All Apologies

As the great Kurt Cobain once said, “What else should I be. All apologies.” I want to use this post as a form of apology. So, I’m sorry. I am an addict. There, I said it. Why am I sorry? What have I become addicted to?I’m sorry because I know what I have become. I have become a marathon running bore (as opposed to just a regular bore which I know I am normally) and you are having to put up with it. I am addicted to running. And telling people about it.

It is probably no surprise that my marathon training has taken over my social life. It is, after all a pretty time-consuming pursuit. And that is fine. It is my social life. It is my training. The only problem is, I also feel it has begun to take over every other aspect of my life. I think about it all the time. When I lie in bed at night it is going through my thoughts. When I wake up in the morning, I begin to contemplate where I will go, how far I will go, or worse, on a rest day how I am going to stave off the desire to get out and run. And because I think about it all the time, I also want to talk about it all the time. When I am out shopping, I am thinking about how many steps I am doing. When I am at work, I try not to think about it. And when I am running, well you get the picture.

“Oh crap, here he goes again”

Now I can already visualise your eyes rolling at this news – trust me I do not need to visualise my wife and kids’ eyes rolling at this news as I see this for real on a regular basis when I mention the “m” word – and they think, “oh crap, here he goes again. Talking (or writing) about that ruddy race. It’s months away yet, is he ever going to stop going on and on and on and on and on about it. Give me peace!” I should point out that my family are thoroughly supportive of me doing the run – but, unlike me, they are not living it twenty four hours a day.

Now if you are friends with me on Facebook, it is a regular once or twice a week thing where I update my blog or maybe post some pictures from where I have been running that day or so. If you follow me here on WordPress then it is a post a week. But if you follow me on Twitter, then oh my god, it is less a drip, drip, drip of news and more a full on flood, a diatribe, an avalanche of running related comments, posts, likes and retweets of other runners posts.

I post pictures about my latest run, using my Fitbit app to document the distance, the time and the average speed. I go on about my splits – negative splits are the best I can tell you. I moan about the hills around my house. I have begun to follow various online running communities to connect with others also in training for the Spring marathon season (yes, I did not know that was a thing either until the last few weeks). I marvel at the stats of other runners who (inevitably) look faster, leaner and fitter than I am (because they are). I get boosted by people I have never met (nor are ever likely to meet) liking or commenting on my latest post as this makes me realise that I am not the only one with this affliction. But that does not make my addiction any less easy to digest for those in the firing line.

“There is no unsubscribe option on the spam I lob into their mailbox”

On Facebook and Twitter you can regulate a lot of this stuff.  You can decide who you friend, or who you follow. You can scroll past it or just not click on the link. It is a minor inconvenience in a timeline dominated by dogs pulling sledges up hills before sliding down or your friends latest cute pictures of their children, or Trump, Brexit and the latest existential crisis to face the political establishment, or irrelevant adverts. So think of my friends who are not on Facebook or Twitter (yes, people like this still exist). Some of them get this stuff emailed to them on a weekly basis – and there is no “unsubscribe” option on the spam I lob into their mailbox every Saturday morning. Though there is, of course, the “straight to trash” rule you can set on any of my incoming messages.

But though I find my own journey fascinating, that does not mean it is anything less than dull to any other normal human being when I keep going on about it. I try to be interesting about it. I try to be amusing – note I said try, I did not say that I am – when I write or talk about it. But like any obsession, it is only of great interest if you are as into it as much as the other person is. If you want another definition of this, find a friend who is really, really into Star Wars, and tell them Star Trek is better and then stand back. Boy, what a fascinating stream of consciousness you are letting yourself into there.

“There is a lot of this stuff to get through yet”

So thank you for your patience, your understanding, your disguise of the eye-rolling, your stifling of the yawns, your patience when I bang on about it (again) or talk about my latest few miles, or how it has been so icy lately and this has impacted my running style, or how I need to keep my head up and my knees up when I am going uphill, or how I went running on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, and did I mention that I am training for a marathon? I have not even begun the blizzard of publicity that will start when I launch the fundraising push in a few weeks’ time (I can feel a bunch of mute notification messages being pushed on your phones as you read this), so make sure you steel yourself for the ordeal ahead. Remember, the race is still more than three months away so there is a lot of this stuff to get through yet.

