Beget: to cause or bring about.

I can’t remember who first said to me:

Money begets money

What I know is that when they said it, there was more than a tinge of bitterness in their voice. And I guess I believe that it is true – if you are lucky enough to start out with a big pile of cash, it is generally easier to make a bigger pile of cash. Donald Trump, I’m looking at you.

But recently I have realised that there is another – much more positive – side to the idea that doing something can bring about more of it. I am currently experiencing it.

Fitness begets fitness

In the past month or so, I have really hit my stride. In fact I have written about little else on this blog. The reasons I have gone from struggling to get out for a run more than a couple of times per week are many, but include;

  • Discovering that I actually really enjoy cycling
  • Getting better at cycling (or at least less scared of going fast on the bike)
  • The arrival of spring – especially the warmer weather and longer days
  • Realising that my physical fitness is an essential part of being the best husband and colleague I can be

What has really become apparent though, is that the more I do, the more I want to do. It is almost as if now that I have invested some time in exercising, it would be a bigger and bigger waste to let the hard-won fitness go.

Transformation

The transformation has surprised me. I’ve gone from feeling like going for a quick run was far too much effort to waking up excited about a 3 hours solo bike ride. I have been getting out for a run or a ride five or six times per week. And I am starting to think about some challenges for later in the year (Chiltern 100 and the Etape London are on the menu for cycling. Might also chuck in a trail race).

So what does all this mean? I think that the old adage that “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” (attributed to Jim Ryun, US track and field athlete who won a silver medal at the 1968 Summer Olympics in the 1,500 metres) is the key here. I was motivated to try something new – cycling – and now it is becoming a habit (and a bit of an obsession) which makes it easier to make it stick. And that has increased my motivation to run as well.

Long may this new motivation last …

What would it take?

The last few weeks have been really interesting. For a whole host of reasons I have managed to get out either cycling or running almost every day. This is a return of mojo like I have never experienced before. I must confess that for the last couple of years I have really been pretty pathetic, always finding an excuse for why I can’t spare the time or make the effort to get out for a run. In less than a month I have rediscovered a love of running that I thought had slipped away permanently.

How I lost my running mojo

I think that the slide started as soon as I ran my marathon PB in the London marathon in 2013. That was a glorious day. I ran 2:37:07, knocking nearly a minute and a half off my previous personal best. That year I was the 164th fastest male marathon runner in the UK. Even out of the 36,000 people who ran the London marathon that year, I would have been happy with 164th – but this is out of every result by a British runner that year. In that race I was just outside of the top 100.

The problem is that as soon as I finished I knew that I probably wouldn’t be able to get back to that kind of performance again. Mrs. Freeman and I had just launched Freestak and we were already contemplating Like the Wind magazine. I felt that the inherently selfish pursuit of a faster marathon time could not be justified. We had work to do.

Immediately after the 2013 London marathon, I took off the two weeks that my coach always prescribed. I was always advised by him to do that – physically and mentally it was the right thing to do. But rather than getting to day 10 of that two week period and feeling like I wanted to get back to training, I was immersed in work and really enjoying having the time that I would usually dedicate to training for Freestak and other projects that I had put on hold.

I remember getting to the end of the fortnight’s enforced rest and thinking that I’d give myself another week. Probably the week after that I went out for a few miles easy running. It was almost out of obligation.

After a while I got back into running regularly. But there was not plan. No target.

I would go out for a run because I knew it was good for body and mind, but I found myself just running for its own sake and not to any sort of programme. That carried on for month after month.

Running, but not as I knew it

A month after I ran my PB in London, I went to Copenhagen and paced a good friend – Charlie – to his PB. Then in the summer I ran a couple of ultras – the main one being the UTMB CCC (100+km around Mont Blanc, this is the little brother race of the main UTMB). I set off with Mrs. Freeman and the intention was to run the whole thing together (she didn’t finish, which is another story for another time). It was a slog-fest (you can read about it here). I took over 24 hours. No sleep.

