Great Scottish Run 2019 – Review

The Great Scottish Run is one of the biggest running events in Scotland and attracts many elite athletes and recreational runners of all abilities. On Sunday 29 September 2019, Glasgow hosted stand-out half marathon performances from East Africans, who dominated the race. In this post, I’ll answer the question “What happened during the 2019 Great Scottish Run?” and what lessons all runners can learn from this popular race.

What happened in the elite men’s race?

The elite men’s race focused on whether anyone could usurp Britain’s Chris Thompson, who had won the previous two years. Zane Robertson of New Zealand, and a host of quality East Africans looked to do just that. Stephen Kiprop and Micah Kogo of Kenya, Timothy Torotich of Uganda and Yemane Tsegay of Ethiopia seemed best placed to test Thompson’s recent dominance of the event.

However, well before halfway, Thompson looked beaten and Robertson had dropped out. Torotich’s convincing triumph over the rest of the field returned the title to Uganda, after a four-year wait.

The steep hill during the first mile did nothing to separate the lead pack. But it didn’t take long to shake up the athletes. Kogo, Kiprop and Torotich pushed the pace just before five kilometres and established a quick twenty-metre gap. Thompson was sweating a lot after less than fifteen minutes, and his title defence was realistically over by four miles.

The three East Africans were soon out of sight. Torotich surged several times without a breakthrough, until the halfway mark. It was through Pollok Park that Torotich broke his Kenyan rivals. He ran hard, completing the seventh mile in 4:28. Although he couldn’t quite maintain the same fast mile splits, he didn’t need to. He kept a thirty-second lead at 10 miles and never looked in danger of being caught.

Kogo was runner-up, whilst Kiprop came third. This was despite Spain’s Benabbou managing to run beside Kiprop at 11 miles. Kiprop then surged and was four seconds away from second place. Fifth place Eritrean got a lifetime best by over two minutes. The Eritrean Weynay Ghebreselassie finished in fifth place with a lifetime best of 1:04:22, over two minutes faster than his previous best performance.

Although Torotich won the race by 59 seconds, he showed visible signs of working hard. He frequently wiped his face of sweat, his head moved a lot in the closing miles and his breathing was noticeably heavy. However, he stayed strong by using his fast, short arm drive to great effect.

What happened in the elite women’s race?

The elite women’s race was all about Kenya’s Edith Chelimo, who was the outstanding favourite, racing against fellow Kenyan Nancy Kiprop, Ethiopian Askale Merachi and a number of European runners. Chelimo ran as expected, alone, in a new course record.

Chelimo broke away within the first few minutes of the race. She looked relaxed throughout, looking slightly down, her head still, her posture strong and upright. She continued her dominance, leading by 59 seconds at the 10 kilometre mark. Male club runners helped her in the early miles. Then she was alone. She eventually ran a new course record of 1:07:38, 19 seconds faster than the previous record. Although she admitted post-race that she wanted to run 1:06:00, she should be proud of her amazing performance.

Although Nancy Kiprop and Askale Merachi worked together for much of the race, the Kenyan surged in the closing miles to beat Merachi by ten seconds and claim second spot.

Running lessons from the race

The 40th edition of the race revealed three important lessons for all runners: 1. you can race by yourself if you’re strong mentally; 2. you can’t expect a great performance (relative to your own standards) if you aren’t fully recovered from a previous race, and 3. sparsely located supporters can’t deter top athletes from performing.

Racing alone isn’t negative

In both the men’s and women’s elite races, the eventual champions spent much of their race running alone. Experienced athletes such as Torotich and Chelimo don’t get easily distracted by their competition. Instead they could run their own predetermined strategy. This was even more impressive when considering that neither checked their watches much throughout the race.

Peak performance requires being fully rested

For all athletes, top performances can only be achieved if you are in shape. This means that any athlete should be fully recovered from any recent races or hard block of training. Despite only a light breeze during the race, with the temperature around 12℃, certain athletes were never going to fare too well on the course.

Defending champion Thompson had to settle with seventh position, several minutes slower than his previous victories in a time of 1:05:31. Post-race the 38-year-old Briton admitted it had been a tough day. He had not recovered fully from his recent victories. This was understandable as he won the Great East Run the previous Sunday, and the Richmond RUNFEST Marathon the weekend before that. Sadly there was no threat from Zane Robertson either, who dropped out with injury at the five kilometre mark.

Sparse support is still helpful

Although there was huge support in certain areas, the race snaked through several parks, which understandably were sparse. This meant that athletes couldn’t draw on the enthusiasm of the spectators. Nonetheless, it was still encouraging in those areas where there were people cheering and clapping. Thompson even slowed as he approached the finish line to acknowledge the crowds’ efforts. Edith Chelimo also praised the Scottish people, saying they helped her to not give up and to keep believing in herself.

Conclusion

The men’s and women’s races at the 2019 Bank of Scotland Great Scottish Run were won by a relatively large margin. With over 8,000 runners completing the 13.1 miles, and tens of thousands running across the running festival weekend it’s a great spectacle for Scottish athletics. However, sub-par performances and even injury are risks if athletes are not fully fit to race. The steep hill at the start of the race should be a warning for everyone that all running achievements are no stroll in the park.

 

Read my reports from other elite races since 2018.

