Tag Archives: instarunners

Colchester Half Marathon 2018

On Sunday the 25th of March I took part in the Colchester Half Marathon. It was the third time I have ran the race; mainly because it is Lorna’s home half marathon. Having only raced in a RunThrough 5k in January and the Cancer Research Winter 10k I wanted to push myself and see what shape I was in ahead of the London Marathon. I lowered my mileage in the week leading up to the race, pacing The Running Works Run Club and run commuting at a steady pace.

Last year Lorna’s brother Rob and I opted for an easy 5k on the Saturday to shake our legs out. As it worked well we decided to do the same again. I was really looking forward to race day but for some reason I doubted whether I could run a good time or be able to work hard when it got tough in the final few kilometres (which it always does).

With the race starting at 9am we woke up around 7 o’clock to have breakfast and get our race kit ready. I slept well and my legs felt good. Before the Colchester Half last year I’d ran Essex 20 the previous weekend and raced a lot so my legs were tired. Therefore I was aiming to beat my time of 1:14:58. We all headed to Colchester Community Stadium to drop our bags and get on the start line.

Photo courtesy of gazette news, Essex County Standard.

Having finished 2nd in 2017 I positioned myself near the front. Remembering the first 4k or so is slightly downhill I decided to push the pace early on and get into a good rhythm.

Two runners flew off the start and were into the distance but I had a couple of club runners for company in the opening kilometres. Running up the hill and onto the high street the crowds were out in force.

Approaching Ipswich Road, which is a gradual uphill, I settled into a good pace. I calculated I needed to hold around 3:30min/km to finish in under 75 minutes. Despite running on my own the kilometres went quickly and I was soon winding my way through the industrial estate. It was a shame not having anyone to race but I was focused on holding my pace and bagging a time to qualify for a championship start in the London Marathon for the next few years.

Running along Langham Lane and Dedham Road it was really quiet. It felt strange running in a race and for there to be no one around. I turned onto Straight Road which lasts for a good 4 to 5 kilometres. I knew this was where I needed to “dig deep” / “go to the well”. The long straight road is quite demoralising but luckily for me Lornas parents live a mile or so from the finish so I always look forward to cheers from her family and know I haven’t got long left from there.

Photo courtesy of Liam Winters Photography.

Nearing the football stadium I was keeping a close eye on my watch, as I was still holding 3:30min/km on average I knew I was going to make it in under 75 minutes. I mustered a sprint finish to cross the line in 74:05 in 3rd place.

I congratulated the winner and runner up before grabbing my bag to watch Lorna, Alex, Rob and Smithy finish. They all ran really well; Lorna clocked her second fastest half marathon time in 1:31 and Rob got a personal best.

Overall it was another great race. No doubt I will be back in 2019 to try and go quicker again.

Steve

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The Run Through Battersea Park 5k

On Saturday 6th January I took part in the Run Through Battersea Park 5k. I signed up in December because I knew it would be a good opportunity to see what sort of shape I was in ahead of marathon training. Having banked some consistent mileage over the 5-6 weeks leading up to Christmas I was confident of clocking a time close to my PB of 16:30. During the week I completed a few tough sessions so I knew I would be racing on tired legs. However, in December I took part in a few parkruns and managed to clock times below 17 minutes on courses with hills and sharp corners.

I woke up on the Saturday morning really excited to race. Having not raced much over the last few months I couldn’t wait to push the pace and see what I could do. In recent weeks I have definitely started to enjoy racing 5ks more. This is probably thanks to some tough but great track sessions. I also feel as though I’m starting to embrace suffering more than I have over the past couple of years.

I decided to jog the 4km from home to Battersea Park to “warm up”. It was absolutely freezing! Arriving in plenty of time I picked up my race number without having to queue at all. With it pinned to my Iffley Road vest and having attached the timing chip to my trainers, I was ready to go. I jogged around the park for a short while to keep warm and then headed to the start line for the 9:30am start.