So there, I have said it. I am sorry. I am a bore. A marathon bore. Right, that is out of the way. You still want to be bored? Read on.

It’s been a great training week, kicked off by a run on Sunday where I went further than I had ever run before. I started off with the intention to run between ten and twelve miles but ended up doing fifteen. I am more than halfway there, but I am still very conscious that even this effort still left me more than eleve miles short of where I need to get to by the end of April. That apart, I was so, so happy with this effort, particularly with an average pace of under ten minutes per mile (I did warn you about my split times did I not).

My route for my longest ever run

During the week, I built on this run by firstly taking it really easy. I did a couple of miles on Monday night, as much as anything just to get the stiffness out of my legs. Then on Tuesday, I decided that even though the weather was not great – a bit damp and blowy – I should not confine my running only to the days when the weather was benign. So six miles down and up and down and up through the hilly streets of Bridge of Don, again at under ten minutes per mile.

Work intervened so a trip down south resulted in a rest day on Wednesday before an early morning run on the flat, flat roads around the village of Gerrards Cross – oh god, it was sooooo good to do a complete run on the flat I cannot tell you – included a mile or so at sub-nine minute mile pace, which for me is pretty zippy for me I can tell you. Though as it was early morning, and Gerrards Cross is a small place, it was pretty dark on a lot of those little streets. Maybe a head torch is in order. Now there is phrase I never thought I would hear myself say.

One of the most well lit of the dark streets of Gerrards Cross

I took another rest day on Friday. Deciding not to run is turning out to be as important as deciding when to run I am finding out. Being well rested meant I felt great going out last Sunday, I am aiming for the same this weekend.

Next week involves a trip to Paris, so a run along the Champs Elysee towards the Eiffel Tower is in the offing. When in Paris, why not? And I will try, really I will, not to be boring about it. But have I mentioned I am training for a marathon?





Learning the Hard Way

There are many lessons to be learned in life, and I am a firm believer in life-long learning. Some lessons are necessary. Some lessons are valuable. Some lessons are boring. And some lessons are harsh. Last Saturday I learned a harsh lesson. The lesson? If you go out hard at the downhill start of a run, you will suffer on the uphill stretches at the end. Now I realise that this is not exactly rocket science – and to be fair, it was partly what I was trying to achieve – but good grief, I never really thought it would be quite as harsh a lesson as it actually was.

Going out fast was maybe not the best idea

One thing I have been doing lately is working out new routes to run. As much as I enjoy running outside, I have pretty much run the same routes over the past few months, so I thought I would try a new route of about six miles. The first part was straight downhill, then a flat part, then pretty much straight uphill. If you broke it out into three, two mile stretches that would sum it up. Usually, I use downhill stretches to take it easy and recover a bit, but this time I thought I would go out fast and see how I coped. Well, I coped, but boy it was tough.

After I got onto the flat part of the course, I thought I was slowing down, but my splits showed I was maintaining the pace I had run on the downhill stretch and I think this was where I went wrong. I did not give myself enough of a respite before the serious uphill stretches. This then meant I felt I was crawling up the long hills back to my house. So while my overall pace was good, there was a big difference between miles one to three and miles four to six. But now the good part. I kept going. I never stopped, even though after one section where I had to run up some steps my lungs felt they were on fire, made worse by the next stretch of the run also being unexpectedly uphill when in my head I was prepared for a flat section. But building on how I have felt for the past few weeks, I sense a growing strength in my legs these days and this kept me going all the way home. I did have a couple of tweaks in my left knee but I ran through that and had a huge sense of achievement when I made it in the door.

Building on that, I planned another run on Sunday, but when I woke up to the patter of rain on the window I did think twice about turning over and getting some extra zzzs in bed. But my motivation is right up at the moment, so I got up, got myself well wrapped up and headed out for an easy three miles as the wind from Storm Dylan began to get up. I was lucky. I got round completely dry and even, for the first time ever, had the wind at my back up the final hill for my last run of 2017.

“Tough to maintain the training with my work commitments”

2017 was a year of some highs – particularly on my running with a 10k personal best on one run and completing another 10k with my daughter – but it would also be fair to say that it has been tough to maintain the training with my work commitments plus some personal challenges along the way. The work commitments get no easier in 2018.

