Brighton Marathon Baby!

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Sunday 14th April 2019

Race 1 of my Mid Life Crisis Race Series has been successfully completed!

I ran the Brighton Marathon last Sunday, and I loved it. Every minute of it. And it was symbolic; important to me. It was Race 1, my warm up event, for the Ultra Marathon challenge I have set myself for 2019…And it marked the start of the final stages of training as I prepare to become an Ultra Runner…

Brighton was only the second marathon I have run. My first was back in 2011, in Amsterdam, where I ran 3 hours 56 minutes after hitting the wall hard at mile 24, struggling to finish and vowing to never ever run a marathon (let alone an Ultra Marathon) again.

Now here I am , 8 years later, at 50 and not only have I run my second marathon, and enjoyed every step, but this race was merely(!) a warm up event; a training run if you will, for the real challenges coming up…

So I thought for this blog post I would reflect on my race weekend and remember the joy and pleasure that the Brighton marathon brought me, particularly as my focus in the days following the race has already turned to Race 2 and 3, and my ultimate challenge of conquering Endure24 in just 10 weeks time…

My overall training has been going really well and I have stuck religiously to the plan my awesome coach @VanessaPT has set me. However I did have to query the 2 week training block leading up to Brighton… There was no sign of the traditional “taper” – the easing back of mileage ahead of a big race to ensure the legs are strong and you get to the start line in peak condition… In fact the weekend directly before Brighton I had back to back training runs totalling 40 miles, with my Long Sunday Run scheduled for 30 miles! I did query this with my coach and I was politely reminded that Brighton wasn’t my “A” race and that I just needed to trust the plan and I would be fine… So I ran my big mileage weekend as instructed and then rested up as best I could for the rest of the week leading up to the Brighton Marathon weekend.

Excitement built during the week leading up to Brighton, and I found that unlike Amsterdam I had no pre-race nerves at all. I just felt excited and relaxed. Knowing I was in a good place with my fitness and that I had put the effort in with my training. I was looking forward to running a big city race again.

We travelled down to Brighton on Saturday and went to the Marathon Expo on the beach. It was really well organised and in a jiffy I had my race number, kit bag and Brighton Marathon T Shirt. I even bagged myself a new pair of running shoes in the Marathon Village, with a whopping 26.2% discount. The Marathon was going to be the last run in my trusty Mizuno runners; having run many hundreds of training miles in them, it was time they were retired and I rewarded myself with a new pair to use after the race.

We had lunch – a big, healthy chicken Pad Thai, found our Airbnb, settled in and relaxed for a couple of hours. Then out for a lovely Italian pasta meal (almost obligatory before a long race) and with a final check of the weather forecast for the morning, it was off to bed…

After a great nights sleep, I was up and in my race kit and excited. After a big bowl of porridge and a banana, I was ready to get to the start and soak up the pre-race atmosphere…

It’s a big race!
Waiting for the start pens to open

The Start was set-up in a big park to the North of Brighton centre, and it was fab. thousands of people, big screens, razzmatazz; you could feel the expectation and anticipation in the air. Thousands of people all with the same goal and all super excited and ready to go! The icing on the cake for me, was getting to meet a fantastic lady, who is a friend from Twitter and an inspiration to so many in the running community. Keely was as lovely in real life as she is inspiring online.

Great to meet Keely ahead of the Marathon start

A quick warm up and into the Yellow start pen, and before I knew it, we were off and running.

Predicted finish time between 4 hours and 4 hours 30 minutes

From the very first step, the crowds and support were amazing. I had heard the support was great at Brighton, but I wasn’t prepared for just how fabulous it was. It was as if the entire population of Brighton had come out to celebrate and support the marathon runners…Families, little kids, groups of friends, young and old, everyone was out in the sunshine cheering the runners through the streets. There were numerous bowls of jelly babies being held out, oranges and bananas on trays, big signs with motivational or funny quotes to help keep the spirits high, brass bands, steel bands, disco music and more…

The course wound around the North of the city before making it’s way to the seafront. I quickly settled into my rhythm and ran comfortably just behind the 4 hour 15 minute pacers. The pacing team were amazing, and it was easy to follow along behind their big orange balloons, bobbing above the sea of runners. The course turned left (East) and ran along the coast out to Rottingdean, before looping back and coming right back into and through Brighton and out the other side towards Hove and Shoreham. I really enjoyed the first half, soaking up the atmosphere, feeling good, managing my schedule of gels, jelly babies & Kendal Mint Cake and just running with a smile on my face. At half way I decided that I felt in great shape, and could afford to increase my pace just slightly and push on. I had the words of Vanessa in my head though – and knew I shouldn’t really push it too hard, as I needed to be able to train the following week, and there was no space in the schedule for a week off from running (!). I had been told in no uncertain terms to RUN Brighton – NOT RACE Brighton… So with this in mind, I increased my pace slightly and pushed on past the pacers and their Orange balloons…

I ran on feeling good and got through 20 miles. A long time ago, I picked up some advice that you should consider 20 miles as the half way point in a marathon. This is because the effort you put into the first 20 miles feels the same as the effort you put into the last 6 miles. This is where your training really pays off, and as you get tired, those last 6 miles can be really tough and you need to dig deep. It was no different for me, and I was certainly feeling the effects of the first 20 miles as I ran miles 21 and 22. My head was also reminding me of the 30 mile run I had done only 7 days before. I quickly shut this down, reminded myself to smile and keep my head up and ploughed on. At around mile 22, the course looped round and headed back towards Brighton and the long awaited Finish line. Great, I thought, the home stretch… However what I hadn’t accounted for was the fierce sea breeze that was blowing right into our faces as we turned for home. This was tough! I certainly hadn’t felt the benefit of the breeze at my back on the way out, but it was definitely slowing me down on the run back in…But looking at my Garmin I knew I could finish in under 4 hours 10 minutes if I could just keep my pace up for the final 3 or 4 miles. As I passed the 23 mile marker, I told myself I only had the equivalent of a Parkrun to complete, and dug deep and pushed on. The crowd were amazing and really helped distract from the pain of pushing hard, and I managed to maintain my pace, and then for the final mile I pushed on and completed my fastest mile of the race to cross the line in 4 hours and 9 minutes….

