Monday, 12 October 2015

Running and the seven year itch

Marilyn Monroe and Tim Ewell in "The Seven Year Itch" (1955)
They say that, no matter whether you take up running at 35, 45 or even older, you get between 5 and 8 years when you see improvement almost every time you run and race. Having taken up running again in 2007, about 20 years after leaving it behind at school, and initially targetting a local 10k, I can vouch for that. Within 3 years I'd dropped my time from 47:11 to a 'personal best' of 39:05, matched the following year on a tougher course - and I might have beaten it if I hadn't been knocked sideways rounding a bend on the final 100m by a corner-cutter! My weight fell by nearly 2.5 stone, and I completed several marathons, with my two best in 2010 and 2012. There's no doubt that between 4 and 6 years after starting, I hit my 'sweet spot'.

And then it all just got harder.

My first real lay off came from running two races on consecutive snowy, cold January Sundays, kicking off a chest infection that laid me low for several months. After this, I picked myself up and ran two good 10 milers, one in March as a 'sighter' and then a proper one in November, only marginally slower than 2 years earlier and, according to ‘age-grading' a better performance. So far, so good.

And then came the seventh year.

The plan started well, aiming for the London Marathon in April, with the target to get under that all-important 3:15 ‘good-for-age’ time. My training was solid, reasonably consistent, a few injury ups and downs, and maybe just a bit light on the long run mileage. In the weeks immediately prior to the race, work crept in and just took the edge off the final polishing. And, being honest, I did not feel entirely confident on the line. And so it came to pass that, whilst still achieving a very credible 3:27, on the day I just didn't have the right combination and motivation to wring out of myself the best performance.

Then it was's the seven year running itch. Suddenly it's not easy, you have to want to push yourself. Performance has to be found, it does not just appear. Your commitment needs to go up, when in fact, it's likely to be going down.

To add to the challenge, right after London 2014, a change of role at work meant 4 days in London, and a harder trade-off between running, hotels, eating, colleagues, job. The biggest loss was the support system of my running club, and the twice-weekly training sessions and banter, now not available to me. It was very much down to me and my own plans. Anything is possible if you want it hard enough, yet the bar of difficulty had just gone up. The strength of your motivation needs to be double.

And it wasn't. I still managed to get out there and run, though less in the way of hard sessions. And, I let some other areas be a bit more free - eat a bit too much, drink a bit too much, nothing huge, just a bit..the net result of which is half a stone heavier and a fair bit slower!

Is the seven year itch inevitable? Maybe it is, maybe it ties in perfectly with the pattern for most people taking up running later in life, when you are fighting the natural challenges of getting older. It seems to fit. You need strategies to deal with it, and that's what I am facing up to now.

You won't be as fast as you were, but you can still train hard and achieve goals, and you can keep fit and trim too. You just have to accept that you can't eat what you like and run it all off! And you need a different mindset to make it all come good again.

So, here are my three commitments for the year ahead

Stop worrying about it. And remember that you can still surprise yourself.

Remind yourself of your motivation. Decide if you are still committed to your running or, be honest with yourself, have other things become more important? In which case, give it the right balance. It is still possible to achieve some of those targets, however the time and lifestyle commitment will step up hugely. If that's what you still want, great - just recognise that without making that commitment, it won't happen naturally any more (sorry about that!)

If you do still want to race, use age grading to set targets, not your 35-year-old self. I try to hit at least 70%, and if I do, then I know I am consistent with my former levels, even if the true time is slower. Age grading is the best thing for taking the monkey of absolute time off your back.

The running seven year itch is a phenomenon that, after 40, hits us all. You can't fight it. Embrace it. Understand it. Use it as an opportunity to change and establish a new plan for the future, not to be disappointed when measured against your former self. And, maybe, to try some new runs, where endurance (something that, strangely, seems to improve with age) is more of a factor than speed - trails, ultras - that may just give you a new sense of purpose.