Cardiff Half Marathon 2019 – Review

The Cardiff Half Marathon is an iconic road race for elite athletes and recreational runners. On Sunday 6 October 2019, the Welsh capital was host to some amazing Kenyan performances but sadly a runner also died after completing the event. In this post, I’ll answer the question “What happened during the 2019 Cardiff Half Marathon?” and what lessons all runners can learn from this popular race.

What happened in the elite men’s race?

The elite men’s race was packed with quality athletes, many of whom were Kenyan. Some of the men will have trained together and know each other’s racing tactics. It was no surprise then that a sprint finish decided the eventual champion, 29-year-old Leonard Langat. 

Before even two miles had been run the lead pack contained ten runners, spread almost in single file. After four miles, there were five men at the front. By halfway, four remained. Huge gaps between athletes appeared quickly and remained.

At 10 miles the champion would be either Leonard Langat or Shadrack Kimining. They had dropped compatriots Lotiang and Kimutai with ease. This was despite Langat appearing to struggle for a few miles from the eighth mile. Kimining increased his arm drive but Langat stayed calm, sitting a few metres behind. 

They ran a 4:29 twelfth mile, but Langat refused to be dropped. Kimining appeared to kick several times in the last half mile. As they descended on to the final straight, Langat moved passed and took the inside bend. Both sprinted for the finish line, their arms flailing, their teeth gritted. Langat beat his compatriot by two seconds, and in the process established a new course record for the Cardiff Half Marathon.

Prior to the race, Wilson Chebet, the three time Amsterdam Marathon champion, Japhet Korir, the 2013 World Cross Country champion, and Shadrack Kimining, the 2016 Cardiff Half Marathon champion were the organisers’ favourites. Kimining was the standout man who lead for much of the race. The other two men had to settle for seventh and tenth place respectively. 

At times Kimining appeared to usher others forward to take the burden. But no one did. As a result, he couldn’t ease off the pace. In hindsight, Kimining had paced Langat perfectly. The signs were evident though. Kimining’s forward lean was more pronounced and his gaze slightly further down to the ground than his compatriot’s. Langat’s running style, in contrast, was characterised by an upright, relaxed posture. All the elite men ran hard, but it was the athlete with the most composure who produced the outstanding performance of the morning. 

What happened in the elite women’s race?

The elite women’s race was packed with quality athletes, seven of whom were from Kenya and two from Ethiopia. Once again, the champion was crowned after a sprint finish to the tape.

In contrast to the men’s race, a smaller pack of seven women lead the race alongside male club runners and a male pacemaker. By halfway the lead pack had become five. Just past the hour mark, there were only three main contenders. It was Kenya’s Lucy Cheruiyot who was content to stay at the front. 

With only half a mile left, Azmera Abreha kicked. It was now between her and Cheruiyot. But the Kenyan responded well, ensuring she remained ahead. The final sprint to the finish was intense and close. Cheruiyot won by a metre in the same time of 1:08:20 as the Ethiopian. Although exhausted post-race, lying on the ground, her exhilaration was clear to see.

Kenya’s Paskalia Kipkoech, the 2010 Berlin Half Marathon champion, and Ethiopia’s 20-year-old Birha Mihretu were the organisers’ favourites for the women’s race. But they had to settle for third and fifth respectively.

Despite Cheruyiot continually looking at her watch and glancing back at her competitors in the final miles, she remained composed. Her fluid, high arm drive never faltered and she used all her strength to continue Kenya’s dominance in the women’s race. 

Running lessons from the race

The 17th edition of the Cardiff Half Marathon demonstrated three important lessons for all runners: 1. you can leave your last surge late and it can still be effective against your opponents; 2. when conditions are perfect, you need to take advantage, and 3. always listen to your body – if it’s telling you you’re working well beyond your limit, consider slowing down.

Late surges can be effective

In both the men’s and women’s elite races, the eventual champions used late surges to great effect. Although Langat in the men’s race stayed behind the leader for much of the race, this strategy meant he was in the ideal place to surge when he knew there would be no response from his compatriots. Cheruiyot in the women’s race instead led from the front for almost half the race. This allowed her to control the pace so when her Ethiopian rival surged near the end, Cheruiyot  could respond best and finish what she had started from the 10 kilometre mark.

Perfect weather and course support fast times

Favourable weather conditions, the relatively flat course and huge support from spectators were ideal for fast racing. There were sunny intervals with a fresh breeze, with the temperature around 17°C. This was in contrast with the almost four days of rain prior to the race. 

The pressure was on to produce fast times and the elite athletes didn’t disappoint. The top four men all produced times faster than the previous course record, set in 2017 by third place, John Lotiang. Leonard Langat smashed the course record by 72 seconds. The 28-year-old Kennedy Kimutai on his half marathon debut finished in a respectable fourth place, in a time of 1:00:39. The standard has now been raised for future years, and cements the race as one of the best half marathons in Europe.

Heed your body’s natural warning system

The sad death post-race of the third runner in two years should be a reminder for all runners that you should never ignore excessive physical stress. Although the specific details may never be known, it’s crucial that pushing through extreme pain should be avoided at all costs. If the stress of running becomes too great, slow down, stop and even speak to the nearest medic if in doubt. 