The Run Through races are great because you can choose which distance you want to do on the day. I opted for the 5k in this instance because a) it was cold and I wanted to get it done quickly and b) I wasn’t feeling 100% after a long tiring Friday moving offices. Two others and myself bolted off the start line. A runner in a Belgrave Harriers vest took to the front and opened up a gap pretty quickly, I was alongside the other runner for the first kilometre or so and then he dropped back. For the first lap I was in no-mans land but worked hard to hold around 3:20min/km pace. At first I struggled to get into my stride, in hindsight before the start I should have done some strides to wake the legs up.

Representing #TeamIffley in the Track White / Blue Lancaster Striped Vest

Mentally it was tough to see the first runner heading off into the distance and not have anyone to chase but over the last few months I have done quite a few tempos and been getting used to pushing the pace and embracing the struggle on my own. I kept thinking “don’t ease up, you can hold this pace”. Going into the second lap I knew I had a lot of work to do to get closer to my PB. With 2km left I knew I could afford to go for it. I upped my pace and found it motivational running passed the runners taking part in the 10k; it was great to hear a few shouts from friends. I got my head down and made the most of the final kilometre being slightly downhill.

I crossed the line in second place in 16:45. It would have been great to claim a new PB but in the circumstances I am really happy with the result. Overall it was a great event, Run Through always do a stellar job. I cannot recommend the Battersea Park race enough if you are looking to better your 5k or 10k PBs. Thanks to finishing second I have been given a free race entry to another of the Run Through races so I will probably be at the Lee Valley Park 5k/10k/half marathon on the 27th of January. I’m not sure which distance I’m going to do yet but it should be fun either way. Let me know if you’re going to be there or if you have any other Run Through races lined up. I hope those of you that took part in the Battersea race enjoyed it as much as I did and got the times you wanted.

This week has been a bit of a write off training wise due to the office move and struggling with a bug but I’m hoping to be back training hard soon. The London Marathon isn’t going to run itself and it is less than one hundred days away now!

See a lot of you soon.

Steve

Running into the New Year

It’s been almost two months since I last wrote a blog post so I thought I’d document what I’ve been up to since the Lisbon Marathon in October. With my championship entry for the London Marathon confirmed I have been focusing on building a good base so that I can train more specifically in the New Year and get a lot of really long runs in.

Looking back at my Strava training log in 2015 and 2016 I realised that despite taking part in Advent Running (the festive running streak) my mileage has been too low in November/December going into marathon training. With this in mind I have made more of an effort to run commute regularly, even if it has been freezing cold and dark. I have realised that generally no matter how tired my legs feel I can complete an easy 8k and they normally loosen up.

Despite December being busy in terms of Christmas shopping and drinks etc I have managed to get into a good routine and regularly attend the Run-Fast track sessions at Mile End Stadium on Tuesday evenings. At the time of writing I have been to track for  8 weeks in a row and after the last 5 sessions I have run an extra 20 minutes at around marathon pace (this is something I found beneficial before the Boston Marathon in April, thank you Simon Freeman for the recommendation).

I definitely don’t want to overcook it and peak too early but I am enjoying my running and my recovery rate is improving which should allow me to do more training of a higher quality in the New Year. On my Strava post “#AllAboutTheBase” Andy Waterman made a good point of dialling the pace back at track sessions slightly so I can run a good weekly mileage and not need too many full rest days.

Another reason I’ve been able to bank a few weeks of consistent mileage is I haven’t taken part in many races. Photo courtesy of Sam Pearce (@thefootpathlesstravelled)

I did the London XC Champs on the 18th of November which was great fun but apart from that I have just done the odd parkrun. Racing the shorter distances has allowed me to recover and still do a good long run the next day.

