Goodbye 2012: The obligatory look back at a year of running

2012

Well, it’s that time again folks.  Another year over, a new one just begun, and with the new year comes a couple of old traditions.

Firstly, we can expect the inevitable deluge of brand new runners, spurred on by resolutions to get fit, run a marathon, and generally run faster, longer and easier than me with barely an ounce of effort. To be honest though, I’ve finally made peace with this and any annoyance I feel is totally overshadowed by the warm fuzzy feeling I get from seeing others discovering just how ruddy great this running lark is. And that’s swearing.

Secondly, it’s a time for runners to reflect on what they’ve achieved over the last 12 months and to set new goals for the coming year. And that’s pretty much what you’re reading right now. Before I get too far ahead of myself, I should point out that this particular post is more for my benefit than for yours. I just wanted a handy record of how 2012 went, and what I plan to accomplish in 2013. So don’t expect the usual flights of fancy involving armies of talking whelks or amiable but clumsy yetis (or should that be yetii?)

If it helps, you could see this post as a voyeuristic glimpse into a secret room inside my head. But not the room with the bones and the funny smell; that’s a different room.

Oh, who am I kidding? There’ll be yetii aplenty (aplentii?)

This time last year I posted a few goals for the coming 12 months. The full version can be found here, but here’s a summary of how I got on…

1.       Cut down on “junk miles” and add more structure to my running rather than just heading out and hoping for the best.

2.       Run 1000 miles over the course of the year

WORK IN PROGRESS

The year started off well, and right up until Thunder Run in August I was juggling a smorgasbord* of different types of run. Hills, tempo, recovery, proper LSRs, intervals, they were all there. I even followed the advice of an excellent book on proper heart rate training and started seeing impressive results when I slooooowed right down on my recovery runs. But by the mid-August I hit a slump. A change in shift pattern at work meant that I’d theoretically have even more time mid-week to get out and run, but for some unknown reason it just didn’t pan out that way. I became the king of procrastination, the duke of self-sabotage, the viscount of non-runningness.

This continued throughout September and into October, and it wasn’t just the quantity of runs that were affected; the quality suffered too. A sporadic running schedule combined with a hectic everything-else schedule meant that when I did manage to get myself out the door I was keen to put some miles in the bank but didn’t have the time to run them slowly. So this resulted in lots of mid-range runs at a mid-range pace and very little else. That said, I’m very much a silver-linings type of person**, so part of me was glad to see my performance suffer, as it taught me just how valuable a varied training plan really is.

I eventually sorted myself out and gave myself a swift kick up the bum, and before too long I was heading out on proper LSRs again and mixing it up with quicker runs. Those of you who’ve read this recent post will know that this came unstuck too, but that was due to injury rather than mojo, and I’m all better now so it doesn’t count.

As a result of all this, by the time Big Ben chimed the end of 2012 I was still nearly 100 miles short of my 1000 mile goal. But I’ve checked the paperwork, and it turns out that if I had managed to hit the magic 1000 I wouldn’t have instantly won a speedboat or my own bodyweight in jaffa cakes***. And more importantly, I’m assured that failing to hit an arbitrary goal doesn’t cancel out all the miles I did run, so I’m honestly not bothered by this one.

3.       Eat more healthily

PASS!

I blogged about this earlier in the year, but I’ve found it surprisingly easy to turn my eating habits around, mainly by forcing myself to acknowledge just how easy it is for scary amounts of empty calories to sneak in under the radar. A little bit of calorie counting earlier in the year taught me that it’s possible to just eat sensibly without needing to resort to drastic diets and tree-bark smoothies.

4.       Cross train

WORK IN PROGRESS

I haven’t really tackled this as much as I would have liked. Halfway through the year I asked a friend of mine who is wise in such things to put together a strength and conditioning programme for me. I stuck with it for a while and saw some great results, but then the aforementioned slump hit, and suddenly there just weren’t enough hours in the day. Need to get back on this one.

5.       Enter more races, including parkruns wherever possible

FAIL!

Less races this year, and not even a single Parkrun, despite one starting up a lot closer to home. Shame on me!

6.       Do more trail running

WORK IN PROGRESS

I’ve yet to find any breathtakingly rugged and panoramic routes near me, so I’ve had to take whatever gravelly footpath I can get and just call it a trail. But on the odd occasion when I have ventured out in my trail shoes for a bit of proper mud action, I’ve loved it, so this is something I’ll hopefully be pushing in 2013.

7.       5k PB down to 25:00 (ideally closer to 22)

8.       10k PB down to 50:00

9.       Half marathon down to sub 2hr

PASS / FAIL / FAIL

I can’t find the exact times, but I think that when I set myself this goal my PBs for 5k and 10k were somewhere in the region of 27:30 and 1 hour respectively. I do remember my half marathon PB though, because I’d done two of them, and they both came in at 2:13:18.