The following year I ran the London again – my PB from the year before had guaranteed me a place in the Championship start. But I felt like a fraud because I really hadn’t trained. My idea was to ‘run for fun’ and it was only after about 10 miles that I thought I really should try to finish under 3 hours (which I did, just). It was fun, but I didn’t get a massive thrill from running that day in 2014. And the result was totally ‘meh’.

Later in 2014, my wife and I went back to run the UTMB CCC again. It didn’t go well once again. I finished, but I wasn’t happy.

After that, I just sort of fell out of love with running.

The wilderness years

All through 2014, 2015 and last year I was feeling a nagging sense of loss: the marathon had been my obsession since my first one in 2006. Of all the running I had done, the marathon was the distance I had enjoyed the most. The challenge that I embraced the most.

I lost the training group who had been such a huge part of my life as I trained for my marathon. Some people – including my coach – moved away from London. Other seemed to give up on marathons or went to other coaches and I didn’t want to follow them.

I just sort of drifted along. Running felt pretty pointless. I have put on weight. Struggled with diet. Tried to start going to the gym (it is just not for me). I have started enjoying rock climbing and hiking and road cycling (actually that is really becoming a new obsession) but nothing has hooked me like the marathon …

Coming in from the cold

In the past few weeks – with my renewed excitement about training – I have realised that 11 years after my first 26.2 mile race, I am still in love with the marathon. I still feel the emotional tug to race again.

I have started looking at paces on the runs I am doing and equating them to the pace I would have to run in a marathon if I wanted to run a time worthy of training for. I have started thinking about how I could make the time to run if I really want to, considering that apart from work, there is not much that I would rather be doing than running. I guess my new-found love of cycling is something that could get in the way, but already I’m wondering how much cycling could become part of my training for a marathon rather than a distraction from it.

I think the improvement in the weather and the longer daylight hours is helping. I think about how I trained through winter after winter for spring marathons and I really can’t fathom how I did it with no loss of enthusiasm.

Ready for a new challenge …

So all of these thoughts have been swirling around my head for a while. I haven’t actually considered the logistics at all. Or wether my 42 years old body could handle training properly. But then again I know quite a few people who are posting really impressive training volumes and interesting results and I know they are not super-human. They are mainly just dedicated.

Sure there are a million excuses for why I can’t or shouldn’t think about trying to start training for a marathon. But why should I listen to that voice inside my (or indeed anyone else’s voice) that doubts I can or should give in to the temptation to run another marathon. Surely not being reasonable is the reason I got myself in a position to achieve one of the proudest moments of my life.

So I am going to take a bit of time. Have a think about what I would need to do to run another marathon and whether that is reasonable. I am going to research whether cycling can fit in to a marathon training schedule. And I am going to think slightly longer term than I have in the past. I probably need 6 months to reverse the loss of fitness and strength from the last 2 years.

Then who knows. I might give it one more go. I’d love to know what you think …

Three punctures, one culprit: the story of a ride

This week the weather has been – as we like to say in the UK – changeable. That means shit in almost every other place on the planet. I guess there is truth in the myth that April brings showers and we have had a shed-load of them this week. But the weather predictors – those brave souls upon whose words avid BBQers and wedding planners wait with baited breath – said that today would be sunny, dry, still and cool. Boy, were they right.

In fact it is probably fair to say that they could have said “it’ll be a perfect morning for a bike ride” as shorthand for what the weather was going to do.

So I contacted Kaz, a friend of many years standing, who I met at the Mornington Chasers running club (he was the team captain for one year, dontcha know) and asked if he would be up for a ride. Since the heady days at the ‘Chasers when me, Kaz, Marc, Alex, John and a gaggle of others all dueled it out to see who was the fastest, who could find the most effective training plan and who would go ‘sub-3’ first or get a London Championship qualifying time, we have changed. Fatherhood for some. Moving away for others. Old age for most of us. And Kaz started dabbling in triathlon (I say ‘dabble’ – he actually represented Hong Kong in the ITU World Champs) and now he’s always up for a cycle.