So as I went into 2018, I resolved to make it out on New Year’s Day to get in some more miles, just an easy three mile run, and as it was early in the morning, I think it was the quietest I have ever seen the roads around my house, but it was a beautiful sunrise.

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Sunrise on New Year’s Day 2018

Focussing on pacing, the following day I headed for a longer run to begin the process of building up my stamina. It was really cold, so I was well wrapped up. So much so, that with my face almost totally covered I found myself saying “hi” to everyone I passed, lest they thought I was about to mug them! Managing to avoid the various pavements that were like skating rinks, I ended up running around nine miles, and with my pacing sorted out I felt really strong at the end. Strong enough that I could have kept on going, and that is the first time I have felt like that after a longer run for quite a few weeks now. Which is probably just as well, as I just realised the marathon is this year!!

Wrapped up for the cold weather

The next day I racked up another six miles to add to my total but I then made a choice. I chose on Thursday to have a rest. I wrote a few weeks back about taking time out after a bad run (which you can read here) this time it was different. I chose to have a rest while feeling great. This felt a bit weird to be honest, sitting in the house and not out on the road or at the gym, but it is definitely for the greater good. Maybe I will start doing some strength work at the gym on my non-running days.

I spent most of Thursday feeling anxious about not running, so I could hardly wait to get out for another run on Friday. So much so, I went out prior to breakfast to pound the streets once more. I was expected it to be wet, but as I was out so early frost was, once again, the biggest challenge. Frost apart, it has been a really good week in my training.

This weekend I am planning to get back up to around twelve miles in a single run, returning to the distance I found so hard back at the start of December. I am optimistic about how it is going to go. We shall see.


Ice Ice Baby

I have never gone running on Boxing Day before. Most of my previous Boxing Days have been spent recovering from the excesses of the day before, but now, this year, I found myself at around 8.30pm pounding around the streets. Am I mad or addicted?

While it was cold, there were only small stretches of my run which were icy – the area immediately around my house – so those parts were pretty tentative. I have become pretty paranoid about slipping and injuring myself these days. The last thing I want is an injury to halt my progress, even though I am still some months away from the Stirling Marathon run.

“Not long to go now (even though I wish it was longer)”

In fact, this weekend the countdown ticks down to four months exactly to the day to the run itself at the end of April. Not long to go now (even though I wish it was longer). Why do I wish it was longer? I feel my training in December has been valuable but a little bit of a missed opportunity. I have done a lot of shorter runs, and have definitely rebuilt my confidence and feel good and strong during those sessions, but I have not done a long run since the rather dodgy twelve miler a few weeks back (which you can read about here). To be fair, there has been a lot going on in my life through this period – not even including Christmas – so just to have kept going during December has been enough of a struggle. I suppose I should focus more on that. Even when things have been hard, motivation has been low and the weather has been less than ideal I have still managed to get up, get out and get in at least a few miles along the way.

“I should get out there too”

So I found myself out in the darkness on December 26th. On both Christmas Day and Boxing Day I had seen other people out running, and on social media I had also seen what appeared to be tons of people donning their running gear and getting out to put in a few miles. Maybe that kind of peer pressure also played into my thinking. “Crikey, if everyone else is out running I should get out there too,” I thought. And I did. Another four miles on the roads with the classic uphill stretch to finish.

What has encouraged me in the past couple of weeks, as I mentioned last week, is that my running is beginning to feel good again. The Boxing Day run felt solid all the way through, was at a good pace and my legs were strong throughout, particularly in the final mile. I know the distance is merely a fraction of what I need to do at the end of April, but I take the view that every run is important, regardless of whether it is for forty minutes or for more than two or three hours. My average speed was good too (for me at least) at around ten minutes per mile. As I am aiming for eleven minute miles for the longer distances I run, I like to maintain a quicker pace for the shorter runs.

But while Boxing Day was ok for a run outside, more snow and ice precluded me from getting out after that. I returned to the gym – along with the other dedicated souls attempting to run off those extra mince pies and chocolates – for a quick four miles on the treadmill. Running negative splits and bringing my average pace nearer to nine and a half minutes per mile this was really positive and I think this is what I will aim for at the gym from now on.

