The final week before Jedburgh Half Marathon has not gone to exactly plan. I previously reported a bruising like pain on the sole of my left foot. On my final training run on Tuesday I tried some tempo work but after 3-4km the pain was such that I elected to ease up to prevent damage at such an important time. This was the first time it had really been sore while running. I immediately made an appointment with my trusty physio – let’s call him Alain, because that’s his name – for Wednesday morning. Alain has been helping me for a few years now and I trust his opinion. He has a track record of getting me back on my feet and for working with me towards my race and training goals.

There was some prodding and poking and a little bit of the sucking through teeth noises you hear when the plumber is under your sink. Eventually Alain presented the diagnosis – suspected stress fracture of the metatarsal. This provoked some strong language from me, but given the pain he has caused me over the years Alain is well used to this. While the diagnosis was a surprise, the next words uttered were not what I was expecting: “I think you should be OK for Sunday if it settles down and you rest and ice”.  I questioned the wisdom of running with a fracture and my skilled therapist looked me straight in the eye and earned his fee by saying “It is less than ideal”. Genius.

Anyhow, that was enough for me. The guy with the certificates on the wall – and he has quite a lot – told me I could run with a fractured foot. I was soon brought back to reality when he went to work on my damaged foot. The pain was 8/10 on the “Why am I paying for this?” scale. Not as bad as Achilles work and not even close to the ITB. I was sent off to work with orders to ice and rest. Swimming was ok, but no exercise that involved load on my feet. Next morning (Thursday) the foot was very sore and even walking down stairs was painful. A quick check with Alain confirmed that this was to be expected until the foot settled down, but I was now only 72 hours from the race. On my lunch-time visit to the gym for resistance work pre-swim I was convinced the race was off, but the improvement during Thursday was as dramatic as it was unexpected. I felt much better by Friday morning and was back on the physio table to be reassured that there was real improvement and the tender tissue would continue to show daily improvement.

My running shoes were checked for their cushioning effect (PASS) and Alain suggested a metatarsal gel protector to help get me through the race. A return to his office was agreed for late on Friday when he would have one available. This did not exactly go to plan and the one he wanted was not available locally but he went to the trouble of making one from various pieces of foot-care paraphernalia, including a gel pad. It looked a little like Blue Peter had been doing surgical pads, but it seemed to fit and provide the desired cushioning. That said, I did only jog for 6 metres along the corridor and I remain fearful of the need for a hasty removal after a few miles under race conditions.

Anyhow, I have little pain except when I have some lateral movement. That said, I had no pain before I ran on Tuesday. If a game of squash was in the diary I would be in trouble, but I plan on running forwards during the race. I intend to run, but won’t really know if I am taking part until I have warmed up properly and tested the foot over 10mins and at some speed. At this time I am no longer aiming for my sub 1:25 goal, but on the positive, if the foot holds out my fitness is good and the legs are well rested.

I have been warned that I can run through discomfort but not through pain. Any pain and I should step out of the race. I can already foresee a personal debate during the race “No, that’s just discomfort”. Whether the stubborn me can win that argument over 13 miles is another matter.





My headline half marathon target is one week away. At the time of my last post I was torn between pushing it one last little bit and settling for what fitness I had in the bank. As it turned out I was able to do a little of both by dropping the mileage of the long run while cranking up the speed a little, but still getting four quality running workouts in. My niggles have been mounting up: bruising-like pain on the sole of my left foot (but not when wearing shoes!), unusual pain on the top of my left ankle, slight tenderness on my vulnerable right Achilles and a sore bit behind my left knee. From this list it seems like I should not be running, but with lots of icing and scheduled rest I have been able to get through each run without anything getting any worse.

This last week, all of the above problems have noticeably improved, presumably helped by scaling back the distance in the long run.  That said, I increased my speed intervals on the track to 1200m x 6 with good steady times and the body held together. This coming week I plan on once again pushing the speed on tomorrow’s long run and then adding a 45min tempo run midweek. After that, I am essentially done with my prep for the race and intend to give my legs the chance to recover before next Sunday.

