Well it’s all over. After four of the best years of my life, I am now no longer a student. However before I face the real world, with all the joys of full-time work and starting to chip away at my colossal student loan, I thought I’d give this running malarkey a proper go.
Way back in February I had a bit of a breakthrough performance, coming 8th in the British Universities XC Champs and earning myself a reserve spot on the team for the World Student XC Championships. This was probably the best race of my life, but at the same time I was pretty gutted to miss out on automatic selection through being outkicked over the last 100m by Jack Rowe. Despite this, and resigned to the fact that I probably wouldn’t be selected, I knew I was in the best shape of my life. Bolstered by my performance I got quickly back into training with the Inter Counties XC Champs and then a debut at the Manchester Marathon being the major goals.
If training had been going well before the British Universities XC, it went even better afterwards! I couldn’t quite believe some of the sessions I was doing which included;
- 22 miles with an average pace of 5:22/M
- A very windy 5K, 5K, 3K in 15:50, 15:42 and 9:26
- 3 x 1M on the treadmill with 2 minutes recovery all in 4:40
This period also included the British Universities Indoor Champs where, despite very little track work, I managed an 8:24 in the 3000m heats followed up by 8:23 and 5th in the final the next day.
Needless to say that I was really looking forward to running for Cornwall at the Inter Counties in Birmingham, believing that I’d made some really good progress over the previous four weeks. However on the Wednesday beforehand I got the call from Mick Woods saying that Jonny Davies had unfortunately gone down ill and would I like to run for GB at the World Student XC Champs? At 8AM the next morning I was off to Cassino, Italy! After ten years of training and dreaming, I’d finally got my first international vest at the age of twenty-two. Going into the race its self I set myself the goal of being one of the top four scorers for the team, and with Andy Heyes unfortunately pulling out at the last minute with Achilles problems, I only had to beat one GB runner. To cut a long story short I had a near-perfect race and eventually finished 30th overall and 2nd GB runner home! The whole trip had been an incredible experience and just left me wanting more.
However good Italy had been, it was ultimately the downfall of my marathon preparation. On returning to Cardiff I immediately went down with illness. I’d completely buried myself in the race in Italy and can’t remember ever pushing myself so hard in my life. This, combined with the stress of getting my dissertation handed in, was just a little bit too much. I managed to convince myself I was fine however, and a week later I was off to Lisbon to run the half marathon accompanied by forty others from Cardiff University AC. I managed to scrape under 68 minutes but felt bad from mile one. Two nights of little sleep and lots of drinking followed and by the time I got back to the UK I was really suffering. If I’d been feeling a little under the weather before Lisbon, I was now properly ill!
I did just about get well in time for Manchester, but I’d done very little but jog for thirty minutes for the previous three weeks. My Dad was running too and my whole family had come up to support so I thought I may as well give it a go. After going through half way in 70 minutes and feeling really good even up to 17 miles, I eventually staggered round in 2:27. Obviously not the time I’d been aiming for originally but in the end I was just happy to finish.
Four weeks of minimal training unfortunately turned into six as I had issues with my left hamstring post-marathon. I can now happily report however that I’m back into full training and have managed to get four decent weeks in the bank. This has included a 31:47 at the BUCS 10,000m and then three weeks later a 31:19 at Highgate Harriers Night of the 10,000m PBs, one of the best races I’ve ever attended! So everything seems to be going in the right direction and I feel confident that I’ll be able to attack a few PBs later in the summer.
So the plan for the next year is to get a part-time job and basically train as much as possible. Hopefully I’ll be able to top up my income a bit with some prize money too! The experience from Italy has given me a lot of confidence that I can perform at a high level, and I’m certain I’ve still got a good bit of improvement left in me. Looking forward, the aim this summer is to beak my 14:36 5,000m PB, before moving onto the roads in the autumn and then major goal being the European XC Trials in November.
Thanks for taking the time to read my scribbles and if anyone knows of any A) part-time working going in the Cardiff area or B) any races with decent prize money that won’t all be taken by Africans, please give me a bell!