Due to the growth of the event in recent years it has become a member of the Super Halfs Half Marathon Series. The event is a great fundraiser, generating millions of pounds for national and local charities. So it is understandable that people flock to the race and want to push themselves. But it’s important that the health and wellbeing of all runners is prioritised. Runners must therefore take responsibility for their effort levels. 

Conclusion

The 2019 Cardiff University Cardiff Half Marathon was filled with drama but also sadness. The close racing at the front meant it was difficult to predict the winners of the elite men and women’s races with less than half a mile to run. Although it was exciting how the elite field ran, the race is yet again known for the death of a participant. With around 27,500 runners entering, and over half of them women, it’s undoubtedly one of the best sights in Welsh athletics. However, Nicholas Beckley’s death is a stark reminder for all runners to never push yourself when you feel serious physical stress. The result can be devastating for you, your family members and the local community. No personal best is worth dying for; listen to your body and never ignore serious pain.

Read the 2018 review, a race which doubled up as the Commonwealth Half Marathon Championships.

2019 SimplyHealth Great North Run

8 September 2019

Two minutes after the horn blew I crossed the start line. I took advantage of the wide road by  weaving amongst runners. The inevitable euphoria of a big race meant my pace was faster than I wanted. I slowed then kept my pace steady despite the surprising undulations. I had to keep concentrating. 
I crossed the famous Tyne Bridge. 
The spectators were large in volume and decibels. There was music blaring from speakers and musicians playing live. 
I absorbed it all but kept glancing at my Garmin watch to ensure my pace didn’t drop.
I purposely ran through several shower stations then took a bottle of water and a sponge from an aid station. 
The sun cream on my face stung my eyes a little as I sweated more.
My achilles felt sore in both feet but I ignored the pain.
My left foot became numb for several miles too.
The inclines stretched for longer, and I found myself running alone for short periods.
But every time I reached runners in front I overtook them, naturally. 
My average pace was on target as I passed roundabout after roundabout.
Then I dropped down to the coastal road at South Shields.
There, the atmosphere was even more electric.
I picked up my pace. My breathing became audible and my quads felt sore.
I kept passing signs for the upcoming finish.
I raised my arms aloft clapping at the spectators.
I got a warm response.
Then I sprinted the last 100m or so on the grass to finish.
I recorded a new personal best, tired but extremely satisfied.

The experience of running my first SimplyHealth Great North Run was inspirational. The tens of thousands of runners and spectators all along the route was an amazing spectacle, and spurred me on to my best ever performance at the half marathon distance.
My training had gone relatively smoothly since my last race (the Great Baddow 10 Mile race). I maintained consistent mileage (43 miles on average per week) and running threshold workouts (at a pace slightly quicker than my target race pace of 6:20 per mile). I stayed injury-free throughout the weeks leading to the race and enjoyed my first visit to Newcastle-upon-Tyne as a tourist.
I was also fortunate enough to be only several yards away from famous people such as England national footballers Jill Scott and Steph Houghton, TV presenter Gabby Logan and the legendary founder of the race Brendan Foster. I saw the Cricket World Cup trophy that England recently won in the distance too.
Best of all, to be a part of such an incredibly well-organised and historic running race, was a humbling experience. I was able to raise £225 for Havens Hospices in the process (the highest amount I have ever raised for a race), and run the race the way I wanted to.
Not only did I receive a wonderful medal and t-shirt, the perfectly executed race in ideal weather conditions with previously unimaginable support will live very long in my memory.

Interview with Emma Neachell

Emma Neachell is a full-time hydrologist and part-time runner. Growing up in the countryside, she has always been a keen runner, representing her school at cross country and long distance events, starting when she was 11 years old. She then finished in the top 10 of the Midlands Independent Schools Cross Country Championships at Bedstone College, wearing trainers not running spikes. In 2018 she completed the Royal Parks Half Marathon and raised over £1,000 for charity. She also writes a popular and honest running blog, sharing the trials and tribulations of a slightly injury-prone runner. Follow her running journey on Twitter and Instagram

What is your proudest running achievement, and why?

This is going to sound rather random, but my proudest running achievement was running every single step of the Cathedral to Castle Run in April 2018. I went into the 10-mile race feeling quite nervous because my training in the lead up to the race wasn’t ideal, but also excited as I hadn’t completed a point-to-point race before. The course was quite challenging but something ‘clicked’ that morning and I felt like I could carry on running forever.

What has running taught you about yourself?

Running has taught me that I’m definitely far more resilient than I sometimes give myself credit for. It’s also taught me that I’m incredibly stubborn. I’ve had so many niggles and injuries, I probably should have hung up my trainers a long time ago. 

What is the most ambitious running goal you’ve ever considered?

I set myself the goal of running the 2006 London Marathon in under 3:30. My training was going well until I picked up a groin injury a couple of weeks before the marathon. It took me over five hours to complete the marathon, and I hated every second of the final six miles. Looking back, I should have deferred my place and tried again the following year. 

How far in advance do you plan your running races?

It very much depends on the race. Some events now seem to sell out so quickly, runners have to enter pretty much the morning entries open. I’ve already got a 10k booked in for May 2020 because entries opened almost 12 months in advance. For races above 10k in distance I like to give myself at least six months to prepare for them. For shorter races, I’m more flexible and will even enter on the day if that’s an option.

What is the most miles you’ve ever run in a week and why did you run that far?

