London Marathon Training – Week 15

Mileage for Week Fifteen
Mon – 0 miles
Tue – 3.7 miles
Wed – 0 miles
Thu – 0 miles
Fri – 4.2 + 4.6 miles
Sat – 3.1 miles
Sun – 1.9 miles (at the track, mostly walking)
Total – 17.5 miles

The taper week in full flow, for the most part.

I skipped one run, Wednesday, as I got home a little later than expected and my enthusiasm for running quickly vanished.

That aside this was a good week, the mileage dropped easily and the legs are responding to the rest. Yes, the calf issue is still there but it is manageable.

I began the week running at marathon pace over the run. My legs were tiring towards the end and I put that down to sitting all day at work and then running.

Friday was Good Friday and the beginning of a long weekend off from work. I woke around the normal time, had some food and then got myself out of the house. Once again I managed to average my marathon pace of 9:00 min /mile across the run. It seems like I’ve finally got my legs to understand where I want them 🙂

I got back from the run and Sarah was preparing to go for her run, after a brief rest, I put my shoes back on and went out for another run, making 8.8 miles for the day.

Saturday was parkrun day! My 20th parkrun too. I started right at the back, this was intended to be a gentle run. I plodded around the first mile in 9:23 min /mile and was comfortable. I was just running and the next time my watch beeped I had run the second mile in 8:33. I didn’t consciously speed up nor did I feel like I had sped up. The third mile was quicker again! 08:12 min /mile. There was a sprint at the end which I shouldn’t have done but a chap ran passed me on the final corner and I wasn’t having that, so put my foot down and sped passed him for a final time of 27:12

We went into Sunday, expecting not to run that much at all. Sarah and I took her brother and his son aged 8 up to the local running track.

Leo hadn’t been to the track before and certainly hasn’t done much consistent running. We started by running a lap of the 400m track. Leo did really well and managed to run/walk the lap. We played some games and ran around. Leo must have done three laps in total, his best was 2:40 which we all think is brilliant. As I remarked, it was great to see him out of breath and breathing heavily!

We will get him and his Dad up to the track lots more as the weather improves and keep an eye on his times but with no pressure on him at all. I have a hope that we can get him to a junior parkrun in the future.

I’m typing this with six days to go to the marathon and I’m looking forward to getting there now. Three more days in work and we’re off to London 🙂

London Marathon Training – Week 10 – ADIDAS Silverstone Half Marathon

Mileage for Week Ten
Mon – 0 miles
Tue – 5 miles
Wed – 0.2 miles
Thu – 0 miles
Fri – 0 miles
Sat – 3.1 miles
Sun – 13.4 miles Instagram1 Instagram2 Instagram3 Instagram4
Total – 21.7 miles

A mixed week that began with an injury and ended with a Half Marathon personal best!

Stick with this one folks, it’s a long one.

On Saturday of Week 9 I pushed out 22 miles, my next run was on Tuesday and I broke myself.

I went out to run 6 miles at a quicker pace as a tester for the Silverstone Half Marathon. The pace I put on was fantastic by my standards. Recently I broke my own PB at parkrun and I think that has been at the back of my mind, especially as I’m running ‘slower’ than normal during this process. I still don’t think my mind has got it that I need to be sticking to the ‘slower’ pace, I like to see how fast I can run!

About 4.5 miles into the run, my right calf felt a little tight but that’s not too unusual recently, not too long after there was a sharper pain at my lower right calf, I carried on for about 30 seconds but it wasn’t going away, I felt like it was going to snap.

Just for fun these were the splits:
1 – 7:08
2 – 7:53
3 – 6:56
4 – 7:08
5 – 7:14

Had I carried on to reach 10k I would have unofficially taken nearly 2 minutes off my PB.

That’s irrelevant of course but amazing, even with a fraction of the route being downhill.

I walked the mile I had left to home, trying to get there in as quick a time as possible with minimal pain caused. I did try a little jog just before home but managed only a few steps.

Sarah was due to run on Wednesday, I did a practice run up and down our street but it was too uncomfortable for me to do more than that. I walked to town with her to meet Andrew and Ania. It was very odd watching them all run off.

I was more diligent than usual with the injury as I had the half on the weekend. I iced it in the morning and evenings, rubbed Arnica gel into the area, took Ibuprofen, increased my protein intake by way of protein shakes and most importantly, I rested.

