Running, life and motivation

With spring marathon season here, I thought this post from December was worth a re-blog!


Life and running are uncannily similar . I suppose you could say the same for any sport . How you approach it says a lot about your character and how you live your life. One of our greatest obstacles to persevering with running is motivation issues. If we can conquer these we’ll learn a lot about ourselves and greatly improve. Also, if you know how to achieve this let me know!!

Few of us are motivated 100% of the time. Even athletes struggle and need really good coaches to push them through low stages. I reckon if we’re motivated 60% of the time we are lucky. Running is like life in that sense.

My tips for running motivation are:
1. Set yourself achievable goals
2. When things get too boring or predictable change things a bit.
3. Review what you’ve achieved.
4. Accept and surrender to the “bad” patches

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Piggy-back success!

Now that spring marathon season is here I thought this post was worth a re-blog !


I haven’t blogged in a couple of months so I decided that since I have run a half marathon, 10k and the Belfast Marathon, that it was time for a brief update…

I finished the last blog with a moan about my hip. In short I recovered. I didn’t do the 10k mentioned in that blog – I really can’t remember why! I subsequently set out to a half marathon a week or two later in Omagh and there was an accident on the motorway which meant I was never going to make it in time – half marathon aborted! In between times I did my ‘favourite’ half marathon in Larne – what a disaster! It was hot and I totally bombed it. I hit a disastrous 1:48 when I was aiming for sub 1:40!

On a lighter note I did the Titanic Quarter 10k race in April and got a…

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Running, life and motivation

Life and running are uncannily similar . I suppose you could say the same for any sport . How you approach it says a lot about your character and how you live your life. One of our greatest obstacles to persevering with running is motivation issues. If we can conquer these we’ll learn a lot about ourselves and greatly improve. Also, if you know how to achieve this let me know!!

Few of us are motivated 100% of the time. Even athletes struggle and need really good coaches to push them through low stages. I reckon if we’re motivated 60% of the time we are lucky. Running is like life in that sense.

My tips for running motivation are:
1. Set yourself achievable goals
2. When things get too boring or predictable change things a bit.
3. Review what you’ve achieved.
4. Accept and surrender to the “bad” patches
5. No matter what always, always keep going…don’t give up if you don’t achieve all your goals – view running as something you are going to do for the rest of your life and not a quick fix to weight/health/financial/personal problems (although I know many people who, for them, running saved their life).

I have just set myself a target of running 2013 miles in 2013. Yikes!! This will be very very tough with my work, family and other commitments but I am determined. It will mean a 545am start most mornings and it averages at 5.6miles per day every day for 365 days. This is possibly an unrealistic target but I’ll know by the end of January !!

I know I’m going to hit periods of tedium so I’ll mix this about with runs to work (17miles) , running near work, running near home, running with the running club and participating in races.

In 2012 I got in 183 runs (a run every 1.99 days). I covered 1,145 miles. That averages 3.14 miles per day over 365. Clearly I will have to really increase my output to reach 2013. However I can’t wait to get started. It’s a non marathon year for me and this challenge will keep me motivated. In 2012, after my September races, I had no target and running went downhill (excuse the pun). Joining the local running club in recent months has got me going again to a degree but I need a personal target. Me vs me. Life is like that. You’re only ever really competing with yourself.

The new target is long – 365 days. There’ll be ups and downs and I really must cash in on the miles when the going is good . Like life, I will hit really rough patches and periods when I can’t function effectively for no apparent reason. At these times you both accept and surrender and know that it will come good again . Just do the best you can .

Reviewing your achievements is an important motivational tool, as it only makes me want to do better. In 2012 I got personal bests in all three of my distances – 10k, half mara & marathon. That’s a good year by anyone’s standards – but that was all in the first 7 months of the year. I’m now ready for more PBs in 2013.

Here’s to a faster, fitter, stronger 2013…Cheers everyone!!

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10 points about the 10k

There is definitely an art and strategy in mastering a 10k in as fast a pace as you possibly can. Despite my recent training not being great I entered a 10k race last Sunday. I was a nearly a whole minute off my Personal Best and 20 secs slower than my last 10k (and it was on a hilly course!) – really highlighting my poor training in the weeks prior.