I’ve had a look through my mileage stats on Fetcheveryone, and the most miles I’ve ever run in a week is 65, which is not so grand. I’ve no idea why I ran that far, I don’t think I was training for anything at the time!

What is the longest period you’ve ever trained for a race?

I think the longest period I’ve ever trained for a race would have to be 10 months when I trained for the 2006 London Marathon. For half marathons, I have found that 16-week training plans work best for me as I’m able to build up my mileage slowly. My weekly training updates have been some of my most popular blog posts. People seem to enjoy reading about other people’s training. 

What has been your most serious running injury?

I’ve had so many running niggles and injuries over the last 15 years I’ve started to lose track. I had a metatarsal stress fracture towards the end of 2014. This stopped me running for several months. Once I’d recovered from the stress fracture, a bout of plantar fasciitis meant that the first half of 2017 was a complete write-off. At the moment, I have a niggly right knee. Some mornings the knee feels fine when I get out of bed, other mornings it’s so painful I can hardly walk. 

What cross-training exercises do you commit to?

When I was following a half marathon training plan, my attempts at cross-training consisted of what I called “stair sessions”, walking up and down the stairs at home for 30 minutes a week. I’m not great at core exercises and foam rolling. I recently attended a ‘Pilates for Runners’ session. This highlighted something I already suspected; I have very little core strength. I’ve owned a foam roller for several years but rarely use it because I’m not good at inflicting pain on myself. I am, however, very good at stretching after I’ve been for a run and have a routine I like to work my way through.

What would persuade you to work with a running coach?

I’ve thought about working with a running coach a few times. I quite like the idea of having a slightly more personalised approach to training. I’ve reached the conclusion that I’m a lazy runner, so I also like the added accountability of having someone tracking my training. Knowing that someone would be around to virtually kick me up the a**e so to speak could persuade me. To be honest, the only thing that really puts me off working with any sort of running coach is the cost. 

In one sentence, what does running mean to you?

Running for me means freedom, time when I am completely on my own with just my thoughts for company, doing what I love.

NYC Half Marathon 2019 Review

The 14th edition of the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon was the biggest event in its history. Over 24,000 runners took to the streets of New York City last Sunday. There were also 9 Olympians on show as they made their way from Brooklyn to Manhattan.

Despite the chilly early morning conditions, the racing was set to be hot as the winners would be bagging $20,000 each. The current world record holder for the half marathon, Kenya’s Joyciline Jepkosgei, was looking to dominate the American field. This included 2018 Boston Marathon champion Des Linden.

The men’s race was more open, with quality American track runner, Paul Chelimo, debuting at the distance and pitting himself against relatively unknown East African distance runners.


Believe you’re Untouchable

 

Jepkosgei’s pedigree is well-known. She reigns supreme over this distance, so no one expected the undulating course to pose much trouble for her. She was looking to replicate the superior performance that Mary Keitany produced to win the NYC Marathon late last year.

Her relaxed, bouncy stride appeared comfortable as she kept in the lead pack for the first 10k. When she broke away, her strong arm swing helped make the most of her substantial power-to-weight ratio. She kept her focus and eyes on the road ahead, and easily took victory by 60 seconds in 1:10:07.

 

Don’t Look Back in Anger

 

After a relatively slow start, Eritrea’s Daniel Mesfun forged ahead after the first mile. The 31-year-old had already won two half marathons in 2019 and has said he is looking to win the Boston Marathon next month. He made his intentions very clear after less than 10 minutes.

His short, powerful, flat-footed stride and bared teeth suggested that Mesfun was close to his limits. His lead was healthy, which built to as much as 22 seconds at the 15km mark. But he could not disguise his constant looking over his shoulder and several clutches of his stomach. It appeared that he was hoping to hold on to his lead by sheer determination and grit. In the closing stages, as Mesfun inevitably slowed, his rivals prepared their moves.

Many thought it would be the 5,000m specialist, Chelimo, who openly admitted that his recent 100+ mile weeks, and 22-mile long run had prepared him for victory. Although Chelimo did finish strong he could only finish third. Instead it was Belay Tilahun of Ethiopia, who stole the show. Not originally included in the elite field, it was a surprise to find him beside Mesfun with half a mile to race. Then the Ethiopian powered forward, winning by 6 seconds in 1:02:10.


The race illustrated how crucial it is for training to be targeted to the race (unless the race is being used as a tune-up for a more important upcoming race). Outward confidence, from Chelimo and Mesfun, is not always enough if the race strategy doesn’t take into account other astute competitors. Still, as Jepkosgei showed once again, when an athlete focuses on one distance, the outcome can be richly rewarding.

Vitality Big Half 2019 Review

Both the men’s and women’s races were stacked with talent for the second year of The Vitality Big Half.

This already popular event is also the British Half Marathon Championships. But many of the elite runners were testing themselves for the upcoming Virgin Money London Marathon.

As the race unfolded last Sunday, appearances were deceiving, not least because of the strong winds across London.


Sir Mo Wins Second Title in a Row

Expectation was high as is always the case when Farah takes to the streets of London. He quickly established his place in the leading pack once the gun had sounded.