I was so happy – both that the run was done (!) and that I had run under 4 hours 10 minutes. The sense of achievement and satisfaction of completing the challenge, doing a good job and finishing strong was fantastic, and made all the weeks of hard work and training worthwhile. With a medal round my neck and a goody bag full of treats, I was soon through the Finish Funnel and out into the Expo Village.

I did it!

As an added bonus, in the Expo Village I managed to meet up with Mark Wrangham from ITGames Club, who are sponsoring my Ultra race challenge. Mark lives in Brighton and had run the 10k race (and got a PB!) earlier in the day and had come down to support me at the finish line. It was great to catch up and chat about the race, the training and the upcoming Ultra races. I am very grateful to ITGames Club for their support and would not have been as well prepared without their help.

Then it was back to the car, stretching out my tired and sore legs, and off home for a long soak in a hot Epsom Salts bath followed by a big plate of Fish & Chips – My post marathon treat!

So, hopefully you can tell, I had a fantastic weekend, loved the Brighton Marathon, and had a great run. I have spent the last few days recovering and easing back into my training and reflecting on my Brighton marathon experience. I have now banked the happiness and joy I felt and used it as a springboard for my preparations for Race 2 – The Ridgeway40, which is only 22 days away (as I type this…). That’s not very long, and I genuinely can’t wait to take on this next challenge and prove that I can achieve it; show that I am indeed now Fit@Fifty, and prepare myself for the final big challenge of Endure24… Bring it on!

I can and I will – Fit@Fifty Endure24
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The Countdown has begun…

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Time is running out……

It’s all about the numbers now…

8 35 70 184 40 50

  • 8 – Days until the Brighton Marathon
  • 35 – Days until my first official Ultra – The Ridgeway 40
  • 70 – Days until Endure 24
  • 184 – The number of miles I ran in training in March – My biggest monthly total ever
  • 40 – The miles I have to run in training this weekend (!)
  • 50 – How old I am, and the reason for me setting this big running challenge

I am now moving into the final phase of my training and the days are counting down quickly. It’s only a week until the Brighton Marathon, and that race signals the start of my running challenge proper – The first of my 3 race series.

And as you would expect the training is ramping up and getting tough. The miles are increasing significantly and the endurance phase of the training is really working to put strength and distance into my legs. Thank goodness for Epsom Salts, that’s all I can say. I had never used them before, and was recommended them by a very good friend after complaining of stiff and sore legs following a 20 mile run…They really are some kind of witchcraft! I used them the following week after a similar length run, and pretty much all my stiffness and aches disappeared and my legs felt great! They are an essential part of my recovery routine now and I wouldn’t be without them….

As the theme of this blog is Countdown and Numbers, this weekend is dominated by the numbers 2, 10 and 30 – My fantastic coach has scheduled me 2 back to back long runs; the first one is 10 miles, on Saturday, and the second one is 30 miles on Sunday….! Needless to say, when my training plan for the month dropped into my email, I scanned down to see what the long runs looked like, and spotted this weekend….I queried with my coach – you seem to have made a mistake…. I have a 30 mile run with a 10 mile run the day before, and all this a week before the Brighton Marathon…… No, she replied, there’s no mistake…..We need to test your body and mind, and start preparing you for the 24 hour race. This is exactly what you need to be doing, and you will run it, you will complete and you will enjoy it…….! So that was me told, and I duly copied the runs into my diary and scheduled them in….Now the weekend has arrived, I can tell you I am a little nervous about the challenge of completing the 30 miles. It will be the longest I have ever run. It will take me a very long time to do. I will be on my feet for (probably) between 5 and 6 hours. Will my mind hold up? Will I be able to resist the voices in my head telling me to stop. Will I be able to keep my focus and break it down into small chunks and just get it done…… All these insecurities, and many more are going through my mind. But in equal measure I am excited, energised, motivated by the challenge. It is a real test, a necessary step along the training journey, a chance for me to prove to myself just how fit I am, how far I have come. My coach believes I can do it, so there is no reason why I shouldn’t believe it too…

I am training my mind as much as my body…

As the training bites and the clock counts down, my thoughts are also increasingly turning to all the planning and logistics needed to be successful in my 2 Ultra races. there is a lot to organise and think about when you are running 40 miles point to point, or running for 24 hours… Logistics, Nutrition, kit, Support Crew, Contingency plans etc. And a lot of numbers to think about – How many gels will I need, pairs of socks, blister plasters, Hot X Buns, Malt loafs, spare running tops, litres of water… The list is endless, and I will dedicate a whole blog to this as the planning progresses and the logistics get organised. Oh, and i’m even starting to think about planning a big party for later in June when Endure24 is done! I think I may have earned a celebration by then 🙂

As with any Countdown, the pressure is increasing as the sands run through the hourglass… I am, on the whole, relishing the pressure and the challenge. I am thriving on the training, am on track with my plan, my coach is happy, and I am passing the various tests that present themselves….And of course the excitement is building as my series of 3 races is about to start.

  • Brighton is 1 week away and I am excited – My coach has told me to run it, not race it, so it is a big noisy, fancy training run with lots of other people…. What’s not to like…
  • Ridgeway 40 – Is going to be a fun challenge in beautiful countryside. I can walk sections, take in the view, run along an ancient trailway… Should be an amazing experience…
  • Endure24 – Hmmmm. I’m still not sure about this one…. The words “Hurt Locker!” keep popping into my head…. This is the big one….