Kaz suggested a 70km loop that he knows into the countryside north of London. I though that sounded much nicer than endless 3 mile laps of Regents Park.

As I opened the door this morning, it was spectacular. The cars were still dusted with frost at 6am and it was cold. But the sun was already high in the clear, blue sky and there wasn’t much more than a gentle breeze. Perfect.

I was very fortunate to receive a parcel earlier in the week from ashmei, who have recently launched a cycling and tri range to complement their running apparel. We agree a contra-deal for some work and they had sent me three items from their bike range – bib-shorts, merino carbon cycle jersey and cycle softshell jacket. After following instructions about washing the bib-shorts before the first ride, this three-some was my kit for today. It was perfect. Actually I will write about my first impressions in a review that I’ll post soon. But for now, suffice it to say, this kit is amazing.

So there I was – breakfast eaten, tea finished, all kitted up and ready to ride. Well almost…

The back tyre on my bike was flat. As flat as a pancake.

Actually two weeks ago I had a flat on that tyre on a group ride. The guys I was riding with had helped me change the tube and used a CO2 canister to fill the tyre. One of them warned me that I should deflate the tyre and refill it with air when I got home, because the CO2 would escape over time. I forgot.

So no drama. I used the track pump to get the tyre up to 100psi and off I went.

Kaz and I cycled to Hertford. About 25 miles. It is a flat ride out with a couple of tiny hills. But I was really blowing from around 15 miles onwards. It felt like I was peddling through treacle the whole time. And the bike felt squishy.

When we arrived in Hertford, I found out why. My back tyre was soft. Not flat – I would definitely have felt that. But it completely depressed under my thumb. That is why it felt so hard to pedal at my usual pace.

We had a coffee and then I changed the inner tube. I thought that maybe it was the CO2 from a couple of weeks ago causing problems (although the tube was completely full of air since I’d pumped it up). We set off.

Five miles down the road and that squishy feeling was back and I was better tuned in to it. We stopped and once again, the back tyre was like marzipan.

A second tube come out and this time, in the absence of a friendly Halfords that would lend me a track pump – as we had in Hertford – I was reduced to pumping furiously with a pump that looked like a biro.

This time, though, I did what I should have done the first time the tyre was flat. And the second time. I checked really, really carefully for anything stuck in the tyre. And sure enough, there it was – a tiny splinter of glass. Almost too small to see and actually so small that it was barely piercing the inner tube, so the puncture was a slow depressurisation rather than a dramatic psssshhhht that usually happens when glass meets pressurised rubber.

Finally after a few minutes, we were on our way again.

Sun was still out. The temperatures were still low and the sky was blue. The roads were dry and – thankfully – for the majority of the ride, the drivers were not all reckless, aggressive idiots. It was in fact, a perfect day for a ride. Just a shame that the rider was such a novice! Lesson learned. Let’s hope that there are more days like this for me to find out ways to develop as a cyclist.

The power of angry

I’ve recently finished a book called Will It Make The Boat Go Faster. It’s written by Olympian Ben Hunt-Davis, a member of the victorious eight at the Sydney Games. The book has the potential to be really brilliant, but actually it is clearly designed to be a sales tool for the business that Hunt-Davis runs advising businesses on how to improve using lessons he has learned as an elite level rower. Nevertheless, if you understand that the book has an ulterior motive, it is thought provoking.

One thing that comes across is that Hunt-Davis (and I guess his team mates) are angry and they use that anger to their benefit. They feel under-valued by the GB rowing organisation. They are pissed off at the lack of funding. They get beaten in races that they shouldn’t and that makes them angry. Over and over again, the anger that Ben feels is the fuel that drives his performance.

Ben Hunt-Davis and the other seven people in the boat with him are not alone. In fact very often when you look at elite performance, there is a sense of anger, frustration, injustice, etc. And not just in the areas you would expect it, such as boxing or financial trading – high risk, high reward areas where the adrenaline flows.