Surprisingly, around the 5-mile mark Farah appeared to be struggling, falling behind his training partner Bashir Abdi and Kenya’s Daniel Wanjiru by 10m. He clutched his stomach and spectators feared the worst. But this blip lasted less than 5 minutes. For the remainder of the race Farah was locked together for the title, until the last 100m, when the sprint finish began.

Farah won by a mere second. But the way he dealt with the brutal conditions and challenging sections shows just how well he can still triumph over adversity.

 

Purdue Comes from Behind to Retain Title

Steph Twell, full of confidence from recent victories at the Armagh 3k  and Chichester 10k, pulled away from her female competitors before the 5-mile mark. She maintained a strong pace in a large group of male runners.

For miles Charlotte Purdue was running alone, battling the wind without any protection from other runners. But she continued to work hard, and with self-belief she would soon chip away at the lead. After 53 minutes at the 10-mile mark, Purdue did overtake Twell, who was slowing. Purdue never let up, running beside and then overtaking male club runners to retain her title and finish in 1:10:38.

She maintained an even pace throughout, which proved to be the best strategy on such a blustery morning.


London saw the best of British half marathon runners compete in far from ideal conditions. But the experience of past champions proved successful. The advice after watching this event is to stick to a race plan. Even if you find yourself alone, it can be easier to judge your effort without distractions. Otherwise you can get carried away with faster runners and find you haven’t the speed endurance or leg strength to end the race strong.

4 Reasons for the New 2018 World Half Marathon Record

When the date for the 28th Valencia Half Marathon finally arrived in late October, there should’ve been no doubt that the world half marathon record was under threat.

Kenya’s Abraham Kiptum lowered the eight-and-a-half-year mark by five seconds, recording 58:18. But it wasn’t just the flat course that ensured a spectacular result in Spain’s third largest city.

#1 Special Conditions

The course is perfect for running fast not only due to the absence of hills, but also the relatively few changes in direction, beautiful weather and remarkable history of the event. Since 2017 Valencia has been home to the women’s world record for the half marathon, both in a mixed gender race and women-only race.

Not only does Valencia name itself ‘The Running City’, hosting over fifty running events in 2018 alone, the half marathon is recognised by the IAAF as gold label. The strict conditions of this highest honour include international elite athletes, anti-doping testing and broadcasting of the event.

The lesson for all runners is to make the most of excellently organised and well supported running races, as they can empower better performances.

#2 Competitors Slowing

As runners passed 10km the lead pack suddenly lost the impetus to push on. But Kiptum knew that if he was to win this was the time to strike. His surge proved how strong the Kenyan felt, knowing instinctively that he could maintain sub fourteen minute 5km splits over the second half of the race.

Refusing to lead for the first 10km would certainly have eased him into the race, conserving slightly more energy than his rivals.

The lesson for all runners is to use the first half of a race to measure feeling. If strong, then increase the pace gradually to the end.

#3 Efficient Stride

Kiptum’s running form was particularly prominent throughout his world record performance. His bouncy, long stride and high knee lift suggested a rhythm that was efficient and relatively comfortable. His hips stayed high, which revealed his impressive core strength. His arm swings were driven and his eyes fixed on the road ahead.

Despite his serene movements, Kiptum demonstrated intense concentration and bravery to tackle the feat.

The lesson for all runners is to focus on developing and maintaining a solid foundation of core strength and stability. This will aid the body to deal with the relatively high impact of running lots of miles.

#4 Excellent Recent Performances

Kiptum’s 2018 had included a marathon win in Daegu back in April, and a second place finish in Copenhagen’s half marathon in mid September. The breakthrough year would’ve built the Kenyan’s confidence, so winning would have certainly been at the forefront of his mind. As long as he ran steadily, his training would’ve given him the knowledge that anything was possible.

With nine other Africans finishing in under an hour, if Kiptum had faltered others would’ve pounced.

The lesson for all runners is to use any positive training runs or races as inspiration whilst performing.

3 Lessons from 2018 Commonwealth Half Marathon

The 15th year of the Cardiff Half Marathon acted as the inaugural Commonwealth Half Marathon Championships. The event was packed with talent and numbers, but there were three important pieces of advice demonstrated throughout the 13.1 miles.

#1 Execute an Individual Race Plan

In the men’s race the story was dominated by five Africans competing against the Australian Jack Rayner.

However, even from the early miles the four Ugandans and Kenyan struggled to settle. They frequently exchanged positions, veered across the road, and accelerated suddenly only to soon be rejoined by the lead pack.

They could have been forgiven due to nerves, but surprisingly this erratic behaviour continued throughout the race. Despite the Africans’ impressive mile splits their surges and glances over to one another were a constant distraction. As I watched the televised coverage I imagined the coach of the Ugandan athletes confused and annoyed; they appeared to run with a lack of composure and self-assurance.

I wonder whether the team title (which they won emphatically with their four runners finishing in the top six) was their priority because they had used up all their reserves, unable to respond to Rayner’s timely surge over the final section.

Rayner’s strategy of staying at the back of lead pack, concentrating on a smooth rhythm and not getting drawn into competitors’ tactics secured him the win.

#2 Stay Focused throughout the Race

In contrast to the men’s race, Juliet Chekwel lead almost from the start line, never looking back and pacing herself consistently. After each 5km she dropped only 3-4 seconds per mile on her overall average pace. She ran alongside top male club runners for long stretches, then later by herself.

