Thursday, 27 June 2013

LONGEST DAY RUN 2013: My Longest Ever Chippierun - and how it almost ended in abject failure

Hey – is it me, or are the nights drawing in?

Of course it’s not me. I know that, you know that. And you know how I know that? Because the Longest Day Run has been run – and thats the event that marks the turning in the lengthening / shortening of days!Well, that and other stuff, of course. Longest Day Run is an affirmation of running, of all that is good about the darn thing, from challenging oneself to go the extra mile (even if that is a solitary mile – in fact, that’s the hardest, requires getting off the couch!) to sharing experiences and nurturing friendships. That’s what Alex, Mike, Simon, Trevor, Matt, Chris and Catherine did: they ran 46mi (or part thereof) across the Peak District, from Millhouses Park down to Baslow, up through Grindlethorpe, Castleton and Edale and back from the edge of Snake Pass through Bambord and Hathersage. Here’s a shot of them, in all their unadulterated beauty (as if by magic, appearing l/r in the order in which I named them above):

Whether any run through Millhouses Park will ever feel the same for them, I don’t know… for that matter, who knows whether running in any shape or form has not forever been redefined by the experience? Will lacing up those shoes ever feel the same again? Will running a simple marathon ever be enough for Simon or has the Ultra Bug put those 26.2mi efforts into a whole new, diminished perspective? Time will tell… time will tell… time alone, alone will tell

Anyway, that epic, heroic, life-changing romantic stuff is what they got up to. Me, I just went out for a run.

Well OK, not just any old run. This wasn’t just Longest Day Run: this, for me, was a Chippie Run! OK, not one of my usual, direct, 1.7mi there&back Chippie Runs, granted… but then I wanted to make sure I really earned my reward on this one! So I… er…

…I ran 26.2 miles!

I ventured to the start of my usual trail run along the Portishead coast, kept going into Clevedon, round and back towards Tickenham, up to the top of the hill eventually coming out into Blueberry Hill, down into Portbury, over the M5 back into Portishead, up Nore Road and home. That’s the abridged, post-run version. The pre-run plan wasn’t that different, other than I wasn’t overly confident about the section from Clevedon to Portishead (a connection I usually make somewhat more directly) which resulted in a detour via some lengthy, forlorn Millionnaire’s Row with shiny gates, vast houses and huge grounds. I can but imagine what the cars were like, for most were tucked away some hundred yards from the road… the only one I saw was an ice-cream van, returning home after a day’s work! I didn’t stop it but had it slowed down… hmmm, it may well have tempted me! Just for a drink, you understand.

The first stage saw me run along the coast path. The stretch from the bottom of Charlcombe Rise through to Clevedon proved a lot less insidious than I’d been led to believe: sure, you’re ever one slip away from falling down into the sea for most of it, but if you look where you’re going it’s not treacherous. It means you may have to stop to take in the scenery – and I did:

Clockwise, from top left: The view approaching Clevedon (you can just about see the Pier; Clevedon Bay; view unto Portishead from Blueberry Wood, some 16miles in (pretty much the point I decided I would go for 26.2; a close shave near Wraxall

I also stopped to let a fellow runner pass me. Boy was he giving it some welly! He acknowledged my etiquette: alas, I didn’t have the time to spell out that I might have been running faster if I knew the path better or if I weren’t planning twenty miles or so that evening! Always tricky not to knock a slower runner, if only at an instinctive level: or so I found earlier on in my running journey. Now I appreciate that there are too many unknowns in the equation (speedwork? short run? long run? recovery run? taper run? any niggles?) and fare better at rising above such nonsense… all runners, aren’t we? I just hope others are as open-minded..!
(Sorry, Simon
I forgot to ask him to log his miles for LDR!)

