consider throughout the training block too. After being introduced to Julian Goater’s book, “The Art of Running Faster”, thanks to Disco Dave, I would find myself constantly practicing pacing, running technique, efficiency, breathing and race craft. It brought new life to my running and I found myself in love with the sport again.


My twelve week training schedule would be a little different from the rigidity of that by Pfitzinger and Douglas that I followed before the Manchester marathon. It would also contain about a third less mileage per week. In Manchester I failed in my sub 3 hour target. The pace felt fairly tough early on and I felt pretty broken by the half way point of the race. Therefore, it seemed obvious to me that what I needed before my next attempt was more basic speed. Secondly, I felt that I began the race tired; therefore I would reduce my mileage, include a rest day each week and have a longer taper. Thirdly, I was very nervous before Manchester and I think this also affected my performance. So, it again seemed like a fairly obvious decision to race more often in the build up to the Yorkshire marathon.

The key would be to include shorter speed interval sessions, more races and less mileage without sacrificing the endurance aspect of the training. So, I decided to draw up my own training plan. Now anybody that knows about my training plan for the West Highland Way Race in 2009 will know that when I draw up a plan, I don’t actually draw up a plan. I just make it up as I go along. It worked then, and I was confident that I could make it work again. I have enough experience to know all the main requirements for a Marathon training plan and I knew that this approach would give me more flexibility, leave me more inclined to except the need for rest/easy days when I needed them and that it would keep me more relaxed throughout my training.

So each week would have the following basic structure:

Mon – Easy run or rest
Tues – Club track session
Wed – Medium Long run
Thur – Club speed session
Fri – Rest
Sat – parkrun (easy or race)
Sun – Long run

Total approx. 40-60 miles

Returning to the theme, this would also allow me to be more patient. I could take recovery when I wanted, move sessions around and let the improvements develop at my own pace. It would also allow me to run with the Club, and with friends more often, further increasing my enjoyment of the training and again, keeping me relaxed.

Training had its highs and its lows. Yes I had the odd moan when things didn’t go well, but I tried not to dwell. I kept looking at the big picture. Patience! I was enjoying the track sessions, but I wasn’t really seeing improvements in my race times over shorter distances. Patience!

The breakthrough came in early September. I ran the Highland Perthshire Half Marathon on 6th September, which was a fantastic event. My time of 1:26.53 was not the time I was looking for, but I’d had a much better run and there were many positives. I ran with patience, sitting in a pack and waiting for the right time to up the pace. I got a bit carried away though upping the pace downhill and struggled in the last few miles. However, it was the closest I had been to my PB since I set it in 2008! Patience.

I was racing again the following weekend over 10 miles. So, flexibility and all that, I increased my medium long run to 20 miles on the Wednesday evening. It was horrendous. I struggled from start to finish. It was a real ‘grit your teeth’ kind of run. Patience – 20 miles in the bank for race day. The Cumbrae 10 mile road race arrived. A club championship race, I was hoping for about 65 minutes. Again I sat in a pack for 5 miles and then started to push on. I finished first from the club and 9th overall, in 63.35. Delighted.

The Runners World race pace predictor was now suggesting a 2:56.29 marathon. Suddenly I was starting to believe that patience really IS a virtue!

I had two more key sessions that I wanted to complete. Both would leave me full of confidence if they went well.

The first was my last long run. Three weeks out, it would be a 20 mile race pace session that I designed based upon others I had read about. The session would be 2 miles warm up, followed by 4 x 2 miles @ 6:40 m/m pace with one mile recoveries (approx. 7:30 pace) then 2 x 2 miles @ 6:30 m/m pace again with one mile recovery. I completed the session exactly as planned and got a real boost from it.

The second session, 12 days out, was classic Pfitzinger, an 8 mile run including 3 x 1 mile intervals, with 3 minute jog recoveries. I ran the intervals at 5:58, 5:31 and 5:42. This was much faster than prior to Manchester when I ran 6:02, 6:04 and 5:59 with longer 5 minute jog recoveries. Now all I had to do was endure the taper and I knew that I had a great chance of attaining my target – just one more spell of patience!