Like Rayner though, the Ugandan focused on her own race, pumping her arms across the body in a powerful lifting motion, which reminded me of a boxer practising uppercuts. Her head was still and relaxed, with her mouth slightly open, taking advantage of her lofty stride.

As Tanni Grey-Thompson, the decorated former paralympian, observed during the race Chekwel was “running on feel”. This performance was all the more astonishing because it was the longer distance race she had completed. Her running future appears bright.

#3 Running is a Demanding Sport

Sadly, soon after the event finished news broke that two runners had passed away. Two men under the age of 35 lost their lives, with cardiac arrest the causes.

Although these men had varying training histories, it remains true that regardless of athletic experience death is always a possibility during exercise.

Running is highly impactful and requires the heart to work efficiently and in synergism with every other system in the body.

This tragic news should remind us to never take the challenge of an endurance event for granted and that, if and when we feel pain in our chests during running we should seek medical assistance immediately.



Windy Seaside Race Success

19 August 2018
I stopped myself running hard from the start line.
Instead I let runners pass me.
I wanted to keep to the pace of my current personal best and only later speed up.
After one and a half miles I headed down a slope to the Lower Promenade.
The strong winds hit me straight away and quickly reduced my pace, and expectations.
I stayed at the back of a pack of seven runners, shielded slightly from the blustery conditions.
I passed clusters of noisy spectators until I headed up a short but steep slope to the Upper Promenade.
After one lap the group split, some of whom finished the 10k race (which started at the same time).
The second and final lap was longer, and I knew I could overtake the runners I could see in the distance.
I just had to be patient and not let the wind slow me down.
Despite runners behind me I knew I could stay strong and consistent. I had to run my own race.
I saw my family halfway along the Lower Promenade. I hoped I was lying in third position. But my mum shouted that I was ninth.
It wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but every position mattered to me.
I used random checkpoints to time the seconds I was behind the runner in front of me.
24. 22. 18. 12. 8.
I kept sipping my homemade sports drink, as others used the water stations.
I ran on the balls of my feet as I tackled the final slope.
2 miles left and the sun was starting to overheat me.
Still, I improved my pace by 5 to 10 seconds per mile.
Neither of the runners I had been chasing could respond to my surge.
But another runner quickly passed me, and I couldn’t stay with him.
Instead I worked hard to keep a 6:30 per mile pace along the final stretch.
I sprinted across the grass to the finish line with no one close behind me.

I chose this race because for the past three years the winning times had been only a few minutes faster than my previous personal record performance.
Last year I had been injured.

This year I had hoped to improve both my best time at the half marathon distance and my highest race position.

Although I don’t ever excuse my performances, two factors affected my race:

  1. I discovered on the morning that the conditions were very windy, weather I had not considered (or trained in).
  2. My block of training leading to the race was also far from ideal. I had a minor injury throughout June, which prevented me from running. Although cross-training in a local gym was productive, it could never replicate the sport I love. I therefore only had approximately five weeks of quality running workouts, culminating in 11 miles at an easy pace two weeks from race day.

Despite not achieving my two primary aims, I finished eighth, which was the third top ten performance of my career. I also represented my running club well, as the only male runner, and fastest finisher in barefoot shoes.
The race was a special experience for me, located in a seaside town of which I have very fond memories. My family could also see me a few times throughout, encouraging me and offering vital race information.

Reducing my Running Load

6 – 12 August 2018

Week 9 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon.


Easy Miles – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday

Slower than 7:10 per mile pace

Rest Days – Thursday, Saturday and Sunday


With one eye on my upcoming race I reduced my pace and mileage this week. I enjoyed three rest days (including a visit to the location of my race), lead another four coaching sessions (helping one runner achieve a new 5km personal best) and complimented my training with recreational cycling of over 11 miles.

I accumulated almost 17.8 miles (over 2 hours) in four days. Although not a lot compared to previous weeks I wanted to ensure I am fully fit for my race next Sunday.

Running Longer

30 July – 5 August 2018

Week 8 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon based on Jack Daniels’ Running Formula.


Easy Miles – Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday

Slower than 6:55 per mile pace

Fast Intervals – Friday

5:25-5:30 per mile pace

Rest Days – Tuesday and Saturday


After a relatively slow start to the week, I made sure I focused on running longer and furtherI enjoyed two rest days, lead four coaching sessions and complimented my training with recreational cycling of over 4 miles and walking (accumulating over 16,000 steps each day).

Another positive aspect of my training week was that I was able to run comfortably faster than my half marathon pace Friday evening.

I accumulated almost 30 miles (over 3.5 hours) in five days, recovering quickly. This has made me feel stronger and better prepared for my upcoming race.


Returning to my Running Club

23-29 July 2018

Week 7 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon based on Jack Daniels’ Running Formula.


Easy Miles – Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday

Slower than 7:25 per mile pace

Interval Club RunThursday

4:50-5:45 per mile pace

Rest Days – Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday


After three weeks of increasing mileage, I made a conscious effort to reduce my running load this week. I enjoyed three rest days, lead two group coaching sessions and complimented my training with recreational cycling of over 10.5 miles across three days, just as I did last week.

My weekly goal was to return to my running club and complete a tough interval workout, which I did on Thursday. My calf muscles were sore afterwards but consuming my homemade protein smoothies helped me recover.