Upon reaching Clevedon, I passed its pier and kept on going – initially covering ground I’d trod on my previous long run but eventually venturing into new ground. This led me to a river, which I have since confirmed was the Yeo (though I cannot tell you which one). Followed my human instinct and ran alongside it (we’re naturally drawn to water, aren’t we?), a few miles later following the signs for Tickenham. Maybe I would still have reached it following the river? One to look into…

The climb towards Tickenham was nowhere near as steep as I had anticipated. Then again, I wasn’t on the road I thought I’d be. So I just kept going, knowing it was still the right direction, generally speaking. Once in Tickenham I saw a sign for a pedestrian route and figured I might as well follow it. Now that’s where it got steep… but not for long. Or so I feel obliged to say now, having seen what the others did!

At this stage of the route I had a clue as to where I was, fairly confident I was running parallel to where I wanted to be… but I can’t say I was sure. In the end I saw a Public Footpath pointing in the direction of where I thought I needed to be and just followed it. A few turns later and, sixteen miles into my run, I was at the top of Bluebell Wood – or so I thought. It was only my second time in Bluebell Wood, the previous time being when I ran up there from Portishead with some members of Portishead Running Club. On that occasion, they weren’t sure where we were and I proceeded to slip in the snow – I fell on my arse and got up in one single, I’d like to think smooth, movement… the injuries appear to have scarred… Things could only get better this time, eh?
And they did. It turned out to be Bluebell Wood and I came out at the other side, in Portbury. A left turn would have shortly got me over to the Portishead side of the M5; a right turn would have taken me further away from my house and towards the Gordano Services junction. So – I duly turned right!

My target for the day was 20mi. However, I had also told myself that, if I felt fine, I’d aim to hit 26.2mi – a.k.a. marathon length. Seemed only right and proper. And feel good I did: better than anticipated, if I’m honest. The niggles behaved, I didn’t push myself too hard… all uncharacteristically sensible. The slope towards Tickenham hadn’t been as steep as I envisaged, not least because it wasn’t the road I thought it would be; and yes, there had been a short burst of incline to get me from The Road I Was On towards The Road I Thought I’d Be On, but nothing protracted. In my mind I thought I might have to run a few well-known laps closer to home to extend the run to the nice figure of 26.2: however, I figured it might feel easier on the brain to do so before I got close to home so as to not feel as I was “running away” or, for that matter, had a sensible option in the form of home. Hence my detour from the 14th century “The Black Horse” in Clapton-in-Gordano to “The Priory” in Portbury – both pubs (aren’t they great for navigation?) but very, very different! Drink at the former and eat at the latter, in a nutshell – if only because “The Black Horse” doesn’t serve food in the evenings!

Once back in Portishead, I initially thought I’d knock on my Fearnley friends’ door for a water refill. Then I realised I couldn’t remember which of three doors I was starting at was theirs… and that, for that matter, I had more water left than I feared! Stopped at McDonald’s for a couple of milkshakes and a smoothie… don’t worry, not all for me (one milkshake was for Mrs S)… ran up Nore Road in the drizzle with McDonald’s paper bag in hand… dropped it off outside our front door… nipped in at Tesco for a bottle of Lucozade and one of PowerAid (hey, there was a 2 x £2 offer!)… ran to the chippie… bought was turned out to be the last fish going… headed home…

…finished Lucozade as I approached the house, crossed the imaginary line, walked in, drank my smoothie, Strava’d, showered, tweeted, ate my fish and chips, was told by Philip to drink a beer, drank a beer, drank my milkshake… and even treated myself to a Radox bath!Now, all this effort almost ended in total and utter failure! As per passing comment above, I got my hands on the last fish going at the chippies. I even heard the thundering sound of shutters slamming behind me as I left, which made it clear how close I’d come to my longest ever chippie run ending in abject failure! Or turning into my maiden curry run from the adjoining joint, anyway: and that was tempting anyway! Better recovery food, right Dr. Matt?… But I’d set off seeking fish&chips and I was not going to return with anything but fish&chips! Do I look like someone whod move the goalposts mid-expedition just to suit their purpose, eh? Do I look like Christopher Columbus?
(No, I dont. Here's the proof: my black bit on top is hair, his is just a daft hat. Plus Ive patently got a bigger gong. And when I left Genoa seeking better prospects elsewhere, I just boarded a cheap flight to the UK and got on wi’it I didn’t bother the Queen of Spain asking for three ships..! Besides: I smile more. And you dont often hear me say that. About anyone.)
(And OK, so my hair is actually dark brown. But work with me on this totally futile and pointless matter. Thank you.)