The calf began to feel better each day and on Saturday I joined Sarah for the start of her 10k. I ran tentatively, I was still unsure how the calf would react. Sticking with Sarah has helped me lots over our shared runs, it has made me run slower, I never do actual recovery runs like proper runners, so use those runs with Sarah as my recovery.

I stayed with Sarah for around 2.3 miles and She carried on her route and I headed for home at a quicker pace to see what would happen.

The run home wasn’t quite a mile but looking on Strava my pace was around 8:30 min per mile and the calf held with only a little discomfort.

Sunday was the ADIDAS Silverstone Half Marathon!

Three laps around the track and inner roads of the historic circuit and former airfield.

I looked at this race last year and was put off by a few things; it was early in the year and I wouldn’t have prepared enough, the distance to get to the location and a review I had read that said that it was a very quiet race as there are few spectators around the course.

I personally didn’t have an issue with the spectating, I thought that there were enough people around cheering. Yes in a few spots there aren’t any spectators but you are not alone. I always had other runners around me and due to the nature of the course you can see other runners who are either ahead or behind you at nearly all times. There are also a couple of DJs blasting out music and encouragement.

Such a long day but worth it in the end. I was up by five am to have breakfast and a protein shake. By Google Maps the route we took from Brecon to Silverstone was 148 miles each way. We wouldn’t be back home until 7pm!

Andrew arrived just before half six and we were off. Sarah was spending the day with her Parents, spectating at these events isn’t always the most exciting of things to do.

We arrived just after half nine, the car park was almost empty. The organisers had asked for people to arrive before half ten, so we had arrived in good time. There is a short walk from the car park to the form up area, which gives an opportunity to take in the scope of the site, which is large!

Andrew and I discussed this briefly, it is unusual when at a race to ‘see’ where you have to run. You know you are running 5k, 10k, a half or marathon and beyond but you don’t usually get to take in the course just by looking around. We were walking through the middle of it!

In the form up area were the baggage garages, an ADIDAS shop selling the latest London Marathon branded gear, the Silverstone shop, a cafe, various food sellers and changing areas.

As it was drizzling when we arrived, we headed for the indoor bits. Thankfully I had left my wallet locked in the car so was unable to buy any of the LM merchandise, although I’m sure there will be another opportunity at Marathon Expo in April. Once we had looked around we headed for the changing area, which was in one of the pit lane garages.

We stayed in there for a while. It was dry but cold, it being an empty garage. There was a toilet which was a bonus. Once changed we headed out as the drizzle was easing. It was then that we had the runners dilemma of when do we go for the last loo stop and hand in our bag.

That decision was helped by the announcer informing the assembled runners that the gates to the start were opening at 11:15, five minutes later. We trundled off to join the short toilet queue as there were plenty about, and then handed our bags in.

The short journey to the start area was handled well and simply. If you were expecting to run over two hours you went one way, if under two hours you went the other way. Once on the track there were further markers to break down the estimated time. Andrew and I stood near the 1:55 – 2:00 hour sign. As the start time approached the mass of runners was shuffled forward to bunch up the start.

Before I was injured my plan was to go for a Personal Best, however the injury/pain I had in my calf actually had me feeling nervous on the start line. I don’t remember being nervous before, I just run and if it goes well that’s good, if it goes bad then that’s okay too, especially if in the end it’s a good outcome. Read on to understand what I mean.

A slight tangent; a bad run that was actually good happened to be the Cardiff Half Marathon last October. I had trained as well as I could and was in the best running shape I had ever been. I had my race plan sorted and I was hitting the mile markers exactly as I wanted to. It was the second time I had run the Half, the first in 2014 I finished in 02:03:06 as my hips went at around 6 miles, I was uncomfortable for the entire second half of the race. A disappointment as I had run 01:59:33 at my first ever Half Marathon at Llanelli earlier in the year. Fast forward two years and I was back. The 6 mile issue couldn’t strike again could it? You’ve guessed it dear reader! Once again the hips went at 6 miles and I was uncomfortable and struggling a bit. This has only happened at Cardiff, I’ve put it down to the camber in the road but I don’t really know. As I was a bit fitter I was able to keep the legs going albeit at a slower pace, although that hill not too far from the end nearly finished me off. I crossed the line in 01:55:51 taking 59 seconds off the PB time I had achieved at the Severn Bridge Half that August. I had crossed the line over 7 minutes quicker than the last attempt but I was in so much pain I could barely walk and I wobbled back to our meeting point so happy to have finished and forgetting it was a PB when I was asked my time. Even recently I forgot it was a PB, the memory of the pain has overridden the achievement.