I accumulated 19 miles with still no signs of my recent injury, which has set me up for a ‘heavier’ week of training to come.


Week of Building Endurance

16-22 July 2018

Week 6 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon based on Jack Daniels’ Running Formula.


Easy Miles – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday

Slower than 7:15 per mile pace

Tempo RunSaturday

Faster than 7:15 per mile pace

Rest Days – Thursday and Sunday


I stepped up the quantity of my running this week. Almost all my workouts were easy-paced, long runs. This took more time and energy, and therefore I didn’t feel it appropriate to run any miles at my intended half marathon race pace. 

My weekly goal was to run continuously for at least an hour, which I did on Friday. I also cycled over 10.5 miles across three days. Although simply recreational, the exercise supplements my training.

I also enjoyed coaching my first two-day running assessment on one of my runners.

I accumulated over 29 miles with no signs of my recent injury, which built my confidence that my body is adapting well for ‘longer distances’.


Quality Running, Injury-Free

9-15 July 2018

Week 5 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon based on Jack Daniels’ Running Formula.


Easy Miles – Wednesday and Thursday

Slower than 6:45 per mile pace

‘Quality Workouts’ – Monday, Tuesday and Saturday

Fartlek run (whilst coaching)

Intervals faster than 6:05 per mile pace

Rest Days – Friday and Sunday


I’m pleased I’m still injury-free after my shin pain. I was therefore able to run several tougher workouts, replicating my intended race pace of 6:00 per mile. The high local temperatures and tiring workload this week were factors affecting my performances but I enjoyed the challenge.

My strategy for the remaining five weeks of training for the Clacton Half Marathon is to focus on tempo intervals at race pace and progressively building my endurance with longer runs.

I accumulated over 21 miles, and ensured I primed myself for a heavier mileage week next week.



Running Injury-Free Again

2-8 July 2018

Week 4 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon based on Jack Daniels’ Running Formula.


Easy Miles – Wednesday and Friday

Slower than 7:00 per mile pace

‘Quality Workouts’ – Monday, Tuesday and Sunday

Faster than 7:00 per mile pace

Rest Days – Thursday and Saturday


After cross-training for much of June, I feel recovered from my shin pain. Although my running paces were slower than my intended race pace of 6:00 per mile, conditions have been particularly hot recently.

I have also experimented by running in my Vivobarefoot shoes and Vibram FiveFingers. With six weeks until the Clacton Half Marathon I feel confident that I can improve my speed endurance.

I accumulated 19 miles, and rather than ‘time on my feet’ I am happy that I am injury-free.



Enjoying Cross-Training

4-10 June 2018

Week 3 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon, modified due to injury.


Cross-Training (Gym Workouts) – Monday – Sunday

Although the injury in my shins has remained it has not prevented me from enjoying a wide range of exercises.

I have focused on workouts to strengthen my lower body, including using machines such as leg extension, curl and press, as well as dumbbell lunges, barbell squats and barbell deadlifts.

Every day I have also spent hours on the cross-trainer, static bike and rower to continue sweating.

I also purchased more running shoes from Vivobarefoot, to give me more support when I return to running.

Accepting a Recurring Injury

28 May – 3 June 2018

Week 2 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon based on Jack Daniels’ Running Formula.


Easy Miles – Monday, Tuesday

>16.5 miles at 7:35-7:40 per mile pace

‘Quality Workouts’ – Wednesday, Thursday

Cross-Training (Gym Workouts) – Friday, Saturday, Sunday

I accumulated over 22 miles in just over 2.5 hours of running. However, a recurring injury in my shins meant I had to re-examine my training plan.

To prevent me from stressing the affected areas further I decided to join a local gym. I now have an opportunity to build strength with weights and machines, whilst I maintain my cardiovascular fitness with lower impact equipment, such as stationary bikes and cross-trainers.

Starting a New Strategy

21-27 May 2018

Week 1 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon based on Jack Daniels’ Running Formula.


Easy Miles – Monday, Wednesday, Friday

>15.5 miles at 7:25-7:50 per mile pace

I also purchased a new Garmin sports watch.

‘Long Run’ – Tuesday

7.5 miles at 7:33 per mile pace

‘Quality Workouts’ – Thursday, Saturday

Rest Day – Sunday

Visited Clacton, the location of the upcoming race.

I accumulated over 29 miles in just over 3 hours of running, and foam rolled daily.

Aiming to Win a Race

For over a year I have wanted to win a road race.

I earmarked the Clacton Half Marathon, a flat coastal race, as my best chance of finishing first.
Since the first year of the race in 2014 the winning times have been 1:17:151, 1:15:492, 1:21:273 and 1:19:284.
Although all the winning times are faster than my current personal best, set in the summer of 2016, I believe I have the potential to run sub 6:00 miles for 13.1 miles.
Last year I was sidelined with a hip injury due to overtraining for my fourth Chelmsford Marathon.
But this August I aim to win.
My training will commence tomorrow after a fortnight of recovery from my first 10 mile race.

I have thirteen weeks to improve my fitness and mindset.

Although I will focus primarily on tempo intervals and continuous runs at target race pace I know I need to change my routine compared to previous training periods. I must place more intense and varied stresses on my body in order to stimulate the necessary physiological responses.