There you have it, girls and boys – my Longest Day Run 2013 story. It was a good run, although it was a shame that the clouds obscured the setting sun depriving me of the final, anticipated glorious sight as I (slowly) ran up Nore Road. So much for studying sunset times and figuring when to aim to get home! It was a good challenge: yes I’d tapered, yes I’d carbloaded, but I’d not trained for it the way I’d trained for Manchester. And there was no crowd, no marshalls, no fellow runners… just me and my stupidity / bloody-mindedness. I ran for 4h19’16” and spent another 37’19” either taking photos, figuring which way to go or queuing at McDonald’s or the chippie (which is called “Appleby’s”, by the way – not that anyone calls it that, it’s just “the chippie”!). At a pace of 9’51”/mi, way slower than the 8’04”/mi I’d clocked in Manchester: but then this was really never about pace or time, something I was fortunately comfortable with throughout. It almost became about time when I thought I might ‘just’ run for four hours and see how far I’d go – as it happens, I needed the extra 19’16” to hit marathon distance! Oh, and whilst 1,318ft is not as impressive an elevation stat as I was hoping for (and I’m still thinking of asking my Garmin for a recount!), it’s a darn sight more than the 189ft I recorded in Manchester – pretty much seven times that!

My favourite bits?
Well, I
’ve got nothing to offer on a par with The Blackamoor Crew be that in terms of sights, camaraderie or sense of achievement. But I did love the Coast Path: I will definitely be back, but at the dawn of the day. Ill be running Westwards so no danger of running towards the rising sun… unless I did an about-turn upon approaching Clevedon (or even earlier) and headed back towards it… not that Ive put any thought into this yet, you understand! I will give that a go, although whether the sun will be visible by then or obscured by the hills remains to be seen. And see I will!
Also, I enjoyed running across the field which led me to the road I was meant to be on. I won
t deny stretching my arms out wide as if taking in the cheers of the crowd, willing them on with smiles and waves… Not that there was a human being in sight, of course. And even the cows seemed non-plussed. Miserable things, cows. You try running 26mi! Just… dont run behind me. Or anywhere near me, for that matter. Rich, Cat and I established that is one dangerous situation just the other day.

So – all good. Well, mostly, anyway…

…for there is, of course, a somewhat frustrating, annoying, one may even define stirring element to all this. Any guesses?

(Oh, c
’mon peeps. Whether in the real world or on here, you know me. You know what’s coming. Don’t you?)(Seriously? Eeh bah gum… I guess Id better spell it out then!)

Less than a month ago, I was waxing lyrically about the joy that comes with joining The Marathon Runners Club, what with its lifetime membership and all that. I felt like I’d got there, after a journey that had taken a year in physical training but, some (e.g. my Dad) might say, two decades overall. I’d crossed the line, in more ways than one. Yes, I wanted to keep on running, to come under that 3h30’ time that narrowly eluded me in Manchester: but I’d still joined The Club. Now, after Longest Day Run and the experience shared by Simon & Co. …

…well, remember my words about affinities between goalkeeping and running? To reprise that theme – they’ve only gone and moved the bloody goalposts!!!