So, the numbers inexorably tick down, and the challenges come ever closer…. Bring them on I say!

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Fit at Fifty?

Can I be in the best shape of my life – at 50?

I’ve now turned 50; Just a couple of weeks ago. It hasn’t fully sunk in yet, this landmark in the timeline of my life, however the calendar confirms the milestone and there is no denying my 40s are no longer…

I set myself a big scary challenge for my 50th year, and my birthday has given me cause to reflect on progress towards that goal, and on how I am feeling about it, as it gets ever closer.

The original challenge I set last Summer was to run my first Ultra Marathon in 2019 at the age of 50. I had the notion of “50 miles for 50 years” in my head. The seed was planted and, as often happens with me, it grew and expanded and finally crystallised into the following 2 specific goals:

  1. Run for 24 hours at Endure24 in June 2019 and complete as many miles as I can. With 50 miles being the absolute minimum, I would run
  2. Be in the best shape of my life – Fit @ Fifty

As with all goals, it helps to be as specific as possible and they must inspire and motivate you. And these 2 goals certainly do that for me! In fact, the challenge of not just running an Ultra at Fifty, but running Endure24 at 50 means that my first Ultra marathon will now be a training run! My coach has kindly scheduled into my plan a 32 mile run in 2 weeks time, and I am also booked to run the Ridgeway40 in May as part of my preparation, a month before the 24 hour event. Who would have thought last year when I set my original goal that I would end up treating a 40-mile, hilly trail run as training! That’s the power of a motivating and specific goal right there!

So – How am I getting on…?

Well, that’s a good question. If I break my goals down and look at progress, I can claim to have achieved 2 things already! It is 2019, and I am now 50! :-). However, there was a certain inevitability about these two, and they are definitely at the easier end of the achievement spectrum for this year!

On a slightly more serious note, I feel like I have achieved a lot in the 5 months of my training so far. The main thing for me, is that I am loving the challenge and am as motivated now by my goals as I was in the heady days when I first set off on my Ultra marathon adventure. This, for me, shows I have set the right goals. If it is motivating me, driving me and focusing me to put the work in at maximum effort, after 5 months, that tells me all I need to know…

I am exactly where my coach wants me to be with my training. I often end up doing more than is set because I am loving it and I am feeling motivated, energised and driven. This is a good thing for me. I have come to learn over the years that my personality type, my character, needs to have a purpose. A long-term goal to achieve, a challenge. Without this to drive me I can get bored, distracted, lethargic, and sad. However, I am flooded with the opposite feelings when I have a big goal in my life. I am energised, positive, productive, happy…

If I had to pick out one main highlight that I have learnt from my training so far, it would be a great big reminder that you shouldn’t be focused solely on the end goal… Far too often we get hung up on the finish line and forget to enjoy the journey to get there. The process of working to achieve the goal can be, and in my view, should be, just as important as the goal itself, maybe even more so. I have been working for 5+ months on my fitness and running and also on the myriad of other things that you need to successfully complete a 24 hour run (mental prep, food and hydration strategies, logistics, support) I have grown and benefited so much already from all this work, and I still have over 3 months to go until the end goal.

There is a long list of the benefits I am enjoying from this adventure:

  • Structure and routine – I need this in my life and having a tough training plan and a scary goal to drive the motivation really helps this for me
  • Having a goal that is completely separate from my day to day routine. Separate from work challenges; family life. This has been a real positive and provides “a parallel universe” for me to visit when the stresses and strains of everyday life come calling. Having something that is just for me, that I am in control of and that is important to me is a great antidote to the inevitable ups and downs of everyday life
  • The challenge of learning new things and researching ways to ensure success has been hugely rewarding
  • Connecting with like minded people (especially on social media) and going on the journey together brings a sense of community and belonging that has been surprising and wonderful
  • Asking for and receiving help from others. I am always amazed how generous people are with their time and expertise when you reach out to them
  • Last, and by no means least, the physical and mental benefits of doing lots of exercise and getting fit

3 months to go…

Not long now!

I am now entering the final phase of my training. I am just over a month away from my first warm up event – The Brighton Marathon, and the training has definitely moved up a gear. The miles are increasing, the training is getting tougher, the pressure is building – and I am LOVING it… Each ramp up in training is a mini challenge along the way. A bite sized chunk of the overall goal. Something to be relished, tackled and enjoyed. Whether it is a 20 mile training run early on a Sunday morning, or increasing the weight and the intensity of the dreaded Kettlebell sessions to make the strength workouts harder… Or the spectre of the upcoming Brighton Marathon and then the 40 mile Ridgeway run..

I am testing myself now and will soon be in uncharted territory. Going way beyond what I previously thought I could achieve.  I have run the marathon distance before – But only once, and it was a few years ago now when I was a tad younger… The doubts are there in the back of my mind… Yes, there are times when I am anxious, fearing that I will fail and fall far short of the targets I have set myself, but these thoughts are infrequent, and not overwhelming me and they are hugely outweighed by the excitement and positive thoughts I have about achieving something ridiculously hard (for me). And I have learned over the course of the training that it is OK to have doubts – I am human; it is natural; expected even. And one of the key things I have realised is that it is OK to have doubts. To have fears. To worry that you might not succeed. The training is teaching me to acknowledge and accept those fears and doubts, process them, and to push on regardless. To challenge myself to overcome them and prove to myself I can do more than I would have thought possible, just a few short months ago when I started out on this crazy challenge…

So, in summary, I would summarise my current position as:

So far so good!

I am loving having a big scary goal to motivate and drive me. The process of working towards that goal has surprised me with the joy and value it is bringing me, and I plan to enjoy every mile and every minute of it as much as I can, and maybe, just maybe, the process of achieving my goals will bring me more pleasure and benefit than the ultimate achievement of the end game…

All that being said, I still intend to smash my original target of 50 miles, and see just how far I can go in 24 hours!