On the Friday morning of race week, I climbed onto the scales. I had reached my goal weight of 11st 7lb for the first time, having been 11st 8lb throughout the final week. I had been losing only 1 or 2lb a week throughout the training period, consuming a basic level of about 2500 calories, which was increased if the training volume required it. Yes, I’d even been patient in my weight loss!


On to race weekend then… I was staying at my parent’s house near York so I had a reasonable sleep on the Friday night. Then after an easy parkrun on Saturday morning at Pontefract Racecourse, I spent the day drinking coffee, watching my Nephew play football, shopping and eating pizza! I was very relaxed, more so than before any marathon previously. I felt in control, ready to race and ready to get the job done. All my kit was ready and for once, I even knew exactly what my race strategy was! I was in bed reasonably early and slept as well as could be expected. I wasn’t nervous though, I was excited and I just kept going over everything in my mind, making sure I knew what I was doing and when.

Race day morning and I’m up and eating my tried and tested breakfast (50g porridge with 75g blueberries and 250ml skimmed milk – exact I know!), I didn’t want it now, but knew my body would later. We (Me, Dad and Mrs pacepusher) were soon heading towards York in the correctly forecast thick fog. The organisers had emailed and text competitors over the two days previous warning of traffic disruption and a possible delay to the start of the race. In the end, thankfully, it didn’t cause any problems, but the fog didn’t lift until after I had finished the race. During the journey I was forced to admit to Mrs pacepusher that I was finally feeling a little bit nervous. A little bit of nerves is a good thing though right?

I had a quick chat with the 2:59.00 pacer in the start area, to reassure myself as much as anything else that this was the right strategy. He suggested running just ahead of him for a few miles to keep out of the pack, but I knew I was safer keeping him in my sights and making sure that I started at the right pace.

I was soon nervously in the starting area waiting for England Rugby Legend, Matt Dawson to get us underway. As soon as I crossed the line, nerves disappeared and I settled in the group with the pacer. Patience. Patience. Patience!

IMG_9653.JPG Original photo from

Mile 1 – 6:48 seconds. “Congrats Mr Pacer, bang on time” I joked, and it seemed to break the ice in the group. From then on, those that wanted to chat and joke did, whilst others just ran quietly along side. My experience of running in a pack in the two build up races was invaluable. I was able to relax into the pace and at times just tune into the sound of the groups foot fall.

Running through York City Centre and past the Minster was great, and the crowds were excellent. I saw Mrs pacepusher and my Dad here and gave them a reassuring thumbs up before we headed out into the countryside. The crowds had made us all pick up the pace a little and miles 2 and 3 were 6:40 and 6:37. It was at this point that I realised the pace would be exactly what I would want and that I would stick with the group until at least 20 miles. Patience.

The chat continued between a few of us, but largely just me and the pacer. He was called Martin Rea and he was using the race as a training run for the 100k in Doha. We now realised that we had some further common ground and that I knew many of the names he was talking about, including amongst others, Jo Zakrzewski, who was also running the marathon that day and would go on to finish 3rd lady.

As the miles passed by, I couldn’t believe I was just chatting, laughing and joking with guys in the group. 10k – 41:45. Every now and then I would notice a group member starting to breathe a bit too heavily, and then they’d drop off from the group. I felt sorry for them. I knew how the rest of their day was going to pan out. It had happened to me in Manchester. 20k – 1:23:57 (42:12). Martin (the pacer) commented on how comfortably I was running, and he was right, it felt so easy that at the half way point (1:29:36) I started to push on a little. Mrs pacepusher’s final words to me that morning were, “Don’t be a dick!” I had told Martin this in the first half of the run and as I began to pull away he shouted to me, “Hey, don’t be a dick!” Brilliant! I settled back into the group… patience!