Anyway back to the start. We were stood on the track for around 45 minutes in the cold and drizzle. Several prepared folks were covered with a mixture of refuse bags, ponchos and those silver foil blankets in an effort to keep warm.

Andrew and I discussed a brief plan of the race, I would stick with him for 9 miles and if my calf was okay then I would push on and see if it held.

As happens as these type of events, when the gun goes off everyone starts to run towards the start and then stops as everyone at the line slows down to do the ‘start watch and step on the timing mat’ dance. We walked to the start, letting others run on and then stop!

We got going and got into our stride trying to hit Andrews preferred pace of 9:00 min per mile, a little bit of a fudge as he runs in KMs and I’m in miles but we got it sorted.

Something that surprised me was how much water was on the track surface. It’s been a while since I watched F1 but I thought the surface would have not held as much water as we were splashing through.

It being a race track there are lots of turns to negotiate, not a huge problem normally but here they are so frequent that everybody is trying to get the ‘racing line’ all at once.

A few times over the distance I was nearly tripped up by someone trying to get as close to the corners as they could. No doubt I was doing the same. Dodging traffic cones becomes a skill the more it’s practised.

I’m certainly not the best pacer and I didn’t hit the pace target for Andrew, we were consistently a little bit too fast over each mile. Maybe not a bad thing as Andrew was going for under 2 hours.

My calf was giving me no issues whatsoever and I was feeling really good and enjoying the run and the route. It was going so well that I revised my plan and asked Andrew if he would be okay if I went on at 8 miles instead of 9. He agreed and as we hit 8 miles the Runners World 1:58 pacer appeared at his shoulder. I left him and sped off.

My first act as I started to weave through the runners in front of me was to apologise as I splashed through a puddle! I spotted a gap between two runners but as they parted the puddle was revealed leaving me nowhere to go other than through it. I tried to jump it and upon landing a bit awkwardly I realised how silly that was with a potentially dodgy calf.

I kept up a decent pace, pushing out negative splits for the 3 miles. I knew the route wasn’t flat, even though it’s a former airfield, and was pleasantly challenged by some of the inclines. The run to the finish line along Hangar Straight is up a slight and long incline. I’m grateful that I live among and run up and down hills. My splits slowed a little over the last 2 miles but I was still pushing as much as I could. I tried a sprint finish but the back of my left knee gave me a slight warning, so I sped up a little just bit more to give me a finish of 01:51:22 and a massive personal best.

I’d managed to take 4 minutes 29 seconds of my previous PB!

The process once finishing is very slick. The timing chips for this race are fixed to your shoe via two twist ties. Once through the finish, a short walk away are several ramps and volunteers armed with tools to clip through the ties and take away the chip. I was a bit tired and stopped at the first volunteer instead of continuing along the ramp. Something for me to remember for the London Marathon.

Next up was the goody bag. I trundled along to the medium section and took the bag I was offered and very nearly dropped it. It was much heavier than I’d expected. The contents included: cotton t-shirt, medal, water, lucozade, crisps, various carb snacks, sun lotion and the obligatory future race leaflets. A very good bag! I was a little disappointed at first with the t-shirt as I won’t be running in it but in hindsight do I really need another running top? No not really. It’s a lovely t-shirt that I’m looking forward to wearing,

So chip removed, goody bag received, next it was getting my bag back.

This can sometimes be an issue. Lots of “that one there” “by your foot” “no not that one, the red one” “yes, no, to your left” “THE RED ONE!”

All of that is a distant memory at Silverstone and I would expect at the London Marathon. In the race pack is a large clear plastic drawstring bag upon which each runner affixes a sticker bearing their race number. The bag is handed in to the relevant bag drop garage and when said runner appears dazed and tired back at the garage, a very observant person shouts out the number emblazoned on their front and they are directed to another person who by the time you get there has your bag ready.

I was very impressed to have my bag back in mere seconds after walking into the garage. A very efficient process.

Overall I was impressed with the organisation of the race. The emails and website were informative, as was the race pack. As we got there early the car parking was quick. Getting out was less quick though. Although that was down to several lanes of cars trying to filter through one gate and many drivers being very blinkered and not letting other cars in. We had some non-verbal communication with one driver who thought he would just push his way in even though we had been waiting patiently for nearly 10 minutes. I believe a few marshals placed within the car park to aid the filtering would have helped.