 

I Can and I Will
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Mojo – Results

Image result for results positive fitness

In this blog post I am exploring the third and final aspect of what makes up my Running Mojo:

Results

Something that is produced by effort or hard work; a consequence or outcome

This is the definition and context I am using for Results as it relates to my Running Mojo.

Part of the drive to put the hard work in for 9 months of training is enjoying the benefits. When I can see the benefits paying off, it helps spur me on to keep doing it; to work harder; to keep going; to put the effort in. This coupled with Motivation and the Joy I get from Running combines to ensure a powerful Mojo and is my driving force to put the work in to achieve my goal – To be in the best possible shape come the middle of June 2019 so I can run a huge distance and do myself proud at Endure24…

In life I am a great believer in the philosophy that you get out what you put in. The harder you work, the luckier you get. I think this is true for all aspects of life and is certainly true when it comes to health, fitness and running. I will achieve great results only if I put in a significant amount of focused effort and hard work. The result I want to achieve at Endure24 will only be realised by putting the work in. I want to be the best possible version of “Run Simon Run” on that start line, and that will be the consequence of grafting and training and staying true to my goal over the full training period.

So, to get a little more specific, there will be a slew of positive results that will come my way as a result of setting myself this challenge and sticking with the training.

Firstly there are the more obvious results that I will enjoy coming my way. I will be leaner, lighter, fitter, healthier and stronger. This is happening already as the weeks start to build up. I will do a Blog post specifically on reaching the 8 week milestone and go into this in more detail, but suffice it to say I can see a big difference physically already, and there is so much more to come. The positive result of seeing this improvement is that it spurs me on to want to get more. It creates a virtuous circle where I can see the outcome of the hard work and it makes me feel good and want more, so I keep putting the effort in and working hard. It’s such a good feeling and vibe and I don’t think I am alone in this. Fitness and keeping fit becomes a habit, a lifestyle if you will. It becomes addictive and if you can build it into your routines and your day to day life it sustains itself and breeds ongoing positive results

Related image

As well as the obvious physical benefits and positive results of the training, there are also significant psychological and less tangible benefits. I use running as a form of medicine. Have done for as long as I can remember. It is great for stress relief, problem solving, switching off from the day to day minutiae that fills up our minds. For me it is also a way of managing my mood and keeping me positive and upbeat. If my life is out of kilter for whatever reason, and I don’t get to run, I can feel myself get low, and irritable and everything seems that much more difficult. Running is a great antidote to this and quickly puts things back in perspective and lifts me up…With this crazy goal I have set myself, I am doing a lot of running (!) and so I will be getting a big dose of my happy medicine and that is certainly a great result for my mind, my mood, and those who have to put up with me day to day  🙂

Another great outcome from my training plan and the increase in fitness I am seeing, is a boost to my confidence. Over the 8 weeks or so of my training so far I can feel that my confidence levels have increased and I am feeling, generally, pretty good about myself and my little world. This is a slightly unexpected positive result from the training and has certainly helped feed into keeping my Mojo high and helped fuel my desire to keep the training effort up and to keep pushing hard. I think it is linked to the point above regarding the positive mental benefits running and training brings, but it runs deeper than that. I believe confidence builds based on achievement and success. Throughout my training so far, there have been milestones and mini goals, and as I have achieved them my belief and conviction has increased. My coach has been at pains to remind me to trust the programme and to stick to the plan and the results will come. And of course she was spot on, and as I have seen my fitness increase and as I hit targets my confidence has increased. This is of course something that isn’t restricted to running, it is true for any goal or target, but for me it is great to be able to recognise and enjoy the increase in confidence that my training is already bringing. This is also breeding anticipation for what is to come. I have some enormous targets and goals coming up in my training and I am looking forward to the buzz that will come when I achieve them and cross them off my training plan – Another virtuous circle or results.

Image result for confidence

Reading this back, it makes perfect sense to me, and seems to be very straightforward and kinda obvious. I would love to know your thoughts on what I have outlined above and whether this resonates with you, or if this is just something that works for me… Do let me know in the feedback section or drop me a line on Social Media.

Simon

Coming Next:

My next Blog post will be a recap and reflection on my training so far and what’s coming next… Do subscribe to my Blog so you don’t miss my updates and ramblings as I chart my Ultra training journey to the start line of Endure24 in June2019

 

#HealthinIT   #Resilience   #ITGamesClub   #Challengeyourself

 

Check out my Running YouTube channel

Intrinsically Inspiring

ITGames.Club

 

Image result for confidence results

 

 

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Mojo – Joy

joy running

In this blog post I am exploring the second aspect of what makes up my Running Mojo:

Joy

I thought long and hard about the things that went into making up my Mojo, and kept coming back to the pleasure that running gives me and the way running (and being a runner) makes me feel. Joy was the word that best summed up the feelings I get when I run. I accept it is a slightly unusual choice when used in the same context as Motivation and Results, but hey, this is a personal feeling and we all have to work out our own drivers for success. That being said, I had better explain what I mean by Joy and how it relates to my running.

So to start off, here is the definition I am using for Joy

A feeling of great pleasure and happiness

At the most basic level, this is how running makes me feel. When I run regularly I feel happier. Simple. But of course there is so much more to it than that…

I have always gained pleasure from running. At school I was never great at team games. Always willing and enthusiastic but never blessed with great talent for sports such as football, rugby, hockey etc. Running on the other hand was much more straightforward, and as an added bonus, it was something you could do on your own. You didn’t need to get a group together, have equipment or a pitch, make arrangements… You could just put your trainers on and go. Confession time – Yes, I was that weird kid who looked forward to Cross Country in PE lessons! 🙂

It is well known that running brings a number of benefits. There are the obvious things such as the fitness and cardio improvements and all the health benefits of being active and doing physical exercise. However for me, I have always had a much deeper connection with running and the benefits it brings to my mental health too. It took me a long time to appreciate just how much running helped maintain a healthy balanced mental state.