Screen Shot 2015-12-27 at 19.19.29 Screen Shot 2015-12-27 at 19.18.10How about the anger written across Seb Coe’s face as he crosses the finish line having defended his 1500m Gold medal from the previous Games. On crossing the finish line he immediately turned to the press box and – gently – pointed out that they had written him off a little too early.

Or away from sport, how about Steve Jobs letting IBM know exactly what he thought of them?

 

There are certainly thousands, if not millions, of examples like this.

And I totally get that. I think that the thing that drove me (drives me, even) to do the best I can, is anger. A sense that I want to prove people wrong. Anger with myself that I have let myself down. Anger that the world is not always fair. Certainly when it comes to my running, there was Screen Shot 2015-12-27 at 19.37.31plenty of anger. At the very start I was incredibly angry at how stupid I had been to let myself get out of shape after years of smoking, eating too much, drinking too much and not exercising. I felt that I had reached the lowest point whilst all the people I wanted to be compared with were fitter, more successful, better dressed, happier etc than me. Many still are. But at least I now know that I can channel the anger I feel in to being better. Driving myself to achieve more.

The trick with running, I think, is that the anger needs to be controlled. It needs to be like the heat under a pot of water – just at simmering point. Just being uncontrollably furious is not going to work. But there needs to be enough heat that you will get out of bed at 5am to do a run in the cold and the dark. That you will go to the track in the rain and run a hard session despite being freezing cold. That you will forego invitations because you have a key race coming up. And there should also be a way that the heat can be turned up occasionally – in the last 50m of a set of 400s or close to the top of a hill mid-way through a hill session or with 1000m to go at the end of a half marathon. Then I think it is OK to actually be angry and let it show.

With running at the moment, the truth is that I feel a bit of anger that I have let myself down again. I’ve not managed to maintain fitness and I’ve been using the business that I co-founded with my wife as an excuse. I don’t like excuses – from myself or other people. So I am doing something about it; more running, going to the gym, moderating how much I eat and how much alcohol I drink. I know I won’t get back to the sort of running I was doing when I worked for someone else (such a low-stress situation compared to what I do now) but I need to be doing the best I can in the circumstances.

Thankfully I have controlled anger to get me there.

Finding intensity

Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 09.52.18
Dennis Kimetto – a man with intensity

Recently I posted about happiness (or lack thereof) and I have to say I was pretty overwhelmed by the response I got to that – friends contacted me by the dozen to offer advice and ask if they could help (to those who asked if they could help, just asking if you could help, helped!) And I am really pleased to report that I have started to find my happy again. I’m not all the way back to unbridled joy – will I ever be? – but I am certainly above the line that divides happiness from unhappiness.

Now I feel as though I need to capitalise on the positivity and see what I can improve upon. My current thinking is about intensity.

I will admit that most of my life I have considered myself to be a lazy person. I don’t judge my laziness by any empirical measure and I don’t spend any time trying to compare myself accurately against other people. But the feeling that I am lazy is more like a nagging guilt that hangs around in the background.

I have thought about this long and hard and I now believe that the answer to feeling lazy is in finding some intensity.

Perspective

We were having a conversation in the office recently about how we view ourselves and I tried to make the point that it can be difficult if the people you aspire to be like – the people that you consider to be your peers even – are actually outliers: those who are the best in the world or at least those who dedicate themselves to doing one thing at the exclusion of all others. For example it would be stupid for me to compare myself as a runner with Dennis Kimetto. But I do have friends who have run 2:20 marathons (and faster) and I think that I am more like them than I really have any right to because they are, and have been, more dedicated to becoming the best runners they can be that I am (and have been). When I find that I don’t have the motivation to go out running and I know that they are training, I blame myself for being lazy. Actually I believe that when it comes to running, those people just have more intensity than I do.

Intensity

So what do I mean by intensity? Well I am defining it as a state of mind where there are no excuses, where the focus is completely on the thing at hand. Intensity to me means that the person has a clear goal and a plan to get there. And importantly, the discipline to make sure that they are not distracted.