“The risk of injury… is putting me off”

As much as possible though, I want to run outside. I have the warm gear to do it, it is just the risk of injury in the snow and ice that is putting me off. It would not bother me if it was wet or windy, or even just cold, but I do not want all of my effort so far to go to waste through slipping and hurting myself on untreated roads or pavements. I am really not into trail running, I just want to keep to my training programme and build up from where I am. The next few weeks are going to be important for me, as I have  work trip at the end of January where I am going to be away from home for more than three weeks and I am really not sure what opportunity I am going to have to get any serious mileage in during this period. There may or may not be a gym where I am going, and the temperatures outside have been around -21C recently, so that may limit my options as well. More on that in the weeks to come.

On Thursday it was nothing like -21C but the combination of small amounts of snow plus icy weather can prove pretty lethal underfoot, so when I woke up and saw the view outside the window that you can see in the feature picture, I thought I was bound for another gym session.

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The clouds stayed out to sea during my run along Aberdeen’s Beachfront

However, after venturing to the shops and seeing that not every pavement in Aberdeen resembled an ice rink, I chose to head down to the city’s beachfront as I thought, “if anywhere is not going to be icy this is the place.” While generally this was true, there were still some pretty slippy stretches along the way. A stiff breeze, with a glacial feel, did not really help, but another four miles was logged up along the beach front at less than nine minute thirty seconds pace. And thankfully the showers that hovered just to the north of the city did not make their way down while I was out. Though I have to say that my mum, who came with me for a walk along the front, probably had the best idea and spent most of the time in a nearby coffee shop.

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While most of the way was ok, there remained some icy stretches

It has been a solid training week – particularly given the weather – and I plan to do more over the weekend. Ideally, I would like another long run this weekend, but we shall see how things go.

For the foreseeable future, I need to make sure I make the most of this period at home (I have some small work trips away for a few days but nothing major) and get out for some longer runs once more, beyond ten miles. That’s what making me think I may go for a run on New Year’s Day. I must be addicted……


Keeping Me Going

This has been a tough week. If I tell you that one of the least tough things that happened this week was having root canal treatment on Thursday then you can get a sense of the kind of week that I have had.

One of the few bright spots? My running. After the blip of my twelve mile run a few weeks back I have found it a bit hard to motivate myself. Although I have been running, it has felt a bit of a chore despite my best efforts to be positive, and the rotten weather over the past few weeks has not really helped either.

“… re-invigorated me, given me back a bit of confidence..”

This week, the eventual relenting of the cold weather and icy conditions that have been so prevalent has lured me back outside and I have had some runs this week that have really re-invigorated me, given me back a bit of confidence and once again sparked my belief that my target of running the Stirling Scottish Marathon at the end of April is really achievable.

A weekend away visiting family put paid to any thoughts of a run last weekend, so on Monday it was back to the local gym and the treadmill to get some miles under my belt, as there was still a lot of ice around where I live and the surrounding roads and pavements remainedtreacherous. I put in six and a half miles in just around an hour in typical treadmill fashion. By that I mean I felt fine, upped the pace a little bit, listened to some music but essentially was bored by the end. I also find – as I have mentioned previously – that when I run in a gym setting I seem to sweat an inordinate amount. Way more than what I do when I am outside. Anyway, it was a solid – if soggy – start to the week.

“I feel sharper, more willing to take on challenges”

One thing I have found with my running – and more generally since I lost a lot of weight last year (which you can read about here) – is that I feel mentally stronger and more positive about myself and life in general. Though I have written about the doubt which gnaws at me, overall I believe that sorting out myself physically has had, and continues to have, a positive impact on how I think and act. I feel sharper, more willing to take on challenges (and overcome them) and just generally better in myself.

So the difficulties of this week have brought this back into focus again, where I have found that going out for a run has also given me the opportunity to switch off, relax and spend some time not thinking about the other things which have been going on in my life – at least for a short time.

My next run was on Wednesday night – three miles outside as the milder weather finally melted away the last of the icy pavement coverings. With little wind, these were ideal conditions for running (in my view) and so I started off determined not only to complete the distance but to attempt to run quite quickly. I have also been trying to work out my stride length to get a more accurate view of the distance that I am actually running, so this time I took my phone and activated the gps tracking which links with my Fitbit to get that information. The run was quite informative.