So this is what I have learned about racing the 10k…
1. Know your exact target pace. For instance for me to get a PB of 43mins I needed to run 7:04 p/mi. I knew by mile two that this was not going happen. It can be frustrating but liberating too…
2. As it is fairly natural to start quickly in a race owing to a rush of adrenalin, you should use this to shave seconds off your first couple of miles. For instance, I wanted my first two miles to average at 6:59-7:00per/mi. Anything faster would probably be too quick. My average was well off at 7:20 and thus I knew I had too much to do so I just kept giving it my best to get a respectable time (for me!).
3. Hang in for the middle of the race so as the average pace doesn’t fall much below your target.
4. Try to lift it a little for at least one of the last two miles in order to get in at the desired time or better!
5. Realise that points 2-4 are not always possible and be comfortable with this. If this is the case look upon the race as a terrific training run toward your next race !
6. One bad mile in a 10k is pretty impossible to turn round for a PB. My second mile on Sunday was 7:30 (my half marathon target pace!!) – I knew it was not my day and eventually finished at 7:18p/mi average.
7. Make sure you do the speed work in the weeks prior !! Intervals intervals intervals at least once a week but possibly twice. If you push really hard in these sessions most people, short of Olympians, couldn’t do more than two per week!
8. Make the intervals long & short mix e.g. Perhaps 12 x 200m; then next session 8 x 800m (half mile)… Both will require different pace settings but I would do the 800s at your ultimate goal pace. For instance, my ultimate goal in the future is sub 40, so my 800m intervals are at 6:26/mi… Etc
9. Don’t overeat or carb up – it’s not a marathon. An isotonic drink and perhaps a gel should suffice.
10. Crucially – run your own race. Ignore people whizzing past, particularly if they don’t “look” as fit as you. Chances are you’ll pass them somewhere between mile 4 and 5!!

My last point is about close season running – boy it’s difficult to keep the momentum up!! What do you do to keep the focus? I’ve PB’d my marathon, my half and my 10k this season…I’m now losing focus as the season closes…help 🙂

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Why we really love Jessica Ennis…

So let’s face it, she is the face of London 2012 for a reason and it is much more than her stunning looks and figure. Many athletes have these qualities. What makes Jessica Ennis our golden girl?
1. she is one of us
Whilst overpaid primadonas run about the football pitch as if they are owed a living because of their god given “gift” Jessica Ennis beats a heptathlon hurdles record and looks at the crowd in awe of their support – “oh my god” slips out as she looks at the fans and girlishly raises her hands to cover her ‘foul’ mouth. She has given us a beautiful moment but shared it with us too. She is one of us.
2. she doesn’t win everything, all of the time, but by God she fights like a dog
As a heptathlete it is impossible to be ace at all seven events. Furthermore, after Jess suffered a stress fracture and missed Beijing in 2008, she has had to retrain to jump off her other leg in the long jump! She hasn’t won all of her heptathlons coming up to 2012 as one or two sports can go wrong in this event. But it doesn’t matter to us – when we see her face in slow mo during a hurdles or 200m race, and her abs ripple with the tension of a fierce gladiator, we know she is fighting tooth and nail to achieve Gold. She is leaving absolutely nothing out there and that is incredible to watch. Watching Jess Ennis is a privilege and a lesson in life.
3. she is a beautiful and humble girl
Post race interviews with Jess are amazing. She has worked so hard for years, notoriously dreading her really tough Monday sessions, yet she “can’t believe” her record hurdles pace. She later goes on to attribute her success to the crowd! Wow – all they did was cheer – you did all the Monday sessions (not to mention the rest) !! Jess we love your genuine humility and appreciation of the crowd – but really they are there because of you, not the other way around :-).
4. she deserves it
She just does ok – see above.
5. any man or woman would be proud to be her parent
She works so hard, she is so polite, she is level headed and there is a little vulnerability as she takes to the arena for each event – she isn’t a 100% certainty for Gold…This really makes us root for her and share the emotion of winning and losing with her…

In summation, Jessica Ennis is the closest thing to perfection in the Olympics. That is why – win or lose later today – we all love and will continue to love Jessica Ennis. #GoJess

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Lessons for sport & life from the Olympians…

Watching the emotion of every medal win or “failure” in London 2012 teaches us so much about sport and life. The Olympics have really helped bring people together – in parks with screens, community halls and bars across the world -to watch the Olympians put themselves through excruciating physical and emotional pain after many years of tough training and dreaming.

Nonetheless, most go without hope of a medal. Those who do have a hope are most liable to suffer extreme disappointment. So what can we learn?