I am really valuing the days when I rest from running. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t enjoy them, but do see their value. I often still swim or cycle on these days, but for the moment feel that I need the recovery as I go about increasing the distance. I know that I will need to adjust for the marathon training and try to get more running days for the next stage, but I am starting to respond to the needs of my body.

My only downside is my performance in the 5km parkrun today. The fitness was fine, but there was just no fire and I was much slower than last week. The leading pack shot off at the start and I just didn’t respond. I did not find it hard to get the speed, I just didn’t seem to have things happening. I didn’t want to risk anything a week before the big race, but that is not my excuse. I have turned up at parkrun before all prepared to take it easy because of injury and found myself caught up in the race. I guess sometimes it happens, but for me it is always there in my head, just sometimes not my legs. I reassure myself that there will be no chance of me being anything other than fired up at the start of the half marathon when next week arrives. The occasion combined with caffeine energy bars will have me wired and straining at the leash.


Stick or Twist?

On October 15, 2011, in Half Marathon, Parkrun, PB, racing, road running, running, Training, by Alf

I’m getting greedy and considering a few risks. Jedburgh half marathon is two weeks from now. Edinburgh Marathon in May is the ultimate goal and I want to secure what for me would be a headline time. To that end, I want Jedburgh to be a race where I set a marker and provide a base for the next step up for the winter training. My half marathon time will give a better indicator of my realistic marathon goal and I am therefore putting a disproportionate emphasis on the Jedburgh run.

The training regime is primarily:

  • Saturday – 5km parkrun at hilly course – hard push throughout with HR averaging >176
  • Sunday – long slow run, reaching 24km last week and now on a modest taper
  • Tuesday – Speed work on the track, most recently 8 x 800m
  • Thursday – Hill repeats followed by some fartlek giving around 12km and average HR of around 140

My speed is improving steadily for the parkruns every week and a PB in my most recent 10k race a few weeks ago. The endurance is doing well and I found I was still had strength in the legs at >20km.

I want to do no worse than 1:25 in Jedburgh and would like to give the training a final push to ensure that my speed does not hit a bump when running the longer race distance. Given my propensity for injury I know that deep down this is borderline madness, especially given that I am feeling so good with the progress already. While I know I should take the safe option, I keep thinking of the progress I have made in the last 4 weeks and want to continue on that trajectory for another week or two. Just typing this makes the choice seem obvious……..

I have a 20km run planned tomorrow, during which I plan on running some faster intervals and ramping up the average speed a little If that goes well I will consider what I do from there. Any significant niggles at all and I will reign it back in. If all goes well then I will still plot a cautious course (probably) and mix it up a little with perhaps a threshold run this week to add something new.

Can my 5km and 10km race speed combined with my other workouts sustain me for my half marathon target?




This time last week I was pleased at having been able to fully resume my training after injury, but completely wiped out by a 22km run that left me hurting from my ankles to my waist. I later realised that I had been running non-stop for 2:02hrs – my longest run EVER – and with the conditions I had most likely given myself an especially hard workout though the difficult puddles and mud.  With the benefit of hindsight I think that is exactly what I did.

I had a 1km swim on Monday and the legs seemed to relish the cooling exercise without the weight bearing load.  Back on the track on Tuesday and the 800m intervals were solid and strong if unremarkable. The initial leg stiffness seemed to dissipate after a few km and I covered just over 10km in what seemed like a very short time.

The hill repeats and fartlek on Thursday covered just over 12 km in rain and wind. Initially miserable (the hill repeats in the rain) and then exhilarating once I accepted being soaked and was running freely on the flat. Towards the end I felt like I could go on for a few more km and was really enjoying the buzz.

Saturday is parkrun day. I cannot really explain how much parkrun has changed my running life. I get a lot out of running in any form, but I love to race. Parkrun has given me the chance to regularly get a scheduled, timed workout that now forms part of training plan, and being only 5km the legs are still fine for my long run on a Sunday. Looking through the training data collected by my Suunto, I was actually surprised to learn that the Falkirk parkrun was actually scoring highest of my workouts on Suunto’s “Training Effect” and was categorised as “Highly Improving”. The surprise was because I push my intervals hard on the track and very hard on the hill repeats. The fact that parkrun scored highest for a run lasting less than 20mins is indicative of just how hard I am running during this short run. Making a race of it seems to distract me from the hard work and that has to be a good thing. This Saturday my running was hard but steady, and even though I had no-one near me for pace I managed to maintain speed and was faster than last week by some margin to set a new PB.  It is a measure of how important I now treat the parkrun workout that I take a rest from running the previous day. I would like to take the chance to praise the local parkrun team; they have a great attitude, terrific commitment and are creating a fun little running community that I truly hope goes from strength to strength.