Over the last few weeks I’ve added a tempo run on Thursday nights. They have been tough as my legs have been tired from track but I think it is good training both mentally and physically to push the pace when fatigued. I am really excited to see what sort of shape I can get into in 2018 and for the first time in a while I have set myself some challenging targets across various distances.

In the New Year I am planning to start a weekly training log on here so you can all follow my journey to the London Marathon start line, I hope some of you will find it entertaining and/or informative. I’d be really interested to hear how everyone else’s training is going and what you’ve got lined up for 2018, drop me a message on Twitter or Instagram @SteveSkinner_

See a lot of you soon

Steve

Rock ‘n’ Roll Lisbon Marathon 

On Sunday the 15th of October I took part in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Lisbon Marathon. Over the last few years Lorna and some of our friends have raced in various European cities in the second half of the year. Last year Cologne was the destination of choice with it offering a marathon (which I took part in) and a half. The group decided Lisbon would be good fun as it is becoming an increasingly popular city to visit and because it hosts races of varying distances. I decided to opt for the marathon again thinking I would be in good shape a few weeks after finishing OCC.

We flew to Lisbon early (the security gates weren’t even open) on Saturday morning so we would have some time to sightsee. As we knew the expo would get busy later on in the day we went straight there to collect our race numbers. The expo was relatively small so we had to queue for 20 minutes or so to get in. 

After picking up our race numbers and t-shirts we got the metro to the city centre to grab some food and find our bearings. Following lunch we thought it would be a good idea to check out the finish area and arrange a meeting point for after the races. The lamppost with lanterns worked well!

In the afternoon we killed some time by queuing to go up a viewing platform and enjoyed ice creams, custard tarts and custard doughnuts to fuel up. Wanting to feel fresh for our races we decided to check in at our hotel near the expo and have a nap before dinner. We found a good restaurant just around the corner from Casino Lisboa, I chose to go for Lasagne and garlic bread whilst most of the group fuelled up on chicken and chips or pizzas. As the marathon started at 8am I got back to the hotel, laid out my race kit, filled my bag for dropping at the start and got an early night.

Obligitaroy race kit pic; Iffley Road vest, Adidas split shorts, Stance socks & Adidas Adios

On Sunday morning despite my alarm being set for 5am I woke up at 4. I think having been up at 2am the previous day and taking a nap on Saturday afternoon my body clock was a bit all over the place. At 5am I started to get organised and by 6 I was in the hotel reception asking a group of runners from Normandy if they would like to share a taxi to Cais de Sodre where we could then get the train to Cascais for free. The runners from Normandy were really friendly, they asked about my goal time and as I said “hopefully just under 3 hours” they let me go in the first taxi.

Once I arrived at Cais de Sodre station I was lucky to squeeze on the train, it was rammed. Despite not being able to get a seat the 40 minute trip went quite quickly, perhaps because I was still half asleep. 

The sunrise from Cascais was worth the early wake up call

After a 15 minute walk to the race village there was about 30 minutes to go until the start. I quickly dropped my bag on one of the lorries and then got in the queue for the toilets. Frustratingly there were only 10 or so toilets which didn’t seem like a lot when you consider 4,500 runners were taking part in the marathon. As 8am neared I had a decision to make; a) wait in the queue, miss the start and play catch up or b) start on time and stop part way through the race. I opted for the latter as the last thing I wanted was to have to weave through hundreds of people to try and hit a decent pace.

Leaving it late to join the start line I was lucky that I could enter the funnel near the front because I was number 347. I bumped into a guy that I had met on the plane on the way out, he said he wanted to finish around 3:00-3:05 and so he joined me for the first few kilometres. With it being around 25 degrees I decided to aim for another sub 3, I locked onto 4:15min/km pace for the first few kilometres and then nipped into the roadside portaloo at 4km. To make up some time for my toilet break I started running between 4:05 and 4:10 and felt good. Running along the coast and back through Cascais was beautiful, it didn’t feel too hot at this point but I knew there was still a long way to go.