You see, I am an Introvert. Yet I live in an Extrovert world. My natural preference is to be calm, quiet, organised, planned and in control of my little section of the world. But I seem to spend my whole time in a world that is busy, noisy, chaotic and unpredictable. This is largely related to my job, but also, the world is set up for extroverts, and us introverts need to be able to adapt our natural preferences and develop coping mechanisms for when the chaos and unpredictability gets a bit too much. You have to work out ways not only to survive but to thrive in this world. For me this is where my running comes in. I have come to realise as I have gotten older and (possibly) wiser that running is my therapy. It calms me, quietens my mind, helps me relax, recharges my energy levels reduces my stress, and provides quiet “me” time when I can unplug from the chaos around me. If I don’t run for a period of time, my mood drops and I find it less easy to cope with issues and problems; my stress levels increase. There is a direct correlation to how good I feel with how often I run.

So for this introvert, thriving in an extrovert world, not only do I get Joy from going for a run, I am able to maintain the Joy in my life by running and that is so very important to me.

Back to the point of this Blog though 🙂 – I get Joy from running and running brings joy to my life, so this is a virtuous circle and that positive boost feeds into my overall Mojo. When I am in a good place overall in my life with my mind and body in good shape, it is so much easier to keep on track. Training schedules, goals, targets and commitments are relished and met with gusto, and that all important Mojo is ramped up to the Max.

do what brings joy

Now to change tack slightly…

I also gain running related Joy in some other slightly less obvious ways. I have become an active member of the running community on Twitter. I love the interaction with other runners and the real sense of community and “tribe” that you get from having a shared passion and being genuinely interested in supporting and helping other like minded people. It is overwhelmingly a positive experience, and being able to help with advice, celebrate successes and be applauded for achievements of my own, definitely brings a feeling of inclusion and pleasure and helps contribute to my love of running and the Joy it brings me.

I also decided early on in my training to “go public” with my Ultra marathon goal and to share my training journey. This was a big step for me, as my natural (introvert) tendency was to keep it private and not draw attention to what I was doing. However I felt that I needed to share my big challenge and I wanted people to get involved and follow my progress. There is an accountability that comes with sharing your goals and your training so publicly. By telling the world about my big scary challenge, sharing my steps along the way; the highs and the lows of the training; the achievements and the setbacks, I have gained a real sense of purpose and with it another boost to my running joy.

An unexpected bonus of sharing my challenge with the world is that it has also led to two exciting collaborations. As a result of talking about my challenge, I have been approached by two, separate, fitness related organisations to work with them to promote the benefits of running, keeping fit and leading a healthy lifestyle.

The two awesome groups of people I am working with are:

  • ITGames.Club – I have been selected to be one of their sponsored athletes to help promote on Social Media the healthy lifestyle benefits that come from being active and keeping fit.  Specifically focusing on people working in the IT industry. An industry with a poor track record of health and wellbeing for workers. ITGames.Club are promoting the Hashtags #HealthinIT #Resilience #Recovery 
  • Intrinsically Inspiring – I am working with Andrea Evans at Intrinsically Inspiring, an online fitness and health coaching practice, as part of their #challengeyourself initiative. The aim of which is to inspire people, who may not be particularly active currently, to start their fitness journey.

I am so excited to be working with these two amazing organisations as they share the same ethos and beliefs about running and fitness as I do. It is an honour (and a surprise!) to be approached and asked to participate in their programmes, and a real pleasure to work with them, and in some small way, inspire others to become more active or take on and achieve their own health and fitness goals. And yes, I get bucket loads of Joy from doing it!

And this leads onto the final way I get Joy from my running and giving my Mojo a boost. I hope in some small way I can be a role model. Whether it’s inspiring someone to sign up to their first 5K, or to get back into running after many years, or to show to my kids that there is life outside of a screen and the Internet, then I have achieved something positive and worthwhile.

If I can demonstrate what can be achieved by an ordinary, slightly over the hill, runner like me, and inspire someone else to take on and achieve a goal of their own, then I will be one happy runner 🙂

Simon

pure joy

Coming Next:

My next Blog post will explore the third and final aspect of my Running Mojo, that of Results. Subscribe and make sure you don’t miss my Blog posts as I chart my Ultra training journey to the start line of Endure24 in June2019

Check out my Running YouTube channel

#HealthinIT   #Resilience   #ITGamesClub   #Challengeyourself

Check Out my two amazing Collaborations:

Intrinsically Inspiring

ITGames.Club

 

 

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Mojo – Motivation

motivation

Motivation – Following on from my previous Blog post about Mojo, and in particular my running Mojo, I singled out three factors that I think are crucial to ensuring I don’t lose my Mojo through the long training regime: Motivation, Joy, Results.

In this blog post I will explore motivation in more detail. What it is, how it affects me, and why it’s important.

Motivation is a basic human drive. A trait that we all possess and enables us to achieve goals in all aspects of our lives. It provides the impetus to study and learn new things, to get out of bed in the morning and go to work, to go to the gym to get fitter, to eat healthily, to quit smoking, the list is endless. Motivation can be a powerful force – It drives our behaviour, our thoughts, our actions and priorities.

Having a strong motivation to achieve is the cornerstone of success, and without it you just won’t have the drive to put in the work and keep going over the long haul to achieve your goal. Importantly, in my experience, the motivation has to come from you. Another person cannot give you the motivation or convince you to be motivated. They can’t transfer their ideal goal to you and expect you to achieve it. Sure, you can get some short term external motivation, often from fear or pressure from someone else, but in the long run this will not be enough to sustain you to achieve YOUR goal.