With three weeks left to my big half marathon challenge at Jedburgh, I was behind in my plan and needed a long run of 23km with a speed increase on the return to test the legs. The canal towpath was in much better condition than last week and allowed you to get a decent stride working. Everything went really well and the body felt strong, a world of difference from last week. I was able to gradually crank up the pace on the second half and further still in the last 25%, covering the final 30mins to the finish at around 85-90% of race pace on tired legs. The final stats showed that I had covered a distance of 23.6km in 1:59hr, a full 1km more than last week and yet more than 3 min faster. As a post script, my training partner’s shiny new Garmin allowed me to re-calibrate my Suunto foot pod over a long distance. It turns out that I had actually been running faster and further than I thought by some 3%. Not an enormous amount, but better the error is in my favour.

Post run, and all the usual points of body weakness felt fine.  I had run the furthest ever single run at 23.6km and my biggest ever running week at just over 50km. I had also hit another parkrun PB, indicating that my endurance work has not all been at the expense of the speed. I feel that the Jedburgh goal is within my grasp and a few more weeks will help me work on my speed within the half marathon distance.

So far, so good.


An unwelcome hiatus

On October 4, 2011, in Parkrun, road running, running, Training, by Alf

After a great spell of concentrated and uninterrupted training and a good performance in the Stirling 10k, my calf problem brought this running machine to a stuttering halt. The calf pain hit me suddenly mid-run a few minutes after I had commented on how good I felt.  Despite the level of discomfort I was in, I somehow convinced myself that because it had arrived so suddenly, it would heal just as quickly. I had plans after all, a parkrun to take care of and long runs to get in. I was on a steep improvement curve and craving more. An injury was an inconvenience that I was not willing to contemplate.

Pushing through with parkrun and then another run the next day was seriously dumb. As it turned out, I only needed 3-4 days rest and the healing would have been complete. As it happened, it was 10 days before I was back to where I was pre-injury, simply because I ran when I should have paid attention to the needs of my body. Because of my impatience, I actually only had two days without running, but those two days combined with a big drop in my activity level was a shock to the system. I felt tired and there was a sense that something was missing. It is strange how much the body starts to expect the exercise.

After the short rest and two gentle runs of 4km and 8km, I was finally feeling strong again at parkrun. The legs did ok over the 5km course and I had no reaction post race. The next day I was determined to get my long run done. I have been stepping up my long Sunday run aiming for something in excess of half marathon distance and 22km was the goal. It was only 4 weeks till Jedburgh Half. Come Sunday, the legs felt good and I was really up for the run. The weather was wet, but there was no wind so off I set. The weather might have been wet, but it soon became clear that the previous night had been VERY wet. The canal towpath was littered with puddles the width of the track, some of them ankle deep. I am no fan of soaking feet, but within minutes I had accepted my fate and was running the shortest route even if it meant straight through puddles. The 11km out was ok, if unspectacular, at one hour dead. This was about distance, not speed, I reminded myself. The return trip was tough. I was wet and the very gentle breeze was chilling me. My feet were soaking and the stride was being both interrupted and resisted by running in the puddles. It was my first run in months where I had nothing left to step up the pace. My training partner and I normally have a great chat during the “easier” Sunday pace, but for the final third the conversation topics didn’t come so readily.

The end finally arrived and when I stopped I had my first feeling of exhaustion with an immediate burst of pain in my quads. I thought of how a marathon would feel and felt my enthusiasm seep away. The watch showed 2 hours 02 mins. With the benefit of hindsight I actually did well. I had been hampered with an injury niggle, ran in tricky conditions and covered a longer distance than ever before.  A little over 24 hours later and a 30 minute swim had eased all my aches and I felt brand new again. This just might be ok.

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