I felt really strong throughout

I did three miles, and each mile I did was quicker than the last, particularly getting below nine minute miles for the predominantly uphill section of the run. The tracking information also showed that my stride length was around four inches longer than what had previously been used to calculate the distance that I was running. So some of my concern that I was getting significantly slower may well have been unfounded as I was underestmating how far I had run. The best thing about this run though? I felt really strong throughout. This has not been how I have been feeling over the last couple of weeks, so this was a bit like a switch being flipped this week. I know the run was short, but it has had a great impact.

I ran a similar distance on Thursday night, and again, progressively got quicker. Though it was over a different route, once more, my quickest mile was sub nine minutes and was also over an uphill stretch. The sense of strength in my legs has been the real positive. My legs had begun to feel heavy on recent runs so this improvement – whether real or just psychological – is one that I really want to see continue.

But of course, now for the difficult part. How to combine my training with the distractions and delights of Christmas? I fully intend to enjoy myself over the next couple of weeks – I think I have earned it – but I will need to get some serious running in as well to keep on track. At least I am off work, so there is nothing stopping me going out for a run except myself, the temperamental Scottish weather and any Christmas excesses of course. Now that I feel I am making progress towards my target, I see no reason why this festive period cannot coincide with a bit more training to get me to my goal and also keep off any weight I may put on through a bit of over-indulging. Now, where did I put those mince pies?



Give it a rest

After my problematic twelve miler a couple of weeks ago, I got some good advice. Give yourself a rest.

I have come to realise in recent weeks that actually resting up can be as important as getting out there and putting in the miles. Balancing the effort with the appropriate recovery is now going to be something I consider when planning out what my runs are going to be each week. And though I felt a bit guilty when I was sitting in watching the TV rather than being out jogging, ultimately it has been for the best – definitely. I feel reinvigorated.

So after a week off, my training resumed last weekend. The only problem was that last weekend also coincided with the worst weather of the winter so far, and snowfall meant that there was little prospect of getting back on the roads. My local gym was therefore where I got back into the swing of things, and the best news was that it felt great to be back. I did not push too hard, and only went for a forty minute run on the treadmill to ease myself into the rhythm once again.

I also resumed travelling after a week at home, so it was to a snowy and slushy Stockholm that I headed to first. I was not sure if I would be able to get out and run when I first got there, but in reality we had more snow at home than there was in the Swedish capital, so the pavements were relatively clear for running. The Swedes also seem to use a combination of some kind of grit on the snow to give you grip so while it was not too bad to run on, there were parts where I had to take it pretty gingerly when I was heading downhills.

Snowy and slushy, it was a bit slippy running through Stockholm

This run was another example of how not to do it in an unfamiliar place, as, once again, I almost got lost. Basically I doubted myself and the directions I was following so came close to failing to find the hotel I had left around half an hour previously. Luckily I did recognise one of the streets I was running along so managed to wind my way back to my room without having to ask for directions. One thing that is a bit weird about hotel rooms in Stockholm is that the doors open outwards into the corridor. A bit tired after a run is not the time to forget this and then think you cannot get back in as you valiantly push the door inwards in an increasingly futile attempt to enter your room before it dawns on you that you need to go into reverse to get in.

After a couple of days in Stockholm it was back to the UK, but not home unfortunately. For the rest of the week I was working at our office and staying in Slough. Wednesday was a day of torrential rain showers, but luckily when I went out for five miles or so it was a relatively pleasant December evening. Given how cold it has been and how erratic the weather was that day, I was lucky and felt good after my run. I felt even better around an hour later when I went down to have something to eat and passed a guy on the stairs who had clearly also been out for a run, but for him this had coincided with a monsoon-like downpour and he was a very drowned rat as trudged up the steps.

Running for me has, so far, been a solitary pursuit. A bit like my travelling life at work, I am mostly on my own when I go away and spend many, many nights in hotels throughout the year. I am perfectly comfortable in my own company, and so far have had no issues motivating myself to get out and put in the miles. Maybe I will look to get involved with some running groups as I go through the next few months, but I quite enjoy just putting on my headphones, heading out the door and being with my own thoughts while I am out on the road.

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The meal in the hotel was as solitary as the run around Slough

This was my final work trip for the year, and my flight back home was my 104th of the year. I realise this is a ridiculous amount, but is actually fewer than in previous years. However the distance I have travelled this year is greater than ever before – more than 150,000 miles. Crazy. The gorgeous views for my final flight back home to Aberdeen, as shown on the main picture, included seeing Stirling in the distance  and reminded me of my ultimate goal. 26.2 miles around fabulous countryside.