In my life I feel like I struggle to maintain focus and that means that I don’t have the intensity that I need to succeed to the degree that I want to. I certainly get distracted too easily. So what do I need to do? Well here is a list that I have been thinking about (but if you can add anything to this, please chime in and tell me);

  • Have a goal or two and make them the priority. Don’t let other people prioritise things for me.
  • Have a plan – whether that is running or business, I know I need a plan to get me to the goals I have set.
  • Clear the decks – get rid of all the distractions that take time, emotions and energy away from the goals that are important.
  • Throw off negativity, especially people who want to drain my energy or focus.
  • Review regularly.
  • Have fun doing what I am doing.

Looking at that list it all seems so obvious. But in the last few months I have realised that the important things to me at the moment – especially my running – have suffered because of a lack of clear goals, a lack of a plan, too much mental clutter, the unwelcome distraction of negative people and – possibly as a result of all of those things – a feeling that there is not much fun being had.

I also know that when I look back on my running a couple of years ago, I had all of the elements I am now saying I need to put in place: I had intensity.

So, thank you to everyone who reached out when I was in a slump. Some of you know more about what was actually happening than others, but everyone I spoke to or who wrote to me or sent me a message was a massive part in helping me pull myself together. I am really grateful and humbled by the support.

Thankfully I feel that I have managed to clear the mental fog, I am back on track towards some clearly defined goals and I feel like I am regaining the energy and focus that I was missing.

Now is the time to bring the intensity.

Happy? It’s more important than you realise.

Me being very, VERY happy!
Me being very, VERY happy!

Greg Rutherford was recently on a documentary looking into the concept of whether people are born to win: if through genetic testing it is possible to see what sorts of sports any of us are ideally built for? Regardless of whether or not you think it is ethical or important or necessary to know these things – and I am not sure personally – another thing that came up in the programme was that there is much, much more to being a winner, or the best you can be, then whether you have the right genes.

Matthew Sayed was on the same programme and he says that genes are a tiny ingredient in a very complex and rich recipe. More importantly, for Sayed, are attitude and opportunity which he says are everything.

Back to Rutherford, and he says that being happy is key. Before his breakthrough at the Olympic Games in 2012, Rutherford actually reduced his training to three sessions per week and spent much more time making sure that he was happy.

Personally this is a bit is a light bulb moment.

At the moment I would say that I am not generally very happy. There is a lot of pressure coming from being half of the team running freestak with my wife, Julie, and – again with Julie – trying to continually improve Like the Wind magazine. Running a business is really tough. I am learning the difficult lesson that when you do something for yourself and put it out in the world, you become a target for people who think that their opinions matter, even when all they seem to want to do is be negative. I guess that is just spite and jealousy, but I am definitely affected by it.

At times I feel tired, stressed and anxious. Don’t get me wrong, this is not how I feel all the time. If I did I would have to stop! But I would say that on balance I feel unhappy often enough that it is having a negative effect on my running. In short, I find myself regularly thinking that I would rather have a cup of tea and curl up on the sofa than get myself out of the door.

So the answer is… well I’m not sure. I guess I have to think about how to make myself happier. If I think back to when I ran my marathon PB, I was really happy. J and I had launched freestak and we were in a honeymoon period with the business. I was happy to be my own boss and I believed that we were doing something important. Training therefore was going well and that made me… happier. As a result I raced well and enjoyed a few good results. And guess what? That success made me even happier!

Right now I know that if I can get myself out and start running more and get in shape, then I will feel happier and that will have a positive affect on everything. I guess I need to start being less sensitive about what people I don’t know think and try to look at all the positive things that are happening. That can then be the fuel to drive me towards more and more happiness. Let’s just hope that I’m genetically programmed to be happy!