Whilst running the route I found that it was easy to get a bit disorientated. There is a fair bit of repeating bits you’ve done but usually in the reverse direction. That isn’t a complaint but I remember seeing some quicker runners towards the end of the race (11 miles maybe) on an adjacent section of track/road and wondering how and when I would get to that section.

The total distance by my Garmin watch was 13.4 miles. I’d noticed that my watch and those of other runners were beeping before each mile marker. This is likely due to the GPS accuracy of the watches and that there are lots of corners and bends. It’s hard to follow the exact racing line especially on a route like Silverstone. I’m happy that I ran a measured course of 13.1 miles that my time is for that distance.

The distance from Brecon is always a challenge for most events. The London Marathon will be a long weekend away and this event was very nearly a 13 hour day for a 2 hour run. Some other running friends would like to test themselves at Silverstone so I may be back next year, however I shall be booking a hotel for the Sunday evening and the day off work on Monday!

Next up for me are a couple of shorter runs to begin Week Eleven. I’m giving myself an extra day off running so instead of Tuesday, I’ll run on Wednesday. I may run again on Friday and then a 10+ mile run on Saturday.

Final Results:

Gary – 01:51:22
Andrew – 02:05:47

Pacing Andrew for eight miles we averaged 8:52 min /mile. For the final five miles (less the 0.4) I averaged 7:31 min /mile.

1 – 8:56
2 – 8:54
3 – 8:50
4 – 8:52
5 – 8:52
6 – 8:52
7 – 8:56
8 – 8:48
9 – 7:52
10 – 7:29
11 – 7:12
12 – 7:22
13 – 7:39
0.4 – 7:03

London Marathon Training – Week Eight

Mileage for Week Eight
Mon – 0 miles
Tue – 4.4 miles with Sarah Instagram
Wed – 10.1 miles with Kevin Instagram
Thu – 0 miles
Fri – 5.4 miles
Sat – 3.1 miles
Sun – 20.1 miles Instagram
Total – 43.1 miles

Well what a running week that was! My longest ever run both in time and distance and the largest total mileage run in a week.

I had two goals going into the week: firstly to run 20 miles on Sunday and if I could manage it, go for a Personal Best (PB) at parkrun. I happy to say that I achieved both.

After our weekend in Chester Sarah and I were both feeling good. We had both had good runs at parkrun, I came close to a PB and Sarah had her best run in a while. The Running Gods had other ideas though. We ran for 4.4 miles and we both struggled, each mile was a chore. There are always days like that even for the most accomplished runners.

Wednesdays run was supposed to be 50 minutes but Kevin wanted to run 10 miles in preparation for Merthyr Half. He’s doing well although this run was a little slower that the last time he ran the distance. He’ll be fine for the half, which will be his first.

Parkrun on Saturday was a blast. The weather at Parc Bryn Bach is always interesting. The winter months are cold, wet and windy. The summer months are wet and windy. It is a fantastic place to run though.

As I had come close to my PB at the more challenging Chester parkrun I thought it possible to get close to my best time of 22:10 at the flatter course in Bryn Bach.

Despite the conditions I positioned myself close to the front and waited for the start. I stuck with the front pack and was within the top 10 all the way around. I finished in 8th place, my highest ever finish at parkrun. Which was helped by some more prominent runners being away for races and it being a rugby weekend.

My time was 21:19, taking 51 seconds off my PB. I was amazed that I was able to keep my pace going, it must be all the miles I’ve put in, even if they haven’t been at that pace, it must count for something.

The splits by my Garmin were:

1 – 6:50
2 – 6:47
3 – 6:45
0.1 – 5:56 (I put in a little sprint to the line!)

I felt really good all the way around and it was only the last half lap that I could feel the pace getting to my legs. It’s not in my plans up to the marathon to attempt a quicker time at the 5k distance but I may look at training after April to reduce my PB further.

And so to Sunday. My long runs are all done early in the morning, be that Saturday or Sunday. This is so that I have the rest of the day to recover and that running doesn’t take over the day. I do intend to run my longest long run at the same time I’ll be running the marathon.

The alarm went off at 0330; I stick to the ‘eat 2 hours before’ running instruction. I had my now usual weetabix and a pint of water. I followed that up with a banana and some chocolate snack-a-jacks.

I then watched a film before getting myself ready to run. Once I was ready I headed out. It being 0530 I went out with a long top over a t-shirt but that was removed after a mile, as I was too hot.