Until April 28, I was a wannabe marathon runner hanging out (on Twitter) with folk who’d already earned their stripes, their medals. I felt humbled and honoured to stand in their presence at the finishing line, having emulated their achievements. So what do they go and do, all of 55 days later?
That’s right – they go and run an ultra! Now, the likes of Mike, Matt and Trevor were already seasoned ultra runners: no probs there. But for Simon and Catherine, this was their maiden ultra. An ‘ultra’ being a race of at least 50km / 31mi, incidentally. The extra 8km compared to a feeble marathon may not sound worthy of elevation into a total new sphere, but ultras are typically run at least partly off-road, on more challenging surfaces and with a far greater degree of… yes, elevation!

Anyway, again, I’m out of The Club. Or I’m not in the latest, coolest, trendiest, hippest Club. How great is my urge to rectify that?

I’ll tell thee this fer nowt: there is no burning compulsion to get out there and run 50km. What there is, however, is the hope that, at some point, I shall be able to share such an experience with my running friends – maybe cometh Longest Day Run 2014. Running a half marathon in training and then the real thing in Bristol changed my relationship with long-time friend Jon forever – what would one of those ultra thingies (‘official’ or not – by an Ultra’s nature, that’s no big deal) do?

Similarly, however, me being me I wouldn’t mind a stab at doing so on my own, at the effort being a truly solo one. I make no secret of having checked out The Bideford Bay 50km. Ultimately it’s unlikely to come to anything other than an exploratory exercise: logistics are always a challenge for me and September 7 isn’t ideal for someone running Half Marathons on September 15 and 29, as well as October 20, as well as a marathon on October 6. I ain’t no Wells. Although, truth be told, my racing calendar isn’t my main concern. I do want to run the Bristol Half in its 25th year, I do want to finally compare like-with-like in terms of times, but neither are key decision drivers – plus I’d hope I could run them anyway. And that handful of miles along the North Somerset coast path on Longest Day Run has made me all the more appreciative of the beauty of the rugged South West coastline and how it works as a perfect setting for running (providing you look where you’re going). No, my biggest concern is about getting to Bideford (or nearby) the previous day, getting to the start… sure, there is some apprehension about the “getting to the finish bit” but this past year has given me the confidence to do that. It’s not given me my driving licence back. Fingers crossed that may happen in 2014…

Last but not least: it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that Longest Day Run has inspired other fellow Nutters to take to the keyboard. While we continue to await for Simon’s and Catherine’s words to filter through onto screen (no pressure) (!), check out what Philip had to say. Beautiful.

So thanks again Simon for being the inspiration behind Longest Day Run – getting 198 people out there is no mean feat! Not that anyone’s keeping score here, you understand – although scraping into the Top 20 does please me. And whilst we’re talking about tables – nobody’s keeping score on the Strava Junedoggle, right?
Oh look… I’ve somehow reclaimed third place amongst my ‘community’! Not bad, given I only ran 26 miles last Saturday. None of that 46-mile malarkey for me! Three days to go (indeed, four for those who run in the afternoon!)… I’ll be happy with a Top 5 finish. In fact, who cares, as long as I creep beyond 200mi as I have so far managed to do every month this year? We’re all one team, at the end of the day #TeamNutters. (Oh, and to hit 200 in June I need another 7.85mi. Only I need 16.77mi to hit 50 for the week. So 16.77 rules, Baby. And ice packs rock!)

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Longest Day Run: T-3!

June 19… only two days to go!

Well, three. It’s two days to the longest one of the year, but three days to Day 1 of Longest Day Run 2013. Because we can’t flipping well go out running for hours on end on a weekday / schoolnight, now can we?

Longest Day Run
is a challenge organised by my good friend Simon via the Daily Mile website. Herewith what it’s about:
The challenge is quite simply to run as many miles as you can over ANY 24 hour period of your choice during that weekend. Last year the suggested period was from midday on the Saturday until midday on the Sunday, but to accommodate all sorts of different challenges which people will undertake it makes sense to allow greater flexibility.

There you go – “quite simply to run as many miles as you can”. How could it be any simpler?