I’m hoping that’s just what it does for me.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

30 Weeks to the Brighton Marathon

Two events have encouraged me to start my running blog again.

One was meeting my dearest friend Jason, who, having emigrated to Melbourne, has really embraced the 'running life', and is inspiring me with his glorious 10k morning runs in wonderful places. Here's a recent photo from his trip to Paris, before coming across to the UK, and a morning run...

Secondly, the realisation that I have 30 weeks to the Brighton marathon, and the scales are tipping towards 172 lbs...about 10lbs over my fighting weight if I am going to do well. My running for the past months has been a bit sporadic - sufficient to keep a bit of fitness, but not in any sense 'training'. we turn over a new leaf - I am going to allow 4 weeks of running as I fancy, and then start a 26-week lead-in to Brighton.

Key to this is making running more fun, and re-capturing some running 'social', which I have really missed in my London jaunt. Also, making it less of a grind. With that in mind, this morning, I drove out of Romsey so that my 14-miler could be totally on country roads that I only see when I am doing 20+ milers. That's a great start - more is needed.

Of course, since this is the blog of a wine-drinking runner, I shall not neglect the wine news either.  The weekend's best bottle is no doubt a Mas de Daumas Gassac 2003. A hot year, but not at all a baked wine. Very gentle, mid-weight, beautifully deep fruit and with secondary liquorice aromas. Beautiful! Alas my last one of 6. Still, I have the 2004, the 2006 and the 2010 to look forward to...


Saturday, 26 October 2013

A run, a shoe and a wine..

October 2013

27.9 miles
Rain and hail

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout

Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!

subtle shoes

MASI Campofiorin

Intense, deep, dark ruby red colour; very viscous with purple edges. Strong and attractive cherry aromas on the nose with a pleasing spiciness. Great power and balance on the palate, with aromas of ripe fruit, cherries in spirit and blackcurrants. Soft and well balanced tannins benefitting from good acidity; long aftertaste with hints of vanilla and cocoa, just like an Amarone. Semi-dried grapes were added to the young wine and a second fermentation started to produce a double-ferment lasting 15 days. This enriches the colour, flavour and body of the wine, which is then aged in oak barrels for 18 months. Campofiorin is built to last and has the potential to age for a further fifteen to twenty years, but can certainly be enjoyed now too

£12ish, Waitrose

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Gin and Tonic..

Bank Holiday weekend...

7 miles this morning, 3 miles at tempo pace, through the woods..

Belgian GP qualifying..



Beefeater (all we had in..)
Fever Tree


Sunday, 17 February 2013

A beautiful wine experience, and my first run in weeks!

Greetings all. It's fair to say that the last 3 weeks have knocked me for six, with the horrible week of the chest infection (and no wine), and a couple of weeks of steadily getting better. So, it was with some trepidation that I stepped outside of the front door today for my first Sunday run in a while.

Before I talk about that, Saturday brought an altogether nicer experience, in the form of a lunch with Janet at Hotel Terravina in the New Forest (well, edge of..Netley Marsh). For those who don't know, this is the recent venture of Gerard Basset (formerly of Hotel du Vin fame, now a Master of Wine, a Master Sommelier and winner of numerous worldwine prizes for generally being a great and super-knowledgeable chap in the world of vino). I have written on Terravina before. Its real draw for a wine-lover is that food and wine get equal billing and importance in the experience. So, you have lovely food (tasty, not huge portions) and a really great time with the wine list, including the excellent recent addition of the 250ml carafe concept, enabling 3 wines to be tried and still only drinking a bottle's worth. So, after kicking off with a beautiful Manzanilla 'en rama' from Barbadillo whilst mulling the menu, to partner Salmon we drank an organic and natural Montloius (Chenin Blanc from the Loire valley, low/no sulphur, so flavoursome). Then, with Hake, Janet paired an Oz Semillon and with pork, I enjoyed a beautifully crunchy and stalky Cabernet Franc from Uruguay. Naturally a pudding wine to round off the selection, a botrytis riesling for Janet and a Pedro Ximenez (think Christmas Pudding in a glass) for me.