New socks… and other things to get you going

Best-Calgary-New-Years-Eve-2012-Events

It is the start of a new year and whether or not you subscribe to the idea of taking one day in the year as the signal to change things in your life or not, it can undoubtedly a tough time of the year to be running (or doing anything else outdoors to be honest). Certainly when there are blue skies and frosty mornings, it is a pleasure to get out for a run, but if it is a typical wintery day which is wet, cold and has about 45 minutes of sunlight squeezed in, then it can be difficult to get yourself out of the door. So here are a few of the things that I have done / will be doing to help me when the motivation is flagging:

  • Read a blog: there are some great blogs out there that might help to get you out the door – try James Adams, Jay Watts or Holly Rush for example (and if you have others that you love, let me know!)
  • Read a book (or magazine): I have really enjoyed some great running books recently, in particular a re-reading (for the umpteenth time) of Charlie Spedding’s book From Last to First, Wild Running by Jen and Sim Benson and I have just started Ronnie O’Sullivan’s autobiography Running. (Blatant plug, but you could also buy a copy of Like the Wind magazine…!)
  • Sign up to a race and write yourself a training plan to get you through to the start line – this is one of the best ways to motivate yourself to get out in my opinion
  • Sign up to Strava. There is nothing like a bit of competition and visibility to get you up and out of the door, after all you don’t want to break your streak or lose that king/queen of the mountain badge, do you?
  • Find a training partner – have someone that you are responsible to. Once you have made a plan to meet someone for a run, you really should go, right?
  • Download a podcast – Marathon Talk is a brilliant show hosted by Martin Yelling and Tom Williams (I was honoured to be interviewed for the show a couple of weeks ago) or if you are into the longer stuff then Talk Ultra is a brilliant show by the knowledgeable and irrepressible Ian Corless.
  • Buy some new socks: I love having a new bit of kit and socks are a great way to treat your feet and give you the little ooompf that you need to get going. At the luxury end ashmei socks are amazing – they are made from merino wool with incredible attention to detail which makes them super-comfortable. And for everyday running RunBreeze are one of my favourite options.

So there you go – a few tips to help you (and me!) get out and run more or keep up the amount of running you have been doing. The rewards of being consistent are incalculable and you will very rarely, if ever, regret a run. But that afternoon on the sofa with a bar of chocolate… that you might regret!

Reacting = bad, responding = good says Seth

Seth-Godin-620x310I really enjoy receiving the blog posts that Seth Godin sends out every day. More often than not he touches upon something that is relevant or pertinent to what is going on in my life. At the very least that means that I know I am not alone!

Today, Seth advised us not to react to the playground bullies – they are childish and petulant and what they really want is to get a rise out of you. Seth’s advice is to respond to them – to come up with a way of dealing with their behaviour that is mature. Here is Seth’s advice:

… we can respond. With something that works. With an approach we’re proud of, proud of even after the moment has passed. It’s not easy, it’s often not fun, but it’s the professional’s choice.

I needed to hear that from a professional point of view today. It allowed me to let go of some pent-up frustration that I was feeling. Good.

But it has also allowed me to see my current running-slump in a different light. It is no one’s fault that I am not running much at the moment. It is not even my fault. It is just a fact that I am struggling to get motivated and actually that is fine. The best thing I can do is not react – don’t get all panicky and try to smash out back to back (to back) hour long runs every day to make up for lost runs, which is what I was planning. Much better is to respond with a plan that is sustainable, sensible and achievable in the circumstances.

Thanks Seth!

 

 

 

The cult of Bill

A few years ago I met a man, called Bill. And he talked to me about the art, not the science of running. He told me about running by feel, about dedication, about consistency. He talked about being competitive but also humble. About running with others but also enjoying the solitude of running alone. He talked to me about the importance of self belief and of pushing yourself if you want to achieve more than you ever thought possible.

But this was no shamanic trail runner. No running hippy. Bill was a road runner, a marathoner. A product of the grim north in Britain in the 1950s and 60s. And he is increasingly my hero.

Today I was sent a link to a company that is creating running apparel that will measure and record every conceivable variable available to a runner – gait, stride length, cadence, speed, distance, altitude… the list goes on and on. And it is just another example of the nonsense that I think permeates running. All the gear and no idea basically.

