Fresh targets

First up, happy new year. Are we really nearly two months in already? Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun. And with this being me, it being early into a brand, spanking new year, by fun I obviously mean lots, and lots of running.

I hope you are all well, anyway. I’m moving on from a slightly disappointing end of 2012 into a new and optimistic 2013. A new job with exciting new projects and opportunities. Tottenham (and king-monkey Gareth Bale in particular) looking strong. A frankly amazing number of potential festival and gig opportunities over the coming months. And, of course, a few running dates for the diary pencilled in already.

In pure running terms, most of 2012 was pretty average. After the ecstasy of the 2011 marathon, I was looking forward to a year of smaller runs (okay – so I was knocked back from London again). Half-marathons, 10ks, 5k Parkruns. Training runs with mileages in single figures and under an hour. And for the most part, I did it. But that was only half the story. Regular readers will be aware of the failure to hit my targets at Silverstone and Manchester. And the bout of illness in September knocked me right for six. I’m rarely ill, but it turns out when I am it lasts for bloody ages. My running went to pieces, I missed the end of the lovely summer evenings out on my bike, and I staggered into the Standalone 10k in October on the back of less than a week’s training (consisting of just three runs) and still feeling the after effects of Man Flu. IT’S A REAL ILLNESS, OKAY?

On the day though, Standalone was actually a decent day at the office. It was a weird, eerie kind of morning with thick fog all over the course. It’s a nice little event, Standalone; well organised, with, good supportive crowds, and a pleasant course around Hertfordshire’s country lanes. And this year was the 25th anniversary run – quite an achievement really, and made me feel proud to be a part of it.

Knowing I wasn’t taking it 100% seriously, I actually went out drinking the night before after having a load of wine with dinner too.  A risky strategy and one that probably meant overall victory and a nice cash prize was out the window. But I felt fine setting off, put in a couple of slower miles initially then grew into it a bit more and actually hit a half decent pace at points without really feeling too bad. I came across the line a few seconds short of my 42 minute target and felt like that was a good job well done in the circumstances. Strangely, I’d beat my previous best round the course which I’d set in 2008, and I remember having an absolute nightmare that day and feeling like total shit for the last two miles after setting off too fast. It’s funny how perceptions change after a few years of training at this stuff. A nice easy jog round after hardly any training and five beers the night before, and I was faster than an all-out assault round the same course four years previously.

Oh, and on a final note on Standalone, I also beat my cousin by about 10 minutes. He was considerably less pleased with that than I was considering he’d trained properly and stayed in the night before. My uncle came home a couple of minutes after, bloody amazing for a pensioner in his late 60’s, and as someone involved in organising the event since its inception (and yet entering it for the very first time) he got an unbelievable reaction coming over the finish line. Good lad. I will be back for more in October.

So that was probably the high point, but yet again a target missed even if it was only a half-arsed “yea, I’ll do it in 42 minutes” sort of thing. I suppose that was all quite apt though in the grand scheme of things; 2012, the year of running failure. Missed targets in almost every run I did, outside my intended time by anything from a few seconds at Standalone to nearly two minutes at Silverstone. Technically I missed my target in the 2011 marathon, too, but you can fuck right off if you think you’re taking that one away from me. Just getting round it was enough, thank you very much.

There were also cancelled runs due to illness, absolute shockers in both training and events (the last Parkrun when the flu was kicking in spring to mind) and a general feeling of “I’ve not quite taken this seriously, have I” throughout most of the year. Standalone is a case in point. But at the end of the day, I’m not a professional athlete. I run because I (usually) enjoy it. I enjoy the buzz of running in events and being cheered on by strangers, and I also enjoy writing about it. Not that you’d be able to tell by the fact that I’ve posted about eight entries in 12 months but I’ll try to improve that from now on. Most of all though, I enjoy having a normal life and if that means going to watch the football, eating huge meals or just sitting in the pub on a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon then that’s what I’ll do.

So, onto those runs I have pencilled in then. My first attempt at a sub 40-minute 10k for 2013 will take place in May for the Port Sunlight 10k, but first up it’s a return to the opposite banks of the River Mersey for the Liverpool Half Marathon and an attempt to get under an hour and a half. A no doubt emotional day, retracing many of my footsteps from the marathon of some 18 months ago. Training is going well, I’m off the booze for a few weeks now and I have a new pair of running shoes fresh and ready for battle. Let the games begin.

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