1. No matter what, you have to be brave and have a go.
I was pleased when the eight badminton players were disqualified for their despicable behaviour in trying to throw games. How dare they trample all over the dreams of many who would have loved to compete?? In contrast, over the last two days we have seen real excruciating effort from Team GB’s rowers. Today the LW 4s got silver after going hard for gold. They were disappointed, but it’s all relative. The Mens8s came third yesterday after totally going for bust. They pushed the German team (unbeaten in 4 yrs) right up to the last 200 m. They didn’t give up half way to settle for silver, they wrecked themselves trying to achieve what most said they couldn’t do – beat Germany . Yes, the pundits were right. Germany pulled away and GB, spent and deflated, were passed by Canada and just hung in for bronze. I have such respect for how they went for bust. They sacrificed silver to achieve rowing immortality but fell short. Hats off. They know they did all they could and no more can be asked of anyone.
2. Sport and life are cruel – it is a fine line
One of our very own NI rowers, after his silver, described the row as “brutal”. He was totally spent yet fell 0.25secs short of gold – his team just short of Olympic rowing immortality. Did he train any less than the Golden rowing heroes of the day prior? No chance. The two ladies Glover and Stanning won GB’s first Gold of the Olympics in the rowing boat just yesterday. They are Olympic heroes. The only difference between them and the others is that they won. All of the competitors worked hard, shared the same emotions, shared the pain. Most lose in the end and only a few win. Only the winners are remembered beyond immediate friends and family.
3. You are only competing with yourself
One of the most striking things about the Olympians is their general acceptance that if they are beaten it is usually because someone is simply better. Rebecca Adlington, the golden girl of four years ago in the pool, achieved a credible bronze in London 2012. She was delighted and exclaimed that she had absolutely given everything. She did not feel entitled to a medal. She earned it and she appreciated it. She apologised to the crowd for not getting gold but in the end she knew the other swimmers were simply better and she had been the best SHE could be. Had her performance or training been lacklustre then surely she would not have been as proud with even, say a Silver medal?
4. Winning matters, but winning isn’t simply about coming first all the time
Some athletes, football teams and so on will achieve glory as a one off. True winners never quit. They keep competing, they keep achieving – and that means LOSING a lot ! It means heartache more than glory – year after year. The Olympic rowers I mentioned earlier will no doubt train as hard for 2016 – because they have a winning mentality. They won’t throw in the towel now. Similarly, those, like Rebecca, who have achieved gold will be back yet again in four years after hard graft to stay in with a shout of a podium finish in Rio2016. People who compete consistently will inevitably ‘lose’ many races, but they are winners as they keep competing , they keep giving their best and can frequently be satisfied that they “left nothing out there” I.e. no regrets. When many of us amateurs run we have no mission of winning the race, but to do it in OUR best time is victory. To know we have earned it is success.

I admire Paula Radcliffe. She’s the greatest female marathon runner of all time with an incredible 2:15 marathon. God knows she has competed for years and she has been dogged with injury and has had her “disaster” races. She is devastated to have to pull out of her home Olympics at the 11th hour, but she did it to be unselfish. She knew she couldn’t give it her best and she is standing aside to give someone else the chance to take her place. She is a true winner in sport and in life. She says that her “spirit is broken” by this latest setback, but for what she did consistently throughout her running career she will always be remembered as a winner. You see, in pulling out, Paula manifested everything that gets her the adoration of thousands.
5. Success is subjective and addictive
I’ve just run a half marathon PB this week and this year I had already done the same in the marathon and the 10k races. Now my times aren’t exactly going to take me to Rio in 2016, but for me this was success. But the thing is , we’re never fully satisfied. Yes we’re happy with our performance and know that we’ve done our best …for now . Winners always want to improve . As soon as one goal is successfully achieved winners immediately set another goal and another. It’s addictive. It generates drive and passion and it breeds more success. Take Sir Alex Ferguson, at 70 years of age he is still the driving force behind Manchester United’s record breaking team – winning more league titles than any manager in English league history. Will he rest at that? No chance.

To conclude, all winners have an incredible ability to keep going, to come back and compete, win or lose, time after time. Coming first is a symptom of being a winner but you don’t have to come first to be a winner.

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Pre-race: Rest or Run??

Having just rounded off a 51.25mile running week with a half marathon Personal Best at Cookstown, County Tyrone, I have come to the conclusion that I still do not know what works best for me on the lead up to a race: rest or running??

On the week of the Belfast Marathon I completed two light runs and was well rested after a very good training programme in the weeks prior. I achieved a marathon PB by a staggering 18 minutes. This week I have run over 50 miles, run for 11 days on the trot (14 days in the past 15) – over 90miles in the last fortnight. I achieved a personal best in my half marathon this afternoon by a solid two minutes!!

So what works ? Rest or running? I simply dont know.

The last two weeks have included a ten mile and a 10k race, as well as a few tough interval sessions. I think one reason I have been able to pound the roads and still race well recently is my purchase of a foam roller to roll out the leg muscles. A fellow runner recommended it and I have used it everyday. Apart from this does anyone have any ideas about rest vs running?