So I want to start the cult of Bill: work on an understanding of what it takes, in the 1950s and 1960s in post-war Coventry, with no money and a full time, physical job, to run a 2:10 marathon.

Of course it is not about one man called Bill. At the time Bill was running, right up to the end of the 1980s, there were British athletes – men and women – running times that would eclipse any British or indeed European runner now. But I am going to use Bill as my benchmark. The person that I will try to learn from.

Lesson one is about dedication. Bear in mind that at the time he is talking about in this excerpt from an interview that he wrote, Bill is probably 23 or 24 years old and just married:

My daily routine was: Monday to Friday – up just before 6.00 am on the road by 6.10 for the first run of the day. Breakfast then out to work by 8.00 in a physically demanding job. A second run would be done at lunch time. The third run of the day – the main evening run – started by 5.30pm. In bed by 9.00/9.15. Always enjoyed the cinema and the theatre and so once a week, usually Wednesday evening would be out, so in bed by 10.30

How many runners are prepared to put in that sort of effort, month in month out for years on end? Not me. But then maybe I didn’t want success badly enough.

So that is the first lesson from Bill. I’ll post more about what Bill did soon. For now, I have to hit the sack and get some sleep – I need to somehow fit in three runs tomorrow!

The Florence Marathon 2010 – a breakthrough moment

Screen Shot 2014-09-07 at 16.22.28I was recently talking to someone involved in the organisation of the Paris marathon and she asked if I had run her race. I said I had and I explained that it was a bit of a breakthrough race for me. The first time I ran under 2:45. But actually if I think about the race that really was a breakthrough, for a number of reasons, it was Florence 2010. Why do I consider it to be a breakthrough? Here’s why:

Getting my race head on

The Florence marathon was in November, seven months after the sub-2:45 Paris race. I like the fact that instead of being satisfied with my Paris result, I redoubled my effort and tried again for a faster time. I think that I am inclined to be satisfied with a good result sometimes and yet when I went to Florence I wanted to improve on the time that had been a big target up to that point.

Getting the days before the race right

I was supposed to be sharing a room with a friend at the Florence race, but unfortunately he wasn’t able to come at the last minute and that left me on my own in a big hotel room. Usually I would have found the solitude rather disquieting and I would have ended up running around trying to keep myself busy. Instead I stuck to the plan of a couple of very short easy runs, planned where and I when I would eat dinner and then spent a lot of time on the bed in my hotel room watching TV. I really did as little as possible in the couple of days before the race and so by the time I was on the start line, I was really rested and ready to run.

Not panicking when things don’t go right

Screen Shot 2014-09-07 at 16.21.56On the start line, two things didn’t go to plan. One, it was tipping it down with rain. I mean really pouring with rain. I was soaked an hour before the race started, with puddles in my shoes. The other thing is that I mistimed my toilet break and five minutes before the start I was in the middle of a crowd of runners desperate for a pee.

Rather than panic about these things though, I rationalised that the rain was good because it would keep me cool and I waited until the race started, ran 800m and found a bush in need of watering. Then I got on with the race. In the end neither the rain nor the 60 second stop 800m into the race made any difference at all.

Getting tough with myself

Screen Shot 2014-09-07 at 16.22.12Marathons tend to hurt, especially if you are running them as hard as you can. The Paris marathon had certainly hurt. And the Florence race was tough. I wasn’t running to a time plan, instead I focussed on the person in front and I tried to catch them. Easy at the start, harder as the race went on. But I kept pushing. I didn’t allow myself to ease up and the result – 2:40:49. An improvement of over three minutes on my time from Paris.

So there you have it – I knew what I was getting in to in Florence and I really welcomed the effort that I knew it would entail. The result was great from a time point of view. But more than that I was happy that I had grown up a bit as a runner and started to get all the things right that would be essential if I was going to run the marathon any faster. Maybe I need to re-read this list and see if I can do it again…   Screen Shot 2014-09-07 at 16.21.12