Quite. But don’t worry: I’m not going to go crazy over a 24-hr period. No crazier than usual, anyway. I’m just going to do one long run on Saturday 22 and a recovery run on Sunday 23. Sure, it’s tempting to go for, say, two half marathon distances rather than the 20-miler I’m eyeing up. But that doesn’t seem to be in the event’s spirit and anyway, it’s about time I got a long run* under my bum bag again (well, do you wear a belt while running? Thought not!). Besides, I’m still all too aware of what happened earlier in the month…

…see, I really enjoyed my three half marathon distances over consecutive days, in Italy on June 4 and 5 and then back in Portishead on June 6. The Italian runs were beautiful: it was a true pleasure to be out there soaking in sights that are no longer as familiar as they were for eighteen years. The Portishead one… well, granted, that was probably unnecessary. Showboating, almost. And, shortly after that, I felt a ‘niggle’ above my right foot. Yes, above the ankle and below the knee. It’s an area of concern for runners. So what did I do?

I rested, of course!

OK, admittedly I did so in a runstreak kind of way, but I did rest. So I still ran every day, just… well, less. Besides, running wasn’t the biggest part of the problem. The pain (which I’d first felt a few weeks prior – more of that later) was at its most intense a few hours after I would stop. I just grinned and bore it. Can’t have been too bad, because nobody noticed! I would have loved to use an icepack: might have speeded up the recovery… But then questions would have been raised, sanity questioned… before you know it someone will have recommended prosthetics! So I went under the radar. Just a cold Radox bath a few days back. All in all, summat’s worked… I’ve had three full days niggle-free now. Whether lack of a proper recovery run really was the problem, I don’t know: it certainly hurt more after I
’d spent time on a coach or a car, whereas not traveling for a few days, combined with rest, has meant that the swelling (at its peak after sitting in the back of my parents’ car en route home from That London) has gone down and the pain gone away. So, whatever the problem was I’ve solved it. I think.

Diversion: Yes, it’s hard for runners to acknowledge pain and stop. A brain linked to legs who are used to running finds it very tough: there is a genuine stimulus to keep going. The way I saw it, I owed it to myself and to my fellow runstreaking, longestdayrunning nutters to try and get fit for Longest Day Run. Should the pain still be there afterwards, I’d reconsider runstreaking. But do I run every day because I’m health
y or am I healthy because I run every day? Therein lies a conundrum. Personally, I think it’s a bit of both. For now, I’ll keep on running every day. Because it’s not done me any harm over the past 251 days.

So… Saturday’s run…

…hey, I’m not aiming for a time. I’ve not trained for a time. Although I am tapering, to some extent more than I
’ve done ahead of races! Then again, I need to: when running seven 20-milers in the build-up to the 26.2 in Manchester, as well as on the two since, I generally kept on favourable terrain (asphalt, and flattish asphalt at that…). On Saturday, my prime concern is to…

…well, to enjoy the scenery. I was going to set off early in the morning, around 4am-ish: but that would have meant that the views onto the Bristol Channel wouldn’t be sun-blessed, as I generally run westward along the channel. So I’ve now had a rethink (partly out of typing out this post!) and will be setting off around 5:30pm. Still safe and light till around 10pm: it will, after all, be the longest day of the year (OK, almost)… and now with the sunset to which look forward.

(What’s that? “If you’re setting off running westward, won’t you be running eastward heading home?” Fear not:  I’ll take a detour heading back. Details shortly. Trust me on this one.)

My plan is to tweak the route I ran on the last Bank Holiday. That day I ran 20m5mi in 3h10’33”, at 9’17”/mi. Not a great pace, by any means. It was my first long run in a while, coming after our holiday in Wales with its steep hills but short distances: alas, I’ve not run any since, either. But I have clocked some half-decent mileage, albeit less so over the past fortnight due to rest/taper… indeed, are you not meant to run less in the build-up to a long run? Oooh it’s all too confusing… I know that in the past my long runs haven’t required any special preparation other than a short run the day before (and after), but then they were just standard training runs. This is Longest Day Run, man… it deserves more respect! As does my sh… well, you know, the bit below the knee. The one that’s not hurt for three days.