Mile 14 and another reassuring thumbs up to Dad and Mrs pacepusher who had arrived just seconds before I did! I was so pleased to see them though and let them know I was still in good shape. This little out and back section had very large support. We’d been saying how quickly the miles had been ticking by and now it was evident why. Between us, the group had picked up the pace again 6:27 and 6:36 slightly uphill! Experience told and Martin suggested at the drink station on 15 miles that we all grab a drink, slow down and get our breath back – sound advice. I was strict with my fuelling strategy throughout, knowing what had worked in training. A gel and water at miles 3, 9, 15 and 21, and Powerade at miles 6 12 and 18, worked perfectly.

IMG_9652.JPGPhoto taken from

Miles 14 to about 19.5 are considered by those in the know to be the hardest section of the course. 14 to 18 is a long straight gently undulating stretch from the turning point of one out and back to another. You can see a long way ahead, and start to see people coming back towards you before you even reach the second out and back stretch at about 16.5 miles. This is where the fog was our friend! At no point could you see more than 100-200 meters ahead of yourself. Mentally, it made the section much easier than I imagine it would have been otherwise. Course knowledge can be valuable. I had researched as much as I could and knew where the hills were, and about these two out and back sections. The pacer was clearly reading our minds though. As we headed down to the 18 mile turning point (30k – 2:07:02, 43:05 10k split), I think all of us remaining in the group were thinking that the slightly uphill stretch back to the left hand turn at 19.5 miles would be a very long drag. Having run it last year, Martin advised us not to worry; that it wouldn’t feel as long on the way back. He was right and we actually picked the pace up through 18-20 miles (6:44 & 6:38).

The pace continued like this until the 24 mile marker (40k – 2:48:26, 41:24 10k split, my fastest 10k split of the race!) when Martin (pacer) said he was slowing down a bit to try and get as many people through under the magic three hour mark as he could. He suggested those feeling good push on. I didn’t look back, but I don’t think anybody else came with me at this stage. I don’t think I picked the pace up, but I certainly maintained it, and I was picking off those in front of me one by one.

I hadn’t struggled at all up until the 24 mile point. Running in a group had definitely helped, and any low points had been quickly dispelled by dropping back slightly for a short time, following someone else’s foot fall, then confidently moving back to the front of the pack. I only had to do this twice as I remember, once just after 15 miles, and once after a gel at 21 miles. This was the only time I had to take a High 5 gel from an aid station. I had carried 3 of my preferred SIS gels from the start, and knew I’d be using the High 5 brand at this point. I had tried them in training and although I think they’re rotten, I knew I’d be ok. However, I didn’t even know that a company would be daft enough to make an apple flavoured gel!!! It was disgusting, and for a short period I thought I was going to start being sick. Thankfully it settled fairly quickly and I was back at the front of the group. Thinking about it now, the 24 mile point was the first 3 mile split that I didn’t take on fuel other than a few sips of water (that’s all there was). Whilst fatigue must have played a part, it is perhaps no coincidence that I struggled from this point onwards. Perhaps another gel would have seen me able to pick up the pace a little over the closing two miles?

There is a nasty hill at about 25.5 miles. Before my discovery of Julian Goater’s book, I would have been dreading this. Equally, if I’d been having a bad day I’d have been dreading this. As it was, a runner (In a ‘Drumstick Lolly’ running vest – Classy!) that I had passed at about 25 miles, had just come back past me. I knew I would take him again on the hill, and with short fast strides, I passed him again, and then another runner before reaching the long downhill finish. I now, finally, allowed myself to believe I had done it; that I had smashed the three hour barrier. However, there was a female runner a fair bit ahead, and two angry runners behind that wanted their places back. I opened my stride and went for it – no more need for patience! However, unsure exactly where the finish line was (it was further back than the start line had been – I should have noted this whilst I was waiting at the start. School boy error!) I still held a little something back until I saw the gantry. I gave a massive celebratory fist pump in the direction of Mrs pacepusher and my Dad (still frantically waving his Bradford City scarf to help me spot them more easily), passed the female, and held off the chasing two, crossing the line in a fist pumping frenzy in an official time of 2:57:09 – BOOM!