I am now looking forward to a few weeks back home and getting in some serious training – weather permitting. We still have quite a bit of lying snow and the pavements remain treacherous. The last thing I want is an injury on the ice.




It’s the Music That You Choose

Music has always been important to me. From single records to LPs then CDs and now digital downloads or streaming, I have long loved a wide variety of musical styles. In my job I travel a significant amount so my iPod has helped me through delays, endless queues and long flights throughout the world. Now, it is my iPod and playlist that is helping me through my marathon training.

While I have hundreds of songs on my iPod I have selected a number of songs and put them into a playlist to listen to when out running. I run on my own – maybe there is another blog in that – so there is no conversation going on to take my mind off what I am going through, so it is my music I have come to rely on to provide some motivation, distract me and, when I really feel like I am struggling, give me a boost to keep me going.  There is power in music and I want to harness that in my running.

Some mean a lot to me. Some mean nothing….

The diversity of my musical tastes is also reflected in the running playlist that I have built. It is not all upbeat songs. It is not all high tempo, pumping tunes. Some are relatively slow. Some mean a lot to me. Some mean nothing but I just love the sound, the feeling they engender, the lyrics, the energy, the bass, the drums, the ambience or any combination of all of those. They are another part of my preparation for the race and, while not as significant as other aspects of my training (like fitness and stamina), I think they are as essential to me. I find it odd to run without some song or other playing to get me through the pain or complementing the view on the run.

While I have long had a playlist, the first time I made one up specifically for a run was when I did the 10K in Aberdeen towards the end of August. I carefully selected a bunch of tunes, ordering them in a specific list – starting off with a few slower ones (a bit of Massive Attack with “Teardrops” for example, “Valerie” by The Zutons) and building up to louder, bigger tunes (Foo Fighters with “Times Like These“) as I headed toward the end of the run itself to maybe increase my speed in time with the tunes. That was all great and as I started off with a bit of Bjork singing “Big Time Sensuality“, I was confident my selections would motivate me through.

Lesson learned… sort that sort of stuff our before you start

However, after Bjork finished, the next song was not the one I was expecting. Nor was the next. That was when it dawned on me. I had left the playlist in shuffle mode rather than playing one song after the other in a linear list (as I had intended). But as I was already on my way the last thing I was going to do was stop in order to sort out my playlist running order. Lesson learned. If you want to listen to songs in a specific order, sort that sort of stuff out before you start running.

So what is on my playlist? My favourite band is REM so there are a couple from them – “Supernatural Superserious” (ironically from the album, “Accelerate”) and “What’s the Frequency Kenneth?“. I love a bit of rap and hip-hop (you may find that unusual for a Scottish guy in his late forties) so there is a bit of Eminem and Dr Dre, “Forgot About Dre” and Public Enemy “Fight the Power“.

There are some good, pumping tunes as well such as “Love Runs Out” by One Republic,  September with “Cry for You” and “In for the Kill” by La Roux. Cannot beat a bit of upbeat girl band either so I have “Higher” by The Saturdays (yes, The Saturdays) and “Push the Button” by The Sugababes.

There’s a bit of metal with “No One Knows” by Queens of the Stone Age in addition to the Foos, plus the magnificent “Nancy Boy” by Placebo. These are the ones that help me get up those hills around my house I keep banging on about.  Another one for the hills – “Harder to Breathe” by Maroon 5 – and yes the irony of that song and the impact on my lungs on what I am trying to achieve is not lost on me either.

There are also times when I swear my little iPod becomes geo-aware. For example, when I was in New Zealand, Lorde came on. Twice. “Green Light” and “Royals” resounded through my head as I ran around Auckland Harbour. When I was in Sydney “Titanium” sung by Sia with David Guetta was on (though of course this could have worked equally as well if I was in Paris to be fair) as I jogged with the Harbour Bridge and Opera House in my view. If I ever end up running through Manchester, I would fully expect the Stone Roses and Morrissey to make an appearance.

Look around, enjoy the scenery, not focus too much on the next step

For the slower ones there is Sixpence None the Richer with “Kiss Me” and “Summertime” by The Sundays. These let me relax a little. something I am trying to do more on my longer runs. Look around, enjoy the scenery, not focus too much on the next step or just the next hundred yards or so. I am doing this for enjoyment, not for punishment, so use the music and the surroundings to complement each other.