So – how am I going to tweak that route?

I’m looking to build in a bit more trail. Last time round, I wasn’t actually planning on running any trail: I just found myself staring at a path by the coast in Clevedon and thought I’d give it a go. This time, I want to get onto the coast trail in Portishead and try to get to where I began in Clevedon last month… some good friends from church reassure me it’s possible, although I have also been warned that I won’t “be able to keep a normal running pace along the coast path - it is very narrow, winding, and entrenched in places with undergrowth to cope with too.” I trust The Spirit of Houndkirk will be alongside me! In all seriousness, I’m not overly fussed about not being able to keep a normal running pace for a few miles: that’s what trail running is all about. As long as I can avoid slipping into the Bristol Channel with its world-renowned tidal range (second largest in the world, chaps and chapettes), I’ll be happy. Of course, it would help if grass and weeds were not knee-high. But… you know, I’ll give it a go. It’s not about the time… it’s not about the time…

There you have it, that’s tweak number one, early on in the run: indeed, I will have to run towards the centre of town before heading out so as to reach the beginning of the trail section. But, being no Mike Wells (hey, ever read his blog? if you like this, try this), I won’t be running backwards! Undergrowth permitting, it’s a tweak to which I’m committed. As for tweak number two (of two)…

…that’s still TBC. It involves returning from Clevedon to Portishead via Tickenham. This will mean nothing to you: to me it means additional mileage and hillage along the B3130. Again, the B3130 will mean nothing to you: to me, it means a busy, pavementless road. It would be a totally nonsensical tweak: far more sensible (or less stupid, anyway) to get back to Portishead as I did last time, along a quiet country lane, and make up any desired mileage on more familiar territory. Because I’ve never run on the B3130: I just know it’s hilly and busy from when I’ve been on it in a car, something I used to do every day to get to work a decade or so ago. But… you know… you see… this is Longest Day Run, right?

Look, I’ll decide about that second tweak on Saturday. In fact, I’ll let my legs decide: even after my op, they’re probably more reliable than my brain. Taking the shortest route back from Clevedon, thereby keeping away from a busy road at around 8pm, and proceeding to detour within Portishead if at all, would not be unreasonable. Besides, I won’t be so stupid as to ignore my body. I’m still aware of my recent niggle: of course I am, it was on the last Bank Holiday that I first felt something in my shins on Portishead High Street, just before the 2mi hill back towards my house. I contemplated stopping and walking but remembered I’m from Sheffield and kept going. Not that walking would have been much different, anyway. Besides, after a day or so the niggle went away, and I only felt it again a week later after my three “medium runs”. But this time… as well as the water and the Blok Shots, I’ll take some cash and maybe even my phone with me. You know, just in case. And because I should more often, if not always, anyway.

So there you have it: this is my plan for Longest Day Run 2013. I’m hoping to enjoy it!



…look, I hope to enjoy it and think I will. But there is a part of me wishing I could be running alongside many other nutters who are getting together for a 42-miler. It won’t be uninterrupted, and I do hope they run 42.195mi, not ‘just’ (!) 42.0mi (look, you either get that or you don’t). I would love to share the experience, the emotions, the food, the sights… the camaraderie, quite simply. Hey, I wrote on here about how 13.1mi helped me bond with someone I’d known for eight years – imagine what 42 with folk you rarely get to see must have the potential to do!

What can I say, other than… maybe next year?