I waited in the finish area and congratulated guys from the group that were coming in under the three hours. I was delighted to see one lad who I grabbed and hugged as he burst into tears crossing the line. We had caught up with him at about 21 miles and he had voiced his disappointment that his sub 3 was now gone. “No” said the pacer, “we’re 2 minutes up, just keep me in sight and you’ll do it”. The lad had dug in, joined the group, and then managed to stay with it. A great effort, I know from experience how hard it is when the group catch you. To then pick up your pace and stick with them is a monumental effort and a hugely deserved first sub 3. I knew why he was crying!

As a group, we applauded the pacer over the line at almost exactly 2:59.00. I shook his hand and thanked him, then headed off to find Mrs pacepusher and Dad. I was feeling very emotional and hugging Mrs pacepusher almost reduced me to tears. Just talking to Dad about the race whilst walking back to the car had the same effect!

After I had collected my bag, and put some warm clothes on, I spotted the pacer. Taking Mrs pacepusher to meet him I said, “Tell her what I wasn’t”. He laughed, and trying to be polite, said, “Well he wasn’t a D.I.C.K.!”

pacepusher. Not Me!



A couple of days after the race, there was an article by Meb Keflezighi on Facebook, courtesy of American, Meb Keflezighi, won the Boston Marathon this year, and is a fellow lover of Skechers running shoes (although he gets his free!). Here’s how his article finished,

The marathon is all about patience. When you have a bad day, don’t let it knock you off track. Keep your main goal in focus, stay healthy and gain confidence through consistent training. Imagine the excitement of the last few miles of the race at the end of your long runs and let that carry you to the finish line.

Patience readers, it is indeed a virtue!

The Commonwealth Games & The Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on August 13, 2014 by pacepusher

So the Commonwealth Games have been and gone. Myself and Mrs pacepusher certainly made the most of the opportunity they presented to watch some top class sport (as anybody who is friends with us on Facebook will testify – selfie anyone?) and we succeeded in seeing the Triathlon, Rugby 7’s (x2), the Marathon, Swimming, Boxing, Badminton, Road Cycling, Hockey and Athletics (x2). We were lucky enough to witness some great contests and some great individual performances (more on that later) as well as seeing our home city really come to life. From the spinning Tunnock’s tea cakes at their opening ceremony, to the scantily clad Kylie Minogue at their close, in Irn-Bru terms, I thought the Games were truly PHENOMENAL!

So what of these great contest and individual performances? Well, for me there are several ways to look at this.

In terms of performance, you can’t fail to admire the dominance of the Brownlees in the triathlon, the Kenyan’s in the Athletics, or the Southern Hemisphere sides in the Rugby 7’s. These are individuals and Teams at the top of their game. They expect, and are expected, to win – you’ve only got to see the New Zealand players and fans reaction to defeat in the Rugby 7’s final to know this is true.


Secondly, there were the inspiring, and gutsy performances of those that came away with perhaps unexpected medals, such as Scotland’s Lyndsey Sharp and Ross Murdoch, England’s Jo Pavey and Australian’s Michael Shelley and Jess Trengove – I’m sure there’s many more.

Thirdly, there are those who did pretty much what they were ‘supposed’ to do – Scotland’s Eilidh Child and England’s Steve Way for example. If this sounds unfair, I don’t intend it to. I think these athletes are to be celebrated as much as the aforementioned. Child delivered what was expected of her under the immense pressure of being Scotland’s poster girl. The Hampden roar was always going to struggle to lift her to the level of the Jamaican Gold medalist, but she delivered the silver which was what Scotland expected.

At 41, Steve Way survived the media’s overhype to come home in 10th place and second Brit – although some would have you believe otherwise. His time being a new PB, adds to the fact that this is all that could really be expected of him, likewise Scot, Derek Hawkins who WAS the first Brit home, despite vomiting with effort.