Now, that being said, motivation can come and go. It ebbs and flows, and for me, it’s really important I understand this and to recognise when my motivation is flagging. This way I can do something about it. I don’t want my motivation to creep away slowly and desert me when the going gets tough. I have a long hard training journey ahead of me and the only way I will be successful is if I keep my motivation as high as possible right the way through to the end.

As I set out in my Mojo Blog post, I listed my Motivation as the following:

  • The Drive to achieve my goals for Endure24
  • To not let myself down
  • To do my best

These things are important to me. I am running this crazy event for me, and I want to be the best version of myself on race day.

I have thought about this and have looked at ways to ensure I maximise my motivation levels over the long haul. One of my strengths is I am very analytical (Typical IT guy!) and I am pretty good at knowing what makes me tick, what drives me and understanding how to get the best from myself. I am very self-competitive; I drive myself hard. Once I have committed to something I can be incredibly focused and dedicated to achieving it. I also crave structure, order and logic. I need everything in its place and to know what’s coming up next. I really don’t do well with surprises. So, knowing all this, I have worked to create an environment that maximises what I need and helps to feed my positivity and maintain my motivation levels.

On a practical level I have done a number of things to sustain long term motivation, and I have worked with my Coach to help me put these in place. So far, in Week 5, they are serving me well and I am right on track. These practical tips include:

  • Having a structured training plan – I know what I will be be doing each day and why I am doing it. In addition my coach knows what I am supposed to be doing too, and can ensure I stick to the plan (and she does!) I have the plan printed out and displayed above my desk. It is copied into my calendar. I cannot avoid it. I tick off each run or workout or rest day. I track my progress.
  • I understand the logic, or science behind the training plan – I have discussed with my coach why the plan is set-up as it is – Why I run two longer runs back to back at the weekend; the importance of the rest days; what benefit I will get from the sprint sessions or the pace runs. This all helps placate my analytical side and for me to understand why I am doing what I am doing.
  • I have a plan for my diet and nutrition. This is linked to my training plan. I can plan my meals in advance, doing a meal planner for the coming week. I work out when I can have treats and reward myself for achieving mini goals. I can plan my race nutrition and practice everything ahead of the big day. It might sound a bit regimented and restrictive, and for some people I am sure that would be the case, but for me it is the perfect approach and I enjoy the structure and predictability and it ensures I stick to my regime and don’t end up snacking or eating unhealthy “easy” choices after a long hard day of work and training.
  • My training journey is 9 months long. But I already have my warm up races booked. I know which events I will be running as part of my preparation. My training is tailored around work trips and family commitments so I know I can stick to it.

These practical little things all help me visualise how I will achieve my goal and provide me the confidence to know I will be ready on race day. I have set such a big goal for myself that it would be easy to be overwhelmed and give up before I even got started.

These specific things are what I have put in place to help maintain my motivation. They work for me.

What tricks and approaches would you use to maintain your motivation?

If you have a big goal you are striving for, it really does help to take a step back and think about what is driving you, what are you looking to achieve and why. And then work out what practical, individual little things you can put in place that will maximise your chances of keeping your motivation cranked up the max.

Do share your thoughts and tips on this in the comments section. I would love to know how you manage your motivation.

So, in summary,

Motivation is personal, unique to you and crucial to your overall success.

Look after your motivation and your drive to succeed will be strong and you will smash that goal!

As always, I wish you the best of luck

Simon

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thesecrettostayingmotivated

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Mojo

 

Running Mojo

Week 3 of my Ultra training, and I definitely have my Running Mojo….

It is at maximum strength and as a result I am loving all aspects of my running – the training, the discipline, the early mornings, the tired legs, eating right… all of it. I am enjoying it while it lasts. Mojo is a fickle thing, it comes and (more importantly) goes, often for no reason. We just lose our motivation, we find running a chore, we don’t want to put the work in, we make excuses…Mojo sneaks off quietly in the night, gives us the slip when we aren’t looking… and all of a sudden it’s gone.

I have 9 months of hard training ahead of me if I am going to achieve my goals for the Endure24 race. I want to give myself the best possible chance of smashing my targets, and it has struck me that a crucial factor in my success is going to be my Mojo. The longer I can keep my Mojo at maximum strength, the better my training will be. I will work harder, stay on track and put the effort in, when it would be so much easier to stay in bed, skip a session, eat junk or generally slack off. You get the picture… A big chunk of my training is going to be through the winter, lots of cold dark mornings, wet and windy days and plenty of tempting festive treats and comfort foods to test my resolve. Without my Mojo, it’s going to be very hard to stay on track, especially as the running mileage ramps up and the training tiredness kicks in. With my Mojo at the max, it will be so much easier. So, with all that said, I have been looking at what Mojo is and how to keep it cranked up for as long as possible.

I thought I would start by looking at the definition of Mojo – what is this strange feeling of energy and drive that folds itself around us and gives us such pleasure and focus to achieve?

These are the best definitions I found that help define Mojo for me:

  • A power or force that helps a person achieve great things and be super successful
  • A magic charm, talisman or spell
  • A personal power or influence that fills you full of energy to achieve your goals

I like these and they all help explain Mojo in it’s purest form. Mojo isn’t something exclusive to runners. It can permeate every aspect of our lives, and in fact, what these definitions help clarify for me is (quite obviously) Mojo is a state of mind. There isn’t anything your body can’t achieve if the mind wants to do it… Including getting up at 05:30am on a freezing cold morning in February to do a hill session 🙂

So for me, and for success in my Ultra training, I have looked at how I can try and harness this magical power, and keep my Mojo cranked up to the max for the next 9 months. My analytical side has looked at what makes up my running Mojo, and after lots of reflection, I have broken it down into the following areas:

  • Motivation
  • Joy
  • Results

I believe these 3 things, harnessed together make up my Running Mojo and when all three are in balance, and on song, my Mojo is strong.