I will use many techniques to ensure I recovery adequately and prime myself as a future champion. These include:

If I am to take my race finishes from the top ten (once in 2016 and again in 2018) to the ‘podium’ I must believe I am a champion. I intend to demonstrate my best at the Clacton Half Marathon and leave nothing to chance. Previous race results are so tantalising that it may be the greatest opportunity to realise my ultimate ambition.


1 Equivalent to 5:53 per mile average pace.
2 Equivalent to 5:47 per mile average pace.
Equivalent to 6:12 per mile average pace.
Equivalent to 6:03 per mile average pace.



Racing to Celebrate Family Time

11.03.2012
Race day held special significance for me; my fiancée and I were celebrating our recent engagement with our families. It was the first time our families had met, and I was grateful that they were supporting my running.
We drove part of the route as we headed to race headquarters at Colchester United Football Club’s new stadium. The undulations made me nervous. I was only months away from my final university exams so my training had not been as intense as I had wanted.
My warm-up was also inadequate, too distracted talking with family, and a fellow racer and colleague.
I did not have to wait long on the start line. The early section of the course was downhill and had few spectators. I felt free and fast until we met a steep hill heading into town. The energy in my legs was sapped but the large crowds motivated me.
Everything was familiar until we ran along country lanes through villages. The strain on my ankles and calves became severe. Runners passed me but I stayed focused on the long rural road ahead.
I still made my trademark sprint to the finish line, except I misjudged the distance and needed to move fast again before the end.


Rather than a race to improve my personal best, the day was an experience to unite my family.

It was the first race in which I had to tackle multiple hills, and with inadequate training I found the course tough.

Interestingly it taught me that setting and beating self-imposed running targets should not always be the aim. The moments spent with family in a local, yet unfamiliar area still provide lasting memories.

Returning Home to Improve Half Marathon

12 June 2016

I ran a number of strides as a warm-up.
But the race start was delayed.
I stayed calm at the front of the field then ran a fast first mile in 5:47 along residential streets.
I passed many runners despite my calf muscles aching from the second mile.
I ignored the water stations as I continued to advance my race position.
As the weather became overcast I saw my supporters.
The crowds were loud at times, some cheering me as “Runner 763” and praising my “good running”.
On the second lap my legs felt fatigued. Rather than slow I alternated my foot strike to challenge different muscles. Running flat footed helped keep the pace consistent.
Closing in on the final few miles I used a soaking wet sponge to moisten my head and face, which felt excessively dry.
I battled with two runners over the final stretch but ultimately came up short.
I still managed a final sprint across the grass before collecting my medal.


The race was my second Southend Half Marathonand my fifth half marathon. The experience brought back fond memories of my first ever road race in 2011.

I felt pressure to ensure I improved my performance, although I contained my nerves. My training had gone well, culminating in a 9-mile run in 57:40 (6:25 per mile pace) three weeks prior. I felt confident and despite the cool conditions, I began the race strong. The significant pain in my calf muscles was a concern, but I coped well throughout the race.

I maintained a steady, fast pace throughout the flat course and was extremely pleased with my finishing time of 1:22:50 (6:19 per mile pace), shaving over 6 minutes off my personal best. I finished in 29th position out of almost 2,000 runners (18th in my age category).

I was also proud of raising £140 for Havens Hospices, the local charity that organised the event. The day proved again that my hometown brings the best racing out of me.

Southend Half Marathon 2016 finish

Race Report: Maldon Half Marathon 2016

Maldon Half Marathon Race

I was in the lead.

The cyclist pacing the race was my only focus.

My friend called “Come on, David.” This spurred me on.

I could hear runners’ steps and breathing.

I was running hard.

But I could not prevent myself from slowing. Two younger runners passed me then another older one two miles later. I watched them increase the gap until I could not see them. I was not able to respond with a surge.

I soon heard noises behind me. I checked for fifth place but he was some distance away. I had to navigate the route alone, with some signage absent or unclear.

I counteracted these race developments by steadying my pace and thinking of a new personal record. But the undulating course continued to sap the strength from my legs and I was forced to concentrate on maintaining my position. I pushed through the pain and hoped that one of the front runners would falter so I could overtake them.

This never happened.

Near the end I passed the winner walking home. He clapped and I raise a thumb to him.

I sprinted the last metres in the park to the end.

I finished in fourth position, one minute and twenty seconds behind my previous best.

As I sat on the grass watching other runners cross the line, third place greeted me and shook my hand. He said I was a strong runner. Fifth place did the same, but added that he was convinced he would overtake me. He never came close.


The problem is that I intended to win the 2016 Maldon Half Marathon.

This was based on my belief that the distance had produced my best performances and my ambition to win my first race as an adult.

I led for the first 0.7 miles (5.3% of the race). I had never led a road race before and it showed. I could not maintain the required speed.

It was my highest placed position in a road race. I will never forget the euphoria of leading, however short it was. More useful is that I tackled a challenging course and still performed respectably.

I remained competitive throughout the race despite harbouring a blocked nose and recovering from a sore throat. I also overcame a significant stitch during periods of the race.

The fact remains that I failed to achieve what I set out to do: to win a trophy by coming in the top three and achieve a new personal record. However, it was not through a lack of desire.

Instead I was ill-prepared for a race I had underestimated.