IMG_9337-0.JPGSteve Way met the pacepusher’s at Tollcross parkrun – less than a week after his Marathon performance.

Finally, there are those for whom being at the Games was an achievement in itself – those that travelled into the unknown. The cyclist that had never cycled in a velodrome before, for example, or the triathlete who dived enthusiastically into open water for the first time before proceeding to swim breath stroke! Both individuals are brave and inspiring.

Ultimately they were all ‘the best they could be’ on the day, and seized their opportunities with both hands – brilliant!

What about the flip side? Those that failed to deliver. Like Eilidh Child, poster boy Michael Jamieson walked away with a silver medal. The difference is that he should have had gold. He wasn’t happy. The brilliant David Rudisha also walked away with silver when many expected him to take gold. He was delighted.

The reactions of these two athletes to their silvers is perhaps understandable. Jamieson was embarrassed by an unexpected defeat to a fellow Scot (Ross ‘F**k Me’ Murdoch) and showed his displeasure throughout the medal ceremony. Rudisha, returning from injury, did what Mo and Bolt didn’t. He turned up and gave his best, beaten only by Olympic silver medalist Nijel Amos from Botswana. He was delighted for his rival and for himself.

So, back to real life, I am now into week 4 of 12 training weeks leading up to the Yorkshire Marathon on October 12th. I’m making my schedule up as I go along this time, but it will have all the key elements (long runs, intervals, hills, medium long runs and tempo efforts). I’m including more speed sessions than before the Manchester Marathon because, well, I was 2 minutes and 37 seconds too slow in Manchester! I’m also doing more races in the build up, including a 10 mile race and a half marathon.

The Commonwealth Games has given me a certain motivation, but I’ve struggled to get going a bit. Planning this post however, got me thinking.

What do I want from, and how will I perceive, my performance in this Marathon?

Obviously, I’m still desperately seeking my first sub 3 hour marathon, but realistically what am I expecting from myself on the day?

Unlike the Brownlee Brothers, I don’t expect to win. More to the point, like the breath stroking triathlete, I KNOW I won’t win, but I’m going to do my best. I will beat as many people as I can, but ultimately, I’m only racing the clock.

Friends and family are right behind me, I know that. They hope that I will, but they do not EXPECT me to, achieve a sub 3. Nor am I the Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon’s poster boy – although with these looks maybe I should be! There will not be an entire nation screaming me on. In fact on the grand scale of things, the only person that REALLY cares if I break 3 hours is me. The only pressure is that which I exert upon myself, and after recent disappointing 10k races, I know it’s a pressure I could do without.

So on the day I will strive to be ‘the best I can be’. I will remind myself that actually, there is no pressure, not compared to the stars of the Commonwealth, relax and run as well as I can. If that isn’t good enough, then I’ll remember this…

Many of the athletes at the games arrived in Glasgow with inappropriate, or in some cases, no kit! Bikes were donated to the Malawi cycle team, a female boxer had kit bought for her by a local club and a female marathon runner removed her shoes on the second lap as they were hurting her feet – they were trashed and didn’t even have an innersole! (See below). Whatever the outcome in the Yorkshire Marathon, I will be fortunate enough to have had my own running clothes, gels and suitable footwear – for that at least, I will be thankful!

IMG_9353.JPGPhoto courtesy of Paul Clawson.

The Edinburgh Marathon. Why?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on May 29, 2014 by pacepusher

Desperation, desire, greed, disappointment, commitment, camaraderie, hope, or even panic. Why did I enter the Edinburgh Marathon, and is that why it went wrong?

The obvious choice from the short-listed words above is ‘disappointment’. For 12 weeks I had trained with the commitment and dedication that most would consider wasted on running. I missed 2 sessions – because I was kept in hospital overnight on a Friday and banned from running until the Monday – and at times I did more mileage than the training plan requested. I lined up for the Manchester Marathon in the shape of my life – only to fail in my attempt at a sub 3 hour time. I’ve blogged about the race, the struggle and the disappointment. I have also spoken of fist pumping the air in delight as I crossed the finish line having set a new PB after one hell of a battle. Disappointment. No, that was’t it.