Motivation – The drive to achieve the goals I have set myself for Endure24. To no let myself down. To do my best

Joy – The love of running. The fun of sharing my journey with others. To share the joy of running. To be a role model to others, especially my kids. To show what is possible with hard work (and motivation)

Results – To enjoy the benefits of my hard work. To be leaner, fitter, healthier than I have ever been. To be strong. to gain the confidence that comes with hitting targets and achieving tough goals

Having worked out that these 3 areas are at the heart of my Mojo, I can already see how I can nurture them and work on each area to help keep it topped up and working for me. I am not naïve enough to think that I’ve found the secret formula and forever more my Mojo will be through the roof, of course I am going to have setbacks, tough times, slip ups… We all do, but I am confident that by focusing on these 3 things and regularly checking in with them, acknowledging them and taking corrective action where I can, I will give myself the best chance of having Maximum Mojo, and that in turn will give me the best chance of achieving my crazy Ultra 24hr goal in June next year…

I plan to take each of my 3 Mojo ingredients in turn in my upcoming blog posts and explore them in a little more detail, and define what they mean to me and how I plan on keeping them topped up.

Do share with me in the comments below what makes up your Mojo, and what you do to help keep it firing at the max to help you achieve your goals. I would love to know!

Until next time…

Simon

#HealthinIT #Resilience #ITGamesClub

 

ADDED MOJO BONUS…

As part of keeping my Mojo cranked up to the max, I follow a number of amazing and inspirational people on Twitter. One such person is a lady called Angela Cox. Angela has become something of a legend in our household, and her drive and passion to help others achieve amazing things is infectious. As Serendipity would have it, Angela is organising a charity event in February 2019 called – You guessed it – Mojo! With a world class set of speakers from an Olympic gold medallist, A GB triathlete, a happiness and positivity expert, mindset coaches and more, it promises to be an amazing day… Needless to say I am attending, and can’t wait to enjoy a day dedicated to boosting my personal Mojo to the max, and at such a crucial time in my training plan too…. If you would like to attend and experience a day dedicated to positivity, motivation and inspiration (Angela’s take on what constitutes Mojo) check out this event and get booked in. It would be great to see you there!

Tickets – Angela cox Mojo – in aid of Rushden Mind

Mojo 2019

 

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I’ve got a Coach…

HR Zone chart

I’ve been a runner for 35 years or more, and I thought I knew everything I needed to know about running… Turns out I couldn’t be more wrong!

As part of the amazing sponsorship package from ITGamesClub, I get to work with a fully qualified fitness coach. I thought this would be useful to help keep me on track and monitor my progress as I build up to my Ultra challenge next year. Of course this is part of what a coach will do, but it is really only scratching the surface.

I have been working with my coach for two weeks only, and it has been an amazing experience already. Turns out I know next to nothing about running, and the things I do know are not necessarily serving me well. I have a number of bad habits and lots of things I need to improve to get me into really good shape.

Who knew that cadence, stride length, Heart Rate Zones, strength & conditioning, nutrition, hydration, rest & recovery were all really important to get right and optimise to me as an individual runner…. I have learnt so much in two short weeks, and we have barely got started. I now have a tailored training plan that is backed with science, logic and common sense and it is already starting to make a difference to how I run. Parts of it are taking some getting used to – HR Zone running is tricky – as a runner who is used to running based on pace and distance, it feels wrong to be running in a heart rate zone that is easy. I want to run faster and have to constantly hold myself back and force myself to run slower. It’s really not easy, but as my coach keeps telling me I have to trust the process and stick with it. And of course, having a proper coach who uses technology to it’s full potential, I have nowhere to hide. My runs are posted automatically to Garmin and Strava and if I’m not on plan, I get a nudge from coach to ask what I’m up to, and why I’ve gone off piste…. :-). Knowing your coach is stalking you on Strava is a great motivator to stick in the HR Zone they have set for you. 🙂

So now I have a coach, I have boxes turning up with hydration powders, gels and protein bars. I have a metronome to improve my cadence, I study my Garmin stats, I analyse my Strava progress and plan goals and targets for each run. Heck, I’m even learning to use Kettlebells to improve my strength and core!

And, most importantly, I’m loving it.

I have someone in my corner. Someone to bounce ideas off of, someone to get advice and reassurance from. Someone who is working as hard as I am to get me in shape. That’s a great thing to have, and certainly makes the challenge of running a 24hour Ultra slightly less daunting. Maybe, just maybe I can do this….

 

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Lucky Lucky Lucky

lucky runner

I have some fantastic news to report today. It is often said you make your own luck, and I have reason to believe that might just be true for me right now…

Fanfare…. Wait for it……… Drum roll……..

I’ve only gone and won a competition to be a sponsored athlete for my Ultra race! A company called ITGamesClub ran a competition for IT professionals wanting to take on a big running challenge… It sounded perfect for my Endure24 adventure so I applied, and promptly forgot all about it; Until I received the email to say I had been chosen as the UK winner!

ITGamesClub are going to provide me with a running coach, kit, shoes, nutrition help, sports massage and more – and in return I will share my training journey on social media and help promote their message of fitness, wellbeing and health for people working in IT.

I can’t tell you how chuffed I am to have been chosen. It will make such a difference to the quality of my training and preparation and means I will be in the best shape of my life when I toe the start line in June next year. I am buzzing to get started, and tomorrow is the first official run of my new training plan…

Join me as I start on my exciting journey of self discovery.

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#resilience

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Is this my version of a mid life crisis?