As I often say, “if I could jump in a car”… but I can’t. I’d have to get Up North on the Friday, run 42mi, maybe then wait till the Sunday to come back… Now with hindsight my Dad, who’s currently in Sheffield, might have helped me out: after all, Mum and he have offered to come and babysit next week if I have to be away on business on an evening when Karen has a couple of commitments! But therein lies the other piece of the jigsaw: a weekend away from the family, at a time when we haven’t actually spent an entire weekend together since… er, since coming home from our holiday on May 18! Karen took her Guides camping, then I went to Italy to see Springsteen, then Karen went to London for the weekend, then I went to London to see Springsteen… it’s all good, but a weekend at home won’t do anyone any harm. But… next year…

…so here’s where I really went wrong this time round, if ‘wrong’ is the right word. I thought of Longest Day Run as a run. To be precise, I thought of it as a run on the longest day of the year – well, at the end of that weekend, anyway. And that is not incorrect, of course. But this weekend is not about the run: it’s about all that soppy stuff I listed earlier. It’s about making an affirmation of one’s love for running and all that it stands for, ideally in the company of people with whom you share those values, those beliefs and, when possible, those experiences. I will be once again sharing those values and those beliefs but will have to delay sharing the experience itself. Although I’ll do my best to compensate for that with Twitter and Strava, of course.

So hey, Longest Day Run… I’m ready!

As for what lies ahead once set has the sun on Longest Day Run…

…well, Chester Marathon will be 106 days away. Now, 106 days ahead of Greater Manchester I wasn’t in full marathon training mode: that would have been January 12, a full month before my first pre-mara long run. But Bristol Half will be 85 days away, the Grand Pier (i.e. Weston-super-Mare) Half 99 days away… ah, but they’re just halves. That’s not to say I needn’t train for them: but I run at least one 13.1mi run every week anyway, have done every week of the year so far (I think… OK, not when we were on holiday, but I think that’s the sole exception) (must check!), and if I’m training for Chester I’ll be alright for the halves. Now, I trained for Greater Manchester over seven weeks, but at the start of that period I wasn’t where I am now. So maybe long runs can be a fortnightly event over the coming fifteen weeks? Seven or so long runs in preparing for a marathon?

Hmmm… sounds familiar. Almost too familiar. We’ll see. I’d still like to think I’ve got to a stage where I don’t need to get myself fit for a marathon, rather I need to maintain an established level of fitness and put a bit more focus into my efforts closer to the time. But hey, it’s quite likely that what these two things mean in terms of training are pretty much the same: 50mi/week, varying the focus of the sessions across Julian Goater’s “4S” (speed / stamina / strength / skill – not to be confused with Squintani’s 7S!), with at least one 13.1-miler every week and at least one 20-miler every fortnight, moving up to 23-milers in the six weeks or so preceding the 26.2-miler. And I’m now going off to freak out at how routine-like I made that sound – a) because I’ve only got one marathon under my bum bag, b) because I can’t… er… you know, I can’t…

…well OK, I couldn’t stand running!

Before I go freak out, let me just tell thee this fer nowt: I’m not giving up beer for three months. Not sure that was entirely necessary. One month should do it. What’s tha reckon?

And no, I genuinely am not aiming for a time. Although you never know, cometh Saturday I may feel good and aim for four hours.
For what distance?
Well no, that
’s the point. Just run for four hours. And not worry about the miles. But hey, we’ll see. Or should I say, I’ll see. And then I’ll tell thee.

* the definition of “long run” is subjective. And typically evolves over time. This time last year, I’d never once run 10k. I first broke 15k on July 3, before flying out to Paris to see Springsteen, and got into the routine of an 18.5k Weekly Long Run from August 12. That’s 11.8mi – so still sub-HM distance, yet sufficient to convince me, over a series of weeks, that I could run Bristol Half. These days, however, I am reluctant to use the term “long run” for my own efforts unless I’ve scored at least… well, a ‘score’.

Note To Self: August 12 is your wedding anniversary, Squinners. Try not to reference this other here anniversary when reminding Mrs S how blissful these seven years of marriage have been.