Sunday, 30 January 2011

Chopwell Woods

Yesterday morning was bright, crisp, cold and great for running. One of those runs where the ice on the puddles cracks as you run across it and the frost crunches with every stride,

My hamstrings where in reasonable shape following yet another easy 4 miles on Friday, having been very tight after Thursday's fartlek session.

So it was a steady but hilly 10 miles, down onto the Derwent Walk, along to Lintzford then climbing up through Chopwell Woods before
dropping down into Blackhall Mill, then climbing back up to High Westwood and then up to Medomsley.

Chopwell Woods covers over a 1000 acres and is only a couple of miles from my home (photos all show Chopwell Woods). It therefore features frequently in many of my runs. It is a great place to train, especially for hill work as it is situated on the northern slopes of the Derwent Valley. It is a popular area for runners, walkers, mountain bikers and horse riders as well as for families just enjoying a day out.

However, grey clouds are looming. As part of its 'austerity' measures the Government is planning to sell off 15% of Forestry Commission land, of which Chopwell woods is a part, throughout the country, to raise £100m.

Or am I just being cynical if I suggest that the Tory's are just reverting to type, allowing the rich to get richer, after all buying a commercial wood has significant tax benefits in that no Income Tax or Corporation Tax is payable on profits from commercial forestry and it is also 100% exempt from Inheritance Tax.

Loss or restricted access to this facility will have a massive affect on not just the local community.

Any how, getting off my soap box and back to running. Today's run was a steady 15 miles on the Derwent Walk.

Thursday, 27 January 2011


Following Tuesday evenings 3 x 10 min session, my hamstring was again very tight all the following day. As a result I was reduced to an easy 4 mile on Wednesday evening.

Anyone who has been reading any of my recent posts will realise that I have been having some hamstring issues over the past couple of month. Like most runners I know, when you pick up an injury you are immediately looking for a quick fix/cure/magic, in order to maintain your training schedule.

Invariably we never find the 'magic cure' but it does not stop us looking. So I thought I would share some of the tid bits I have come across during my recent searches.

If you have read any athletics/running magazine over the last year or so you will have had it drummed into you that static stretching is no longer considered best practice.

Static stretching encourages the muscle to relax in order to create elongation. Because a static stretch is done passively, it may create an imbalance with the opposing muscle groups, making the muscle less sensitive to neural messages sent to it by the brain, which reduces its ability to generate force.

The type of stretching we should be doing is active or 'dynamic' stretching.

A dynamic stretch involves actively taking the muscle in and out of a stretch. This will lengthen the muscle, but also prepare it for quick / explosive activity. Therefore, training your hamstrings to stretch dynamically can greatly reduce the risk of tears and other injuries.

For example in the stretch shown the back is stable against the floor using the abdominal muscles and all the muscles of the legs, the gluts,hamstrings and quadriceps, are active to maintain the extension of the knees and to create resistance against the band. When the leg is brought towards the body, the hamstrings are elongated, but the opposing muscle groups are active and the spine and pelvis are stable.

Also quite a useful book I have come across is 'Sports Pilate's - How to prevent and overcome sports injuries' by Paul Massey. The book covers a variety of different sports, with specific exercises / preventative measures/ remedies for each sport. I have found the book to be detailed and well explained, with clear advice.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Long reps

Last nights session was an 8 mile run, once again over Scotswood Bridge, along Scotswood Road, around Newcastle Business Park and Back.

In near perfect conditions a group of 8 of us completed an interval session of 3 x 10 mins with 5 min jog recovery.

This was probably the most comfortable I have felt all year, with very little tightening of the hamstring following the session. So it seems as though things are, at last, moving in the right direction.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Durham Cathedral Relays

Following the cold frosty mornings of the previous few days, yesterday turned out to be mild., with temperatures of around 6C, for the 3 x 3400m legs of the annual cross country relays at Durham.

Blaydon had one team entered (unfortunately for Alan S and Brian who are both in the over 55 category) in the 45- 55 year old category. As they say in horse racing parlance the going was firm to soft on this flat two loops per leg course.

I ran first leg and set of at what felt like a reasonable pace, covering the first loop in 5.26 and lying in 13th place. Unfortunately, half way around the second loop I started to struggle, loosing 3 places to hand over in 16th place in 11min 07 sec. Not a time to set the world alight but I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was great to be back racing after such a long lay off.

Brian who took over from me on second leg completed his leg in 12.24 and 22nd place, while Alan S ran 11.32 (second fastest M55 time) to bring us home in 17th position overall (5th M45 - M55 team).

Full results of the race can be found at

Friday, 21 January 2011

Cold snap

Temperatures have definitely dropped again this week, with the paths frosty and slippery in places. Last nights session was a 7 mile run with 10 x 1min with 1 min jog recovery. I was feeling a bit under the weather, so found the session a bit of a struggle. Luckily it was a group session, so I was able to work of the others to keep me going and the effort up.

Wednesday was a steady 6 miles following Tuesday's session of 6 x 2 min with 2 min jog recovery as part of an 8 mile run along Chainbridge Road and Scotswood Road and back. On the whole I feel that things are now starting to move in the right direction and that hopefully my running is picking up again.