The first few miles eased me into the run, I’d run the route of the first nine or so miles during my 16 miles a few weeks back, so knew what was coming but I still went ahead of my target pace, once again getting quicker up towards Cradoc.

There is nothing new in the complete route I ran and that familiarity is useful. Next week my long run takes me from Glangrwyney to Brecon on roads I haven’t seen for over 20 years! It’s only once I’m about 7 miles from home that I hit familiar surroundings.

So knowing what’s coming doesn’t help my pace as I know the route and know I can push the pace up!

I was almost always under my target pace of 9:00 minute miles. This helps mentally as the routes here are much hillier than anything I will meet in London.

During my 16 miler I hit ‘The Wall’ at 11 miles, this time I was fine and got to that part of the route at 17 miles with no walls in sight. I even picked up the pace.

Strava tells me that I ran a total of 20.1 miles in a time of 2:58 at an average pace of 8:52 min per mile.

On the day that would bring me under 4 hours and I would be very happy. I think I can go faster in the second half of the run. I have long runs planned where I can test this.

Coming up for me are the following Long Runs:

5 Mar – Glangrwyney to Brecon – 20 miles (I’ll add miles to the route along the way)
12 Mar – Silverstone Half Marathon – 13.1 miles
19 Mar – Brecon to Llangynidr to Brecon – approx. 22 miles
26 Mar – Merthyr Half Marathon with Kevin – 13.1 miles
2 Apr – Brecon to Glanusk to Brecon – approx. 26.2 miles
9 Apr – 10 miles in Brecon area (taper)
16 Apr – 6 miles in Brecon area (taper)
23 Apr – The London Marathon!!

I’ve decided to move away from my regular route of Cradoc, the hills are fun but I think although I can maintain pace up there, I need to go less hilly. The test will be on Sunday where I run from Glangrwyney to Brecon. I used to live close to the village and was amazed when some of my Dad’s workmates used to run home from Brecon. I’ll be running on the B road which if successful will be used for my 22 and 26.2 mile attempts.

Not long to go but there are still a lot of miles to cover!

London Marathon – Training Week Two

This week has been a good week of running for me. The mileage has picked up without any huge problems (as yet!). My right foot / ankle / achilles area gives me a little ache now and again, as it did on my first run today. It may be that I haven’t got my shoes done up tight enough, I shall experiment next week.

Mileage for Week Two
Mon – 0 miles
Tue – 3.7 miles – with Kevin
Wed – 4.1 miles
Thu – 0 miles
Fri – 4.4 miles
Sat – 0 miles
Sun – 8 Miles solo / 6.3 miles with Sarah
Total – 26.7 miles

My Brother-in-Law Kevin is in training for his first Half Marathon which will be in Merthyr on 26th March. That half has a few hills and Kevin has only trained on the flat so far, in order to prepare him I showed him a few streets around Brecon that go up nicely and which will test his lungs and legs but that which will also aid his recovery. I like hills, hills are fab.

Today I had my long run and decided that I needed to push myself a bit, so ran around Cradoc. It’s a local route out of Brecon to the village of Cradoc. The only way to get there is up a hilly road. It’s a circuitous route so what goes up must come down. The climb up on one side, the way I went up, climbs nicely for a few miles before levelling out.

I kept a nice steady pace on the way up and was able to stretch my legs and speed up the pace once at the top. Two quicker miles were what I needed but brought the pace back down for the last three, as it’s time running I need rather than pace.

My aim for the marathon is to get around in 4 hours and 20 minutes, as it stands I can get around in just over 4 hours but let’s not forget I haven’t ever run further than 15 miles, so the next few months of running and training are going to be a fun journey. Plus I really, really want to be able to walk once I cross the finish line.

Split times for today’s Long Run:
Mile 1 – 10:06 /mi
Mile 2 – 10:05
Mile 3 – 09:38
Mile 4 – 07:49
Mile 5 – 07:39
Mile 6 – 09:47
Mile 7 – 09:01
Mile 8 – 08:46

I had about an hour to recover, get some water and a protein shake, change t-shirt, socks and shoes, start writing this post and then I was off out running again! As I joined Sarah on her weekly Sunday Long Run for a 6.3mile run.

My legs were tired but I managed to get around, luckily Sarah was setting a nice steady pace.