Hurrah for taxis. We stumbled across the threshold at 4pm, tea, papers and a snooze by the fire, then a bracing walk at 6 to shake off a bit of a hangover! I summoned enough energy to decant a beautiful Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel 2006 to warm up a light supper, half today and half tomorrow.

And so, on to the running. Recovering as I am, I was mindful of the impact of cold air on my lungs. I have just invested in a marvellous piece of running gear - for a mere £12 - called the Original Buff  that comes in a huge variety of colours (see Essentially it's a tube of lycra, that can go from scarf (a 'running cravat' sounds a bit Victorian, I think, but it does feel strangely like that!) to mouth cover to headgear as the weather changes - very flexible, and just providing the right amount of cover. For me it was perfect, to ensure that I didn't suck in too much air at the ambient 4 degrees C, but a bit warmer. The lungs really thanked me for that. Though I probably did look a bit like a bandit out on my long run - still, I can't imagine many Wild West characters choosing a steady plod round Romsey though. Anyway, after 4.5 miles, that was enough - these are the runs that to do a bit too little is a much better idea than doing too much!

So - back to wine and running again.  Happy days.

Pip Pip and a jolly week to you all!

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Neither Running nor Drinking...

Hmm...have got bronchitis..hence no running and nothing to drink either. Bored rigid waiting for the 7-10 days to clear up (and expecting the same again before I really start running again)

So - little to report...

Sunday, 20 January 2013

A 10k and a pint

The snowy weather has put many things off course in the past few days..but we runners are a hardy bunch, and need only the glimmer of a possibility of a run to declare that all is well. And so it was with the Stubbington 10k, a well-known course for local speedsters, with only 100m of climb during the race (limited to 2 sharp inclines) and a mostly traffic free, pretty and well marshalled course. As well as excellent facilities, plenty of portaloos and lovely home basked cakes afterwards at a staggeringly good value 30p, you could hardly ask for more. A really great event...which, in the dark days of last week, we whispered 'might it be cancelled?' We waited patiently...

However the good news rang out at 1pm yesterday, and so, this morning, slightly trepidatious about the journey down to Lee on Solent, I sallied forth into the cold and quiet morning on the M27, hardly a soul to be seen. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that the commencement of the falling of the powdery stuff did dampen the soul a bit...and I started to worry that I was, in fact, barking mad to do this. On arrival all such worries were banished as the MAMILS (Middle-Aged Men In Lycra - several layers today of course) streamed towards the Community Centre. Warming up was bloody cold, and the legs scarcely kicked into gear after 15 mins of jogs and short sprints. Penguin-like we huddled on the start line, and then the off! Once I had worked my way past a few out-of-place lopers, it was time to put the gas down, which I did until the short hill at 8km just knocked the wind out of my sails a bit and forced me to trim down a bit and go into 'sustain position' mode.

They say that short distance runners hurt and long distance runners suffer, and you can usually be good at one or the other. I am sufferer, so this is what I can do - hang on when I ought to stop!

The end was in sight, a short sprint, and 39:48 on the clock. Under 40 mins, a very respectable performance given the lack of any specific training. Smiles all round, hands shaken, backs slapped, general bonhomie and an all round sense of delight at having partaken in this piece of mass madness (well over 1000 runners I'd say) and survived!

With a spring in my stride, I headed for home, and with lunch, a bottle of the perennially excellent Ringwood Old Thumper - 5.6%, a dark, malty, sweetish beer. Think of a crackling fireside, a cold night in a dark, stone-built pub somewhere on Exmoor - and this is your perfect match. Yummy. Always have to limit myself to one, though, as 2 means nothing else gets done for the rest of the day (no Blog posts for sure!)

A great marker for the year ahead, both in running and beerish terms.