For the 10K run earlier in the year, I had probably put around 20 or so songs into the playlist, more than enough to get me round. Now, as I face up to more than four hours of running, that playlist has continued to grow. While I am not too concerned about it being on shuffle or not, the last thing I want is for the music to stop while I am still plodding my way around the Stirling Marathon course and I need to face those last few miles listening to the sound of me breathing. Currently I think I am at more than seventy songs, though I cannot make up my mind if that is enough or not. Seventy songs. Average of four minutes a song. Two hundred and eighty minutes. Four hours and forty minutes. I think I need to put a few more songs in just to be sure.

What music do you like to listen to on your training runs?

What are your favourite running songs that I should put on my playlist?

Please feel free to let me know your recommendations in the comments area.







Doubt is something which gnaws away at me. I doubt myself all the time. Constantly. . Maybe it is why I am quite driven. Because I always doubt that I can do what I am asked to do and therefore try my best all the time. For the first time since I started training, serious doubt has begun to creep in. Can I really do this? Am I motivated enough to do it? Will I not just make a fool of myself for trying then failing? What am I trying to prove?

The reason for the doubt? My run on Sunday morning. For the past few weeks I have slowly built up the mileage I have been running, particularly aiming towards one long run each weekend. This has taken me, in the course of the past four weeks, from eight to ten to eleven and a half then, on Sunday, to twelve and a half miles. I am not even at half distance yet, but I feel I may be reaching my limit. Doubt is setting in.

On Sunday, it was another fine winter morning. A little damp but not cold, with no frost or ice on the roads and virtually no wind. The night before I had had nothing alcoholic to drink and did my usual routine of getting up around 7am, going for some porridge for breakfast, then heading back to bed before setting off around an hour later. I had worked out my route – essentially the same as the ten mile run I had done – but with an added extra loop for a further couple of miles or so.

Maybe I tried to speed up. I do not know

Initially, things felt fine though my time for the first three miles was much slower than I had previously run. Maybe this affected me, I do not know. Maybe I tried to speed up. I do not know. For the next few miles, generally I felt fine, going round the extra loop past the six mile mark was no problem and, in fact, things were ok really up until the final couple of miles of the run itself.

My legs began to feel really heavy, my breathing was ok but not perfect and my thighs and feet took it in turns to deliver a little burn every now and then. Now the final part of any run I do back to my house is, always, uphill, so I know it is often the toughest part. I did manage to keep going without stopping, so at least I have that to  give me a boost, but as I made it back to the house my hips were aching, my feet were sore, my legs felt like lead. And I am not even at halfway yet to achieving the marathon distance. Can I really do this?

On arriving at the house, I quickly needed a drink and something to eat. Really quickly. I had a drink with me, plus a gel (back to Apple Crumble this week) on the run itself so I am not sure exactly what had gone so wrong. I had gone for a four mile quick run on Saturday as I had not done too much running while in Johannesburg and wanted to get back training once more. Maybe that was my mistake. Trying to do too much. Not realising how much the Saturday run had taken out of me and attempting something that was beyond me at this stage of the training plan.

I really doubt I can do this

This was how I had felt when I did the Great North Run Half Marathon in 2003. Having completed that distance, there was no way, I felt, I could double it and do the full marathon itself. Now, fourteen years on, I currently feel the same again. I really doubt I can do this. I know that there are some days you run and it does not go well, for a whole variety of reasons. Maybe this was just one of those days. But it came as such a shock given how well I felt my training was going and that the gradual build-up of the miles in my legs was beginning to reap benefits. I am not so sure now. Doubt about my ability, doubt about my stamina, doubt about my determination, my motivation, have all surfaced.

I am not trying to prove anything to anybody other than myself about taking on this challenge. I knew it was not going to be easy. I have had bad runs (and much shorter bad runs) before. I am sure I will have bad runs again. What I want to ensure is that not every run is a bad one, but that they are the exception.

How to move on? This week I think I need to perhaps refocus, relax a bit (the run is still five months away) and calm down. Shorter runs, a bit more rest and at the moment, maybe no long run at the weekend. Give me a chance to recover on all fronts – physical and mental – and recapture the joy I have experience so far on my training journey. It’s only one bad run, right?