As I struggled in the last 10k or so in the Boston Marathon earlier this year I decided to take an SIS gel every 7km. This didn’t just help me keep fuelled but it broke the race up into smaller chunks and I just kept thinking “keep working hard, get through the next few kilometres then down a gel”. With the route being relatively flat I felt comfortable at around 4:05-4:10min/km pace. This meant I soon caught up with my friend from the plane and went straight passed on one of the small hills.

At 35km I was on track to go sub 3 again. However the temperature was rising and running along the main road there wasn’t any shade and there were only one or two runners to chase down. I was starting to suffer so I took my caffeine gel to try and perk myself up. I got to 39k but then I got cramp in my left hamstring, I had to stop and stretch for 30 seconds which I thought cost me any chance of getting over the finish line under 3. Luckily it loosened up and I got back on pace. I was doing the maths in my head and trying to work out what pace I needed to hit. As I was running over the distance I knew I needed to up it. Thankfully my legs cooperated with me and allowed me to push on; I got through the 41st kilometre in 4:02, 42nd in 3:53 and then was at 3:33min/km pace for the final 500m to finish in 2:59:37.

Bling

It was such a relief to cross the line and I was chuffed to get another sub 3 marathon in the bag. It was definitely a lot harder than it needed to be but I guess that’s running. After collecting my medal and goodie bag I got roadside to cheer the squad round the half marathon. 

Stance Off

@fayebfit storming to a Half Marathon PB

@lorns_elliott zooming towards the finish line having just overtaken Alex to earn the bragging rights

@alexcvx looking strong. Great Stance combo & colour coordination

@bench53 heading for the beach! #LongDistanceCatwalk

Smithy, Lorna, Faye, Al, Rob, Chivers, Me, Becky & Robbie

In contrast to last year in Cologne Robbie didn’t run really really well because it was really really hot. However, everyone did well considering it was close to 30 degrees and there was a steep hill around 17k. 

Overall it was a great weekend in Lisbon. I’m now incredibly motivated to get into good shape ahead of the London Marathon next year. I’m planning to do a few shorter races including cross-country in the next couple of months.

Well done to everyone else that raced at the weekend, I’ve seen some awesome results posted.

See a lot of you soon.

Steve

Orion Harriers Fast Friday 2017

Friday the 30th of June was not a normal Friday, it was Fast! Barny Foot and the Orion Harriers organised the event at Walthamstow Track, inviting runners to take part in the 10,000m or 5,000m. Inspired by events such as Night of the 10,000m PBs supporters were encouraged to cheer from lane 3, motivational signs were placed around the track and food stalls were nearby. Add to that, pacemakers, prizes, sports massage and beer, Barny had organised a great event.

I was taking part for the second year in a row as I had achieved a PB in 2016 thanks to a competitive race and the supportive atmosphere. Having just started training with the Suunto Training Squad I thought it would be a good race to show my coach, Andy Walling, what sort of shape I was in. Off the back of completing the Boston Marathon in April training had been going well and I was confident I was in PB shape. After the sufferfest of Night of the 10,000m PBs I wanted to prove to myself that I could pace a 10,000m well and achieve a decent time.

Heading to the track from work I was excited to see what I could do. I love racing, I really enjoy seeing what I can get out of myself on any given day. Arriving at the track I bumped into James Brewster & Jon Brombley. Jon was taking part in one of the 5,000m races, it was great to cheer him on and see him achieve a shiny new personal best alongside Anna Boniface.

Iffley Road Lancaster Night Sky Stripe Vest 
Photo courtesy of Eric Paul 

As I had completed a tough session midweek for the Suunto Training Squad I wasn’t sure how my legs would react to running around 3:30min/km pace but I decided to start there and see if I could crank it up in the second half of the race. 