I guess similarly, it wasn’t desperation. That was only really my first proper attempt at a sub 3 – I didn’t really believe it was achievable before Loch Ness last year and 3:05:25 was probably better than I was capable of on paper! It’s not like Edinburgh bought me one last chance.

Camaraderie? Well, the fact that my finish time in Manchester opened the door for me to enter Edinburgh as a ‘good for age’ participant was highlighted to me by good friend and club mate, Metronome Dave (or Disco Dave if you prefer!) I had not even thought about it until I received his message whilst enjoying a beer the evening after completing Manchester. I was sore and tired and not ready to think about it, but my entry would have to be made by 1700 the following day.

Once it was evident that another good friend and club mate, Jason (who needs a blog nickname) could also run, and that the Metronome himself would enter as our pacer for a sub 3, I came round to the idea. Before breakfast the next morning I had entered. ‘Camaraderie’, it would seem, could be the culprit. The truth is though, I had decided I would run it, and entered, before either of the other two had confirmed.

Did I panic? The fact that I had a little over 24 hours to decide on entry meant I failed to heed the advice of Olympic Athlete Frank Shorter. Basically, forget your last marathon before you try another. I didn’t panic, but I did have to make a pretty rapid decision. No, I can’t blame the lads, and I don’t think it was a race entered in panic. I had the Yorkshire Marathon in October lined up already, but I certainly hadn’t forgotten Manchester yet!

Desire, commitment and hope. Undoubtably these were all contributing factors. I’d already demonstrated my commitment towards the sub 3 goal in my training for Manchester, but the desire was more apparent in the race itself. Some of you may have heard my quote read out on the brilliant podcast ‘Marathon Talk’. In response to the question “what have you learnt from your Spring Marathon?”, I answered, “that every Marathon is a fight and that the referee is not always in your corner.” Only my desire for sub 3 got me through that race, and I guess I had hope when I entered, that Edinburgh would bring me that sub 3 time I so desire.

The truth is, however, that I entered that race out of greed. I felt almost as though I deserved a sub 3 and that Edinburgh would provide it off the back of the hard training I had already completed. The marathon should never be undertaken lightly and neither should your recovery time afterwards. Struggling through several niggles, I continued to train after Manchester. Racing a relay leg of the Highland Fling 3 weeks after the race, and then the Leeds Half Marathon two weeks after that, was probably too much. Running the Monklands Half Marathon the following week (the week before Edinburgh) was bloody stupid – even if I did run it ‘relatively’ easily. My body was not marathon fit when I stood on the start line in Edinburgh.

Further more, Edinburgh was never on my – already busy – race schedule for the year. A schedule that already contained two marathons. Adding a third was greedy and I got what I deserved. I blew up 8 miles in and suffered a long, slow, painful run to the finish.

In Charlie Spedding’s autobiography, he discusses choosing an animal to compare himself to in his running life (there’s more to it than that, but read the book, it’s excellent). He doesn’t choose a cheetah or a gazelle. He chooses, wait for it… a caterpillar.

At first I was baffled, but as he explained his thinking I began to see myself in the same light. Spedding (perhaps not as naturally gifted as his rivals but always willing to work hard in training) viewed the creature as living it’s life for that one moment. That moment when it would shine and be the best it could be. The moment it became a beautiful butterfly.

Transfer this to your running. You choose a race. You choose a target time. You choose a training plan. You, ultimately, choose a moment in your life when you will be that butterfly! On race day you will perform better than you are capable of doing in training because as the caterpillar, you worked for, and gave everything for, this one moment of glory. Spedding states that his performances in non-key races were usually comparatively poor.

Edinburgh was not my day to become a butterfly. It was not a key race. It was a greedy attempt at achieving my target without the long period of pre-race build up which allows you to perform often beyond your own expectations.

Still, as Edinburgh are refusing to make the results public, please congratulate me on my time of 2:41:26 next time you see me!