A steady run this evening and again tomorrow should set me up nicely for my first race of the year on Sunday.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Binge racing

A blog I regularly read is Terry Lonergan's Running on Empty (well worth a read). In his recent posts he has been discussing racing as part of a marathon build up and what he has called 'binge racing'. As a fan of racing as part of marathon preparation and as someone who has probably been guilty of binge racing I decided to look back over my old training logs and I spotted the following examples:

In 1987 when I ran my pb for the Marathon (2,25.55) my race build up was:

1 Jan - Morpeth to Newcastle 14.25 miles, 72.11, 31st
18 Jan - Loftus 9 miles , 47.01, 11th
24 Jan - Prudhoe Cross Country approx 6 miles, 38.33
1 Feb - Chester le Street 5, 26.57, 12th
14 Feb - Signal Road Relays, 2.3 mile leg
21 Feb - National Cross Country Champs, Luton, 58.55, 301st
8 March- Tynmouth Boundary 10, 51.47,13th
22 March - York half marathon, 68.50, 11th
5 April - Blaydon cross country approx 6 miles, 34.29, 4th
11 April - Jarrow 10km, 32.02, 14th
17 April - Elswick Road Relays my 2.1 mile leg in 10.48

During that period I also clocked up 1083 Miles, with the biggest week being at 109miles. This was the same week as I raced the Elswick relays.

I remember being disappointed with my marathon time as my target had been 2.23. Looking back perhaps I may have over trained slightly?

I am not sure whether this would fit into Terry's definition of binge running, but flicking through my old training logs show plenty of examples that probably would - one that stood out was in 1990:

April 1 - Wallsend 10km 31.59, 17th
April 8 - D'orssey Ville International half marathon, Paris, 69.13, 22nd
April 10 - Blaydon cross country approx 6 mile, 34.20, 2nd
April 13 - Elswick Road Relays my 2.1 mile leg in 10.43
April 16 - Hartlepool 10 mile, 53.05, 10th
April 25 - 25 x 1 mile relays Newcastle (where 5 in a team ran 5x1 mile alternatively, 5 times) my mile times where 4.44, 4,53, 4.46, 4.53, 4.50 and we finished 1st team.

That is the equivalent to a third of all the races I did for the whole of last year!

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Weekly round-up

Thursday nights run of 8 miles with 2x2 mins with 2 min jog recovery and 4x1 min with 1 min jog recovery was sandwiched between an easy 6 miles on Wednesday and an easy 4 on Friday.

Today with strong winds (strong enough to bring down the power cables to our house, this morning) playing havoc. I headed to the Derwent Walk where at least there would be some shelter and did another 8 miles with 3 miles at tempo. I must admit I found this tougher than I had thought it would be. Hopefully it was just one of those days.

Tomorrow will be 14 miles with the group from the Harriers.

Having not raced for so long I must say I am looking forward to the Durham Cathedral Relays next week. It will be a short sharp shock, at 3000m a leg, but at least it will get me back into it.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Treadmill, hills and a race?

Following the rain overnight on Sunday and throughout Monday and the continuing freezing temperatures the paths were once again reduced to an icy mess. So with safety in mind I headed to the Gym for a treadmill run and weights session. The only problem was, with queues for the equipment reminiscent of those seen on the news, of queues for the January sales, as those New Year resolutions to get fit/weight loss etc moved into their second week. I did, however, eventually manage a steady 4 miles.

Last night however, I was once again back outside for a group run. A 7 mile loop around Stella, Ryton and Stargate, with efforts on the uphill sections.

It looks as though My first competitive action of the year will be a leg in the Durham Cathedral Relays on 23rd January.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Weekend Runs

The snow on Friday turned to rain overnight so Saturday's 6 mile run was a case of slipping and sliding through the pre - planned Fartlek session. Due to the conditions I kept the efforts long and brisk rather than short and fast. Not quite what I had planned but at least another session under the belt.

The snow was back again today, but with the sun out and bright blue skies it was a pleasant 12 miles.

Some photos from the run:

Friday, 7 January 2011

Return of the white stuff

As the temperature has struggled to reach 0C throughout the day and this afternoon has seen the return of snow (although nowhere near as much as a couple of weeks ago). This evenings run is an easy 4 mile recovery run, off road.

This has been a good week so far, as I continue to build up the miles and start to re-introduce a bit of quality. Monday was a steady 6 miler, Tuesday 8 miles, with 4 x 5mins with 4 mins jog recovery. Wednesday, an easy 3 miles, as I was getting ominous twinges from the hamstring again.

Last night, I decided to stick to my plans, with a 7 mile run around Newburn and Scotswood Bridges with the middle 4 miles at tempo. I must admit a better description would be with the middle 4 miles at a brisker pace as I did not quite make the pace I would normally run a tempo session in. But at least I got the session in.

As for goals for the year:

Short term to continue the current build up slowly until fully recovered from hamstring problem.

Mid -term to concentrate on speed - as I have a preference for endurance work I tend towards those type of sessions.

Get back to racing, with a view to getting back to racing on the track in the summer.

As for targeting particular races I am still holding off making any decisions for another week or so. Until I see how recovery from hamstring issues progresses.

If anyone is racing this weekend - Have a good one!

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Seeing in the new year

It used to be that I raced every New Years Day. It was tradition for everyone in Blaydon Harriers to run the famous Morpeth to Newcastle. 'The Morpeth' was the oldest road race in the country but is sadly no longer with us. When I first started doing 'The Morpeth' it was a 14.25 miles but in it latter days the course was changed and reduced to a half marathon. It was also moved from its traditional date of 1st January.

Following the demise of 'The Morpeth' I have on occasion ran The Resolution Run, an approximate 10km on Newcastle Town Moor. This year like last though I have not raced on 1st January.

This year I saw in the New Year on New years Eve by watching the parade and fire works in Newcastle (there are some great pictures on Francesca's blog at if you are interested) followed by drinks with friends. New Years day was therefore an easy 3 miles.

Today saw a group of us from the club doing a steady 12 miles on the Derwent Walk