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Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

I turn 50 next year and I have had the nagging thought in the back of my head for a while that I need to mark this significant birthday with some form of challenge. Something to inspire me; take me out of my comfort zone and give me a goal to work towards. I had mulled over many different things and nothing really grabbed me, until one day, while in the shower (where all my good ideas materialise) it came to me. I should do an Ultra marathon…

Immediately the thought popped into my head, I knew I had found my challenge. I was excited and terrified in equal measure. I am a runner; have been for as long as I can remember. I Have run lots of races up to and including one full marathon. It had never crossed my mind that I could run an ultra. that was for the super fit; The serious (and slightly crazy) runners. And here I was, on the verge of turning 50, convinced it was the challenge I had been searching for.

I had needed a challenge that would test me both physically and mentally; one that would inspire and motivate me; one that would show I was still fit and strong as I turned 50.

I kept my challenge to myself for a while. Mulled it over, considered it from all angles; nurtured it until I was ready to share with a few trusted friends. The most common reaction I received was “Why?” I could see the confusion and alarm in their eyes – Had I lost my mind? Was I having my own unique version of a mid life crisis? What was I thinking…But as I shared my thoughts, I found myself getting excited. I was passionate about explaining what I was going to do; how I needed to train; how hard it was going to be. What nutrition strategy I would need; Clearly I had been gripped, and this reinforced my decision. I had found my challenge for sure. As one very wise friend said to me “I am raging against the dying of the light…” and he was spot on.

Quickly my thoughts turned to the practicalities. First and foremost I needed a race that would fit my challenge, and the race I have chosen is Endure24. a 24 hour endurance Ultra race in the South of England held in June every year. It is a real festival of running held on a 5 mile trail course through a beautiful country park. the aim is to run as many laps as you can in 24 hours. I am signed up, my entry is confirmed and the commitment is made.

I have 9 months to train and prepare for this epic adventure and this blog will track the highs and lows, the ups and downs of my training. I will share my experience as I get in the best shape of my life and work out my strategy and approach to running the most miles possible in 24 hours.

I do hope you will join me on this voyage of discovery and share my Ultra journey at 50.

simon running

 

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8 Week Training Update

What have I learnt in my first phase of training…?

8 weeks sounds like a long time but it has flown by so quickly. I can’t quite believe I have finished the first phase of my Ultra Marathon training. It hardly seems any time at all that I laced up my running shoes and completed the first run on my official training plan – following an 11 week break from running due to a slow healing back injury. It was a very frustrating time waiting to be signed off and allowed to run again. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I run not only for my fitness, but also for my general well being. I was getting increasingly grumpy and antsy as the weeks slowly passed and I think my wife was as glad I was when I got the all clear, and was able to run again! 🙂

8 weeks later and I am reflecting back on the completion of phase 1 of “Operation Ultra@50” and enjoying being back to a good level of fitness. I am now 10K fit and back up to running 10+ miles on my Sunday morning long runs.

Overall I am pleased with my progress and I am right on plan and exactly where my coach wants me to be at this point in the programme. This is good…However in the back of my mind I know just how much is still to be done. I have 6 months until my big challenge. There is an awful lot of hard work required between now and then… Am I up for it? You bet I am!

I can and I wil

So, now is a good time to reflect on the things I have learned and the things I will take forward into the next phase – the Marathon training phase – of my training.

I am leaner and lighter too, almost a stone lighter, than I was 8 weeks ago. In tandem with the running plan, I have also cleaned up my diet. I am planning meals in advance, cutting out processed foods, eating mostly whole foods and thinking about the balance of carbs, protein and fats to match my training. I have a really sweet tooth, but have also taken biscuits, cakes and other treats out of my day to day diet, and now have these only as rewards on long run days. To some this might not sound like much fun, but actually I am enjoying it (perversely!) The long term goal is more powerful and more important than the short term pleasure gained from the treat. And of course, as times goes by, the longer you eat properly, the better you feel anyway. I take the view that I am swapping foods rather than simply denying myself the things I like. So, for example, I still pop into Starbucks or Costa for a coffee, but rather than my usual Latte, I now have a Black Americano; Greek yoghurt, blueberries and a sprinkle of  granola has replaced a bar of chocolate or a slice of cake.

I have enjoyed the structure and routine of the plan. This suits me and means I am able to plan ahead and prepare for each run ahead of time, and get the most out of each and every workout. My running has improved immensely (not surprisingly) and I feel fitter and stronger. My coach has worked hard analysing my running, and providing me with little tweaks and improvements that have now been incorporated into my running. My stride is slightly shorter, my cadence (steps per minute) is faster, my feet land right underneath my body, my core is more engaged, my heart rate zone pace has increased… These are all great improvements and will really help me as my mileage increases. I am a more efficient runner, and have reduced my risk of injury significantly.

Another adjustment I have made and will maintain throughout my training, is cutting right back on alcohol. I have never been a big drinker, so this isn’t a major change for me, but I do enjoy the occasional beer or glass of wine, especially after a long hard week at work. I have largely cut this out and am more likely to be the designated driver now when we go out; much to my wife’s delight. Gin & Tonic is lower calorie than beer, so is a good swap when I do want to have a treat or reward after a long week. It’s all about putting sustainable choices in place so it doesn’t feel i am punishing myself.

I have committed to my training plan and deliberately worked on finding a happy balance. I have built the sessions into the rhythm of my life to minimise the disruption to my family and work time and ensure it is sustainable for the duration. This is clearly a very important lesson to take forward as the training ramps up and becomes longer and more intense. Without doing this there would be a big risk of not sticking to the plan and the quality of the training would be compromised.

25% of my training completed

So, onto the next block of training. My coach has advised me to just run in December; No structured plan; no detailed instructions; just an overall instruction to get mileage in my legs, work on core and strength, and enjoy my running. January will see the start of my formal Marathon phase of the training, leading up to the Brighton marathon in April. The mileage ramps up, the long runs get longer and the hard work kicks in… and I can’t wait 🙂

I love Running…