Generally pleased with my 2012 times, even though I didn’t quite hit all of my targets…

5k = 24:28 (training run, 14th November 2012)

10k = 53:10 (Cransley Hospice 5k, 16th September 2012)

Half = PB remains at 2:13:18

The 10k could probably have been a bit quicker, but I stopped off to help a fellow plodder who’d succumbed to Sudden Horizontalization Syndrome (more on that race here). I only did one half marathon, which was the Silverstone Half back in March. It was a nice race, but a combination of too much sunshine and too fast a pace in the first few miles meant that it was no surprise when I dragged myself across the finish line in 2:14:09.

10.   Start marathon training towards the end of the year

PASS! (sort of)

I (unsuccessfully) entered the VLM 2013 ballot and I’ve been looking at a few other races to pop my 26.2 cherry. Looking counts as training, right?

Actually, towards the end of the year I did start pushing up the distance of my long runs, and managed to hit 18 miles, so I’m claiming that as marathon training.

11.   Say goodbye to double-figure pace

PASS!

When I first started running, it seemed to take forever to get to the stage where I could run comfortably at anything quicker than a 10 minute/mile pace, regardless of distance. Which is why this seemingly petty goal felt quite important to me. At the moment, my default pace for anything over 5k tends to gravitate to around 9:15, so I’m happy with that. Anything above 10 miles and it creeps back up to 10 min/miles, but these generally count as my LSR so it’s to be expected.

12.   Manage a pull-up

BIG PASS!

Of all my goals, nailing this one was the biggest surprise. You might remember that this time last year I used the phrase “dangling like a forlorn gibbon”, and for once I wasn’t exaggerating. To some, the goal of managing one measly solitary pull-up might have seemed conservative, but these damned things were my fitness nemesis. I’ve always had okay-ish upper-body strength but for some reason, when it came to pull-ups, it was as though my arms just didn’t work in the same way as everyone else.

But… (yay, happy ending!) thanks to some excellent coaching by my strength gurus, Messrs Sullivan & Verbitsky**** I built up my strength, worked on my technique and metaphorically waved my tonker in the face of Mr Pull-Up. I’m now able to do one set of ten dead-hang pull-ups, followed by three more sets of 7-8. By gym-bunny standards it’s probably not that impressive, but as far as I’m concerned: “Grrr… Me strong”.

13.   Keep plodding along and enjoying myself

SUPERPASS!!!

Highs:

Thunder Run

Long runs getting longer, Short runs getting quicker.

Discovering twitter and chatting to some amazing fellow runners.

Thunder Run.

Buying a running top in size small (and fitting into it without looking like a neon sausage).

Meeting and running with Simon Wheatcroft.

Thunder Run.

Lows:

A couple of mojo-sapping lulls.

Sabotaging myself at the Silverstone half.

So, that was a less-than-concise look at 2012. But what does 2013 hold? I tell you what, we’ll have a chat about that next time. You’ve probably got stuff to do, and I want to go and read that book about the happy terrapin that I got for Christmas.

* Never try juggling an actual smorgasbord, you’ll just make a mess on the carpet.
** Yeah, blood annoying aren’t we?
*** I did once enter a competition to win my own bodyweight in speedboats. The bloke who did eventually win it must have weighed at least 20 stone, but it turns out that’s still not an awful lot of speedboat.
**** “Sullivan & Verbitsky” was also the name of a pair of wild-west era travelling snake oil salesmen. Interestingly, Phineas J Sullivan and Angus “Whiskers” Verbitsky just used the illicit panhandling as a cover for their real business of roaming from town to town rescuing kittens and solving mysteries. True story.
(Not a true story)
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5 thoughts on “Goodbye 2012: The obligatory look back at a year of running

  1. Well, after reading all of your missives I have come up with the ideal solution for you.

    *Do bad things in public places*

    This means that you would have to do lots and lots of running, albeit it in the away direction.

    So, go fondle a penguin and watch your 5k PB crash like a hand-glider in a gale.

    What I’m really commenting for is to tell you that you have inspired me to go running too. I have signed up for a half marathon in May. Not just any half marathon either, oh no, that would be too simple. It is a half marathon, WITH OBSTACLES.

    There is a thing called Tough Mudder. This one is just round the corner from your house. I will be doing it. I’m a foooooooooool.

    http://toughmudder.co.uk/events/londoneast-midlands-sat-4-may-sun-5-may-2013/

  2. “Buying a running top in size small (and fitting into it without looking like a neon sausage).” Yay! I got the same going from an X-Large to Large (I’m quite tall, and was quite …cough… bulky). Now I’m in Large, and all the stuff I bought a year ago is like wearing an athletic-looking tent.

    Never in my life thought I might need to get a “thin-fit” shirt – nearly died laughing when I first thought of trying one on…

  3. Very nice of you to mention me in your highlight of 2012 reel!

    I keep on meaning to do a highlight reel of 2012, but it was full of lowlights. I had too much happen in 2012 that running just took a back seat,

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