For the year to date I have run 54 miles, which when compared to 2016 is where I was in March, not 15 days into the new year. Clearly I am going to be running more this year than ever before but at this stage I don’t know how long my body will let me carry on at this rate.

I hope to stay healthy and running steadily after the marathon in April. I have events lined up that I would like to attend.

When I looked at the plan, I put it on a spreadsheet (not news to anyone who knows me well!) so I was aware that I would be running 2016’s mileage in total before I even got to the start line of the marathon. There are many runners who attempt to run either 1000 kilometres or 1000 miles in a year. I’m not sure I can achieve that but I’ll give a good go.

Failing that, I’ll have my first marathon medal and that will be good enough for me.

Onward to week three!

Week One – and so it begins!

Week One of the Marathon plan!
After a smashing start to my running year over the New Year I started my first week with a rest day, well I was supposed to!

My plan gets me to run four times a week with rest days on Monday, Thursday and Saturday.

Which works out great as I volunteer at a Youth Club on Monday evenings so I’m not rushing to squeeze in a run, the downside is Saturday, no parkrun’s unless I’m feeling good, there’s no point tiring myself out as I have long runs on Sunday.

My aim with these updates is to give myself something to look back on as I make my way to the finish line of the Virgin Money London Marathon 2017.

Something I also want to do is track my weight. I’m not particularly precious about my weight but if I can loose a bit I’d be happy, I’ve also read stories of runners weight increasing over Marathon training due to eating more as we are running more, runners munchies are a real struggle to avoid!

I’ll be weighing myself on Mondays however, I started on the 1st just to get a starting figure.

1st Jan – 76.4 KG

9th Jan – 75.5 KG

Nearly a kilo down, which is due to going back to work and not eating the biscuits & chocolates we had over the Christmas period, and also running my biggest week for a very long time. I suspect it’ll go back up before next Monday!

Week One Mileage

Mon – 5.2 miles

Tue – 2.2 miles

Wed – 3.1 miles

Thu – 0 miles

Fri – 4.3 miles

Sat – 0 miles

Sun – 6.3 miles

Total – 21.1 miles

Yes I know Monday was supposed to be a rest day. I felt good after running the 5Ks over New Year so I joined Sarah for run.

This week was a good introduction to running more than I usually do. Actually running five times didn’t bother me too much. I had some tightness in my right calf on Wednesday but it was fine.

The plan began with a 20 minute run, which was different, as if I’m going out for a short run it’s never less than 5K. My parkrun Personal Best is 22:10 but that’s flat out the aim now is slow and steady. Thankfully we know that from our usual starting point to the local theatre is a mile, so I used that as a marker, trying to get there as close to 10 minutes as possible. Which I did, I then carried on and made a loop through town getting back in a time of 21:41 minutes, the first run done!

On Sunday I had my first long run of the programme. Run 60 minutes was the instruction.

I went out for the first 1.5 miles with Sarah and Kevin; who is training for his first half. They eased me into the run at a slower pace around 11 minute miles, I then carried on on a route around Brecon, adding a few hills into the route to test my lungs, legs and recovery time. As I headed for home, I quickened the pace but realised I would get home before the hour was up, so had to slow down a bit and back track through town a bit more. I got back dead on 60 minutes.

When I began planning to run a marathon I expected to be running 10 minute miles in order to get around the distance and feel comfortable. However I’ve struggled to get comfortable at that pace, I am finding that I’m better going a bit quicker at 9:30 minute miles, what I need to do is make sure that I keep an eye on my pace during runs as it has a tendency to quicken as I put the miles in.

I’d love to be able to get around at my half marathon pace which is about a minute quicker but I’m not confident I could get around and still walk after crossing the finishing line!

My hope is that I can keep a decent comfortable pace for 20 miles and then speed up for the final 6.2.

As it stands my goal time is 4 hours 20 minutes. The pace I’m running should bring me in before that but I’m giving myself some breathing space.

Onwards to week two!

So…Am I Welsh Now?

25 years ago The Bartram’s packed up the flat at 56 Girtin Road in Bushey near Watford, Hertfordshire, and headed for Wales and the county of Powys.

I don’t know the exact date but it was early in May 1988 that we moved from Bushey to Cwrt-y-Gollen near Crickhowell, and even nearer to Glangrwyney.

I was 11 years old, short, shy, had a bad haircut and would occasionally swear to the amusement of others…not a great deal has changed in the intervening years.