Photo courtesy of Eric Paul

Initially there was a group of 8 or 9 of us around that pace but after a few laps 5 or so runners pushed on. This included friend Mark Boulton who said he was aiming for sub 35 minutes, I knew he was ahead of schedule and so planned to keep him in view and try to close up on in the second 5,000. It took me a few kilometres to get into my stride but after 4k I was feeling comfortable and relaxed.

With 3k to go I started to increase the pace. I was between 3:30 and 3:25 up until that point but was feeling good and the crowds on the home straight were spurring me on. I overheard one supporter say “oh, that’s Skinner. He “ran” at Night of the 10,000m PBs.” it reminded me of my poor showing in that race and made me want to show what I’m really capable of and push on.

 Photo courtesy of Eric Paul 

I was dropping a few of the runners that were alongside and started moving closer to Mark. I was a few hundred metres behind him with about a mile to go. I figured I’d probably left it too late to overtake him but I wanted to see how close I could get and knew I’d scrape a PB if I crossed the line just behind him.

After running the Strava Mile a few weeks prior to the 10,000m and having completed some tough track sessions I knew I could push it over the final kilometre. I clocked 3:10 for the last kilometre and crossed the line in 6th in 34:47 (three seconds quicker than last year).

 

Overall, I probably should have upped my pace a little earlier as I felt good at the line. However, I was really happy to achieve a marginal PB and have taken confidence from the fact I felt so strong. I really want to run more track races, after the London Marathon next year I think I will focus on shorter distance races for a while in a bid to improve my speed.

Well done to everyone else that achieved personal bests that night, a staggering 68% of runners did just that. Thank you to everyone that cheered me round the track and to those of you that wished me good luck. A massive thanks has to go to Barny Foot for organising such a great event. I will definitely be back next year as long as the race schedule allows it and I recommend that more of you get involved.

Here is a link to the Orion Harriers website (they host a lot of great events) and the race results: https://www.orionharriers.com/fast-friday/

See a lot of you soon

Steve

 

 

 

Fuelled by Science in Sport

In 2014 I ran my first marathon, the Manchester Marathon, with next to no nutrition strategy. It’s safe to say I hit the “WALL”. I decided to use the Science in Sport (SIS) Isotonic Gels in training and for the Brighton Marathon in 2015. Thanks to more specific training, a better taper and good nutrition I knocked 25 minutes off my time. I took a gel at kilometres: 10, 20, 30 and 37. As it was a hot day I sipped water at most aid stations, I felt good and avoided going to the pain cave.

A few months ago on the Freestak platform I saw that SIS wanted runners to test and review their new products: the Cookies & Cream Overnight Protein and GO Caffeine Shots. I decided to apply because I had a good experience with their gels and electrolyte tablets. I also thought the protein powder and caffeine shots would help with my racing and training for OCC (55k) at the end of August.

I have used the caffeine shots on numerous occasions over the last few weeks. I take them half an hour before hard track sessions and races. They have definitely helped me to be more alert and focussed. One of the first times I used a shot was before a big 1km rep session. I ran at 3:25min/km pace for 8 reps which I was happy with just two days after another hard track session.

Finishing the Westminster Mile in 4:48 (20th position in Wave 1) after taking a Tropical SIS Caffeine Shot.

I would definitely recommend the GO caffeine shots, I thought they would taste medicinal but actually the Coca Cola and Tropical flavours are great. They have definitely helped my performances; I’m excited to see what I can achieve in the races I’ve got lined up. If you want to find out why you should use caffeine here is a link to the SIS website and a piece on “The Performance Benefits of Caffeine”: http://www.scienceinsport.com/uk/our-expertise/performance-benefits-caffeine/

In training for OCC, the 55k race in the UTMB series, I have been increasing my mileage and taking part in some tough track sessions. At the end of May I ran the Bideford 10k, a 10,000m track race and did three hard track sessions within the space of 10 days. 