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Running 10k races as half marathon prep…

It is essential to get some race practice in the build up to your ‘A’ race. 10k races are perfect preparation for a half marathon. I am doing my final half m of the summer on Sunday and I entered a 10k race on Wednesday night.

1. Racing is the best way to prepare your nerves for the start line at your ‘A’ race. Butterflies are inevitable and so is the feeling that you need to make a toilet visit ! The more you race, the more you get these things right e.g when to drink? What to drink/eat etc. Practice races train you to reach the start line in good shape…
2. 10k races are quick, but the pace is good prep for the latter stages of a half. The last few miles of a half are tough. 10k should be fairly tough from mile one if you are putting it in. This is great prep.
3. You’ll not replicate race pace in training EVER. During Wednesday’s 10k there was someone on my shoulder for the whole distance. It kept me determined to let no one pass and this pushed me the whole race. Although this wasnt my A race, it didn’t mean it had to be a stroll!! I simply couldn’t get this in my solitary training runs.
4. A decent 10k race will give you confidence of a strong pace on the half m. The half m pace will inevitably feel a little easier. My 10k pace is 7m10secs per mi currently, whereas I’m looking closer to 7m45secs for my half m. at the time of writing …

Good luck to all you half marathoners!

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Portaferry 10 mile: What did I say about race strategy?

What did I say in an earlier post about race strategy? Ignore it . I did tonight!

I should start by saying that I love this race. There is a terrific atmosphere but I broke all my own golden rules.

I nearly didn’t run as I have a sore throat , sore hamstring and calf sob sob and just generally felt like a big Jessie today. Nonetheless I went …and I bumped into friends. They’re in a running club; I ain’t. They started out saying they would settle for 78 mins or so for this hilly 10mile country run. However as we started it was clear the pace was too quick for 78 and it was too quick for me!! Did I slow? Did I listen to my body? Did I forget the pack and run my own race ?? Did I heck! I ran like a novice. At mile 6 I started to drift and the last few miles were tortuous as I slumped behind the others. It was humid and I had no nutrition…

I actually finished in 78 mins (the fastest of the others did it in 74 – ha 78 my eye!!). Although I hit my target for this race I knew it wasn’t a solid performance with good even splits. I was using this as training / hamstring test for a half marathon in 12 days time and I will know more about how the leg is in the morning, but early signs are 50/50 at best 😦

Nonetheless, hats off to the Portaferry 10 mile race – I hope to be there again in 2013!


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Necessity and benefits of interval sessions

I have a love/hate relationship with interval sessions. I love it when my weekly session is just finished and I hate the those moments each week as I approach the session.

I perform intervals weekly- usually a Monday or Tuesday. In spite of the fear and trepidation with which I approach these there are a number of reasons runners should not ignore interval sessions.

Intervals are necessary to:
1. Improve your pace.
2. Improve your running form.
3. Bring variety into your running.

The benefits of interval sessions are immense:
1. By setting the distance and pace of your intervals appropriately you can really target improved race times for your 10k, half marathon or marathon. The intervals will vary according to what you are training for. For example, I am currently trying to improve my 10k time over 24 months from 44mins to sub 40. I know this is a huge task but I also know that I’ll never do it if I don’t get used to running at that pace . So in my current weekly intervals I run a half mile x 6 (2mins rest intervals). The half mile is at 6:26mins/mile as this is the pace I need to achieve for a sub 40mins. When I have achieved all 6 intervals on target or better, I increase the number of weekly intervals from 6 to 8, then 10 and so on. I will stick at 6 intervals however until I am fit to move on.
2. As you perform at speed the improvements in running form will benefit your capacity to run better during a race, for longer. The act of running quickly gets your leg muscles used to the intensity and it readies them for action. We all tend to run quicker in a race than in training. If our legs aren’t ready we could cause injury.
3. You are more likely to improve your breathing as you should be puffing during an interval session. This will help you in tough parts of a run or for a sustained effort during a 10k, for example.
4. The intensity not only improves fitness but will burn fat for longer – even 24hours after the session. It is intensity that gets weight down. Long slow runs don’t have the same benefits nor do they raise your metabolism for as long after the session. Furthermore, the long run is more likely to make you hungry! However, of course the long run is the staple run of any half marathon or marathon but you need a weekly interval session as well. Sometimes you can work intervals into a long run (at an appropriate pace).
5. Finally, intervals provide a little variety and are generally a quick session – probably no more than an hour, but often shorter.

In short, intervals are intense and tough but it is because of this they are so beneficial to our running !

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