When we left I was in two minds; I really liked the street we lived on and the area we lived in. There were a series of streets shaped in a large triangle, upon which blocks of flats stood. We had a large playing field and a park all within a stones throw.

It felt like a safe place to be, playing football on the field, riding bikes around the place and generally having a fun time with my friends. I loved being at Bournehall Primary school; I achieved my cycling proficiency there, performed in plays and believe it or not, I was a bit of a class clown. Always ready to do something silly for the amusement of my classmates.

The reason I didn’t mind leaving, and the main source of me being the quiet person I am today, is that I was bullied quite badly at my secondary school; Bushey Meads Comprehensive. A school famous for two former pupils; a certain duo who formed Wham!

Of the 8 months I spent there, I was bullied nearly everyday I attended, both mentally and physically, including the age old lunch money thievery.

For about 2 months in that 8 month period, I would walk halfway to school and turn back around, knowing that both Mum & Dad would be well on their way to work. I would hang out all day and leave just before Mum got home, so that I could also ‘arrive home’ on time. The school was run so badly that Mum even attended a Parents Evening and was told I was doing really well! Anyway I’ve delved into my psyche far too much recently, so let’s leave it at that.IMG_0002This is me aged about 10. So short & innocent. I never stood a chance against the bullies! The photo was taken by the only other Watford FC fan I know, James Giblette. Who if he reads this, will also recognise the places below, as he lived in a flat above ours.

IMG_0003This is the block that we lived in. Firstly in the flat bottom left and then we moved for reasons unknown to me, to the flat bottom right. We had also lived in this area a few years previously, in a block that was situated behind where I took this picture from. The white car belonged to my Dad and was a Daihatsu Charade. My friends and I would regularly climb onto the low roof in the middle of the picture and then climb up the first two levels of the small squares you can see.

I went back about 7 years ago to have a wander down memory lane and not much had changed, just some cosmetic things. That isn’t the case anymore though. The whole area has been redeveloped, I suspect it was sold off to a developer who did what developers do.

This is roughly the same view as my old photo.IMG_0004Looking down the street, the flats are on the immediate left.
And as it is now. You can see the tree on the right in both views.
Until Google update their imagery, it is still possible to see the old flats on the satellite view. Our block was the one nearest the ‘Girtin Road’ in the centre of the picture.

I was of course hesitant about moving to Wales..because it was full of Welsh people and I’d have to speak the lingo! Of course that wasn’t quite the case. We arrived in Wales and immediately bought Barbour Jackets that were all the rage back then, mine was blue.

IMG_0005This is 74 Gills Avenue at Cwrt-y-Gollen, a few years later humongous porches were built to cover the fronts of every house along the street, which were handy for jumping onto from out of bedroom windows, but seemed to serve no real purpose. From the left: Shed/storage, bin area, front door, kitchen window!

Of course time marches on and another of my homes has been knocked down and redeveloped. The street was flattened and where there was once a straight road, there is now a bendy one, so I think this is roughly where #74 stood!

This was another place I liked living, although I was very quiet, not so much when roaming the estate but definitely at school. I mixed with a small bunch but I never socialised with them or any of my class mates out of school hours, something that hampered me as I got older.

I’m quite bad at remembering names but I know I was dropped in to Mr Simms class. My friends from that class included: Julian, William, Stephen & Nigel (surnames left out ‘cos I can’t remember them all!) I kept away from the girls (nothing changes – I was scared back then too) but I had some proper serious crushes on a few, I’ve even friend-ed a few on Facebook over the years just to see how their lives turned out (they’re not all on my friend list now, in case anyone looks).

We moved to Brecon in August of 1997; the summer of Speed 2 & Lost World:Jurassic Park. I know that as I was suddenly in a town with a cinema! I think I went several times a week for months until the novelty wore off.

For the three Bartram’s that moved to Wales, it has proved to be our home from that day forward (not to say that wont change though). It’s also the place where we have all spent the majority of our lives; Mum and Dad both left their respective homes around 17/18 then moved around, only staying in one place for a few years before moving on.

The title of this post is ‘so…am I Welsh now?’    So after 25 years and 70% of my life in one country, am I?

Well the obvious answer is no, of course not, I’m English, a Yorkshireman no less, and will be forevermore, especially on Rugby International days.

That said wherever I end up, Wales will always be the place I call my home.

All my good memories are here.

My friends are here.

My Mum is here.

And there really aren’t many places that are as lovely as this country; both for people and scenery.

Here’s to the next 25 years!!