I thought it would be a great time to try the Cookies and Cream Overnight Protein to recover quickly and be able to run commute the next morning. I was wondering if the protein shake would actually taste like cookies and cream and was pleasantly surprised. It is hard to quantify how much the drink helped but my legs definitely felt better the next day. If you want to know which protein to take and when, there is another great piece on the SIS website: http://www.scienceinsport.com/uk/our-expertise/which-protein-when/

Overall the new Science in Sport products have been great. They’ve helped me a lot with my training and racing over the last couple of months. Good nutrition is something that I neglected in the past, it is great to have supplements so I can train hard day in day out.

Salomon Sunset Series – Box Hill, London

On Saturday the 24th of June I took part in the Salomon Sunset Series London 10k. I always keep an eye on Salomon Running on social media because their kit is great, they create some awesome videos and sponsor many of the best trail/ultra-runners. When they announced they were organising the Sunset Series a few months back I was really keen to get involved because I’d never ran around Box Hill, I knew some friends would be taking part and with OCC coming up I need to get some hills in. I was lucky enough to be offered a free place as I have reviewed some Salomon shoes in the past and I’ve recently been selected to take part in the Suunto Training Squad.

I was really looking forward to the event but knew that it would be a big challenge as I took part in the Orion Fell Race in Epping Forest on Friday night. The 5k included 900+ft elevation gain. I finished 7th in 22:20 knocking 48 seconds off the time I ran in 2015, my legs were not happy. During the day Lorna and I travelled east to have lunch with friends. It was nice to catch up with Ben and Maz and meet Will, Hayley and baby Jackson. Late afternoon I started my journey across London to Box Hill. I bumped into Mollie and Frankie on the train, it was good to have a catch up and speculate how tough the event would be.

We arrived at Box Hill an hour or so before the start meaning we could have a good chat with some of the Advent Running/Adidas Running lot, sort our race kit and drop bags. Throughout the afternoon Salomon had been putting on trail workshops and Q&As, it was cool to hear from Max Nicholls about his training, racing and goals. To loosen my legs up a bit I did a few strides before listening to the briefing and positioning myself near the front in the start pen. Knowing the 10k course included 250m+ of elevation gain I took it relatively steady off the line; I wanted to keep the lead pack in view but was confident that I would be able to move through the field once we got to the hills.

Having not taken part in many trail races recently I was excited to tackle the challenging course and I enjoyed the fact I didn’t need to look at my watch as I wasn’t aiming for a time.

Photo courtesy of @claudi8s

After 2k of running on the flat I arrived at the first hill, we gained 60m in 500m then from 3k to 3.7k we ran up another 100m. Thanks to the OH Fell Race my legs were tired but strong at the same time; I managed to overtake quite a few runners on the first couple of hills and was feeling good and enjoying the descents. From 7k to 8.5k there was a really nice smooth downhill section where I let my legs go. With more than a kilometre to go though I knew there would be another sizeable climb. There was a U-turn at the bottom of the hill to pretty much go straight back up again.

The final big hill was really demoralising as it was open, you could see the brow of the hill from the bottom and couldn’t help but long to be at the top with the click of your fingers. I could see two runners up in front and used them as motivation; with some words of encouragement from JP who was descending parallel to me I got my head down and refused to slow to a walk.

Iffley Road Cambrian River T-Shirt, Iffley Road Thompson Shorts, Stance Run OTC, Salomon S-Lab X-Series

Once at the top of the climb the last 500m or so was pretty flat. I crossed the line in 45:04, surprisingly in 3rd position.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1052324835/overview

Photo courtesy of @claudi8s

Overall the race was a lot of fun; I definitely need to run more trail races. After grabbing my wooden coaster, bottle of water and clif bar we cheered in the rest of the runners.

In the next few months I am going to try and make it a priority to run more trails and venture further out of London.

If you haven’t given trail running a try I would definitely recommend one of the Salomon Sunset events, fingers crossed they’ll be around next year and more people will get involved.

See a lot of you soon

Steve