Running – the peaks I reached

Now I’m not saying that I’m giving up running, but I am absolutely sure that I will never run as quickly as I used to. Therefore, I want to note here the personal bests I achieved in the (roughly) 10 years I’ve been a runner.

The reason I can cite these as a peak with reasonable confidence is that the past two years of niggles around my hip area have now settled down to a consistently annoying pain that is fine to jog around on for 40-50 minutes but no longer, and certainly not at speed.

So here are my personal bests. They are well good and I am properly chuffed with them. As someone who was rubbish at sport at school and effectively did no exercise at all throughout my twenties, I feel proud of these times.

5km – 17:54 – Sandhurst, Gloucester, July 2007

10km – 37:54 – Market Drayton, Shropshire, May 2007

10 miles – 1:07:39 – Walsall, December 2005

Half Marathon – 1:23:21 – Telford, March 2009 (I won money for this one!)

20 miles – 2:17:26 – Bury St. Edmunds, February 2008

Marathon – 3:01:22 – London, April 2008

You can understand how gutting that last time is, knowing I won’t go under 3 hours yet got so close. Ah well, never mind.

Of course running shorter distances, at a slower pace, is actually quite nice. I’ll still try to turn out for my club‘s competitive events from time to time, and, inevitably, I’ll still make some reference to running and the data it generates when I talk about digital/social media stuff in public. As I did last week in a talk in Toledo near Madrid:

EPC 2.012

Running the Eleven Bus Route

Well that’s that done then. You’ll need to see my previous post for the context but I’ve now run both halves of the number 11 bus route in Birmingham.

The map below takes the raw track data (separated from lap data via Google Earth) from both halves and uses GPS Visualiser to map the routes on to Open Street Map. What looks like a single line in the middle is two lines, one for each time I ran it.

Click here for the map on a page of its own

About the Left Half
It surprised me that it was a shorter run. From the start point in Bournville round to the point I got to last time in Stockland Green, was only 12 miles (I realise now that I should have turned at Erdington last time).

That resulted in a 20.5 run overall which makes the number 11 bus route 25.5 miles in total if you’re running it. I didn’t cut corners but didn’t religiously stick to one side of the pavement and always took the inside route at the bigger junctions.

I was a bit head down when I ran it as I was trying for a good pace so I can’t offer a commentary on the visual highlights of this side of the route. There was a prison and a very long, straight road (City Road in Rotton park which is also the highest point on the route at 625ft, Kings Heath is second at 526ft).

Training update
In general the marathon training is going well. I run a 20 mile race this coming Sunday and I’m hoping the undulations on the 11 route will help me put in a good time (again, thanks for the idea Pete). The marathon is under five weeks away so for at least three of those I’ve still got lots of mileage to do. For the most part I’m enjoying it, even though my right leg still hurts a bit and it is sometimes boring as hell. It is though, terrific thinking time. I have thought a lot, about lots of stuff.

Half a Number 11 – the right half

So he was probably just joking, but in response to me saying I might run the 27-mile number 11 bus route in Birmingham (and then realising I shouldn’t, cos it’s too long for marathon training) I took an idea Pete Ashton had and, erm, ran with it.

Running long distances is very boring indeed, so having a focus is good. I live close to the 11 route so the starting point was near to home and my only plan was to run anti-clockwise from Bournville for approximately 13.5 miles and then turn left towards the City Centre and home.

In my mind I didn’t really want to run more than 20-22 miles but I did no pre-planning to see where the 13.5 mark would be or how long it would take from there back to Bournville.

As it turns out, my fancy GPS watch told me Stockland Green is 13.5 miles from Bournville on the 11 route and a straightish line back to home is 8.5 miles. A lovely 22 mile run overall then in 2 hours 51 minutes.

So we’ve got one half of Birmingham encompassed by my run – the right brain of Brum if you like, or the Yang (or Yin?). Next Sunday I go clockwise from home to the same point – I only hope it’s no more than 13.5 to Stockland Green miles by going that way round.

Here’s the raw data if you fancy it (KML format or GPX format).

And here’s a movie-like, Google Earth, run-through (may take a while to load) of the run via the Run Saturday site.

By the way, the elevation profile tells me the fascinating fact that Kings Heath is the highest point on the right hand side of the 11 route – fascinating.

Countdown to London Marathon 2010

Another year, another marathon. After missing out last year I’ll be running London once again on the 25th April 2010. Which is great as it’s a wonderful race to be part of, amazing crowds and a lovely flat route.

My training has kind of started. Well, having been off running for about five weeks I’m now back on it again but the thigh strain (or whatever it is) that kept me off is still niggling. Oh, and I’m running like an old man – much fitness to regain.

I’ll make no secret of the fact that I’m trying to run under three hours this year. I came close to that in London 2008 and still think it’s possible but I really do have to focus this time around (both in training and in the race itself).

If you want to keep track of my progress I’ll be recording every run with my Garmin. You can glance at the Garmin website or follow daveharteruns on twitter.

Countdown clock stolen from official London Marathon homepage.

Almost there – Birmingham Half Marathon 2009

It’s almost here. This year’s Birmingham Half Marathon has over 12,000 entrants and one Paula Radcliffe. The numbers have been sent out (well mine has anyway) and letters have gone to residents along the route telling them to shift their cars the night before the race. They’re even re-tarmacing the race route within Cannon Hill Park.

My training has been a bit lacklustre. If you follow my updates on twitter then you’ll have noticed that I’ve done about 3 or 4 runs a week with a recent tail-off due to a recurring hip injury that for once buying a new expensive pair of trainers didn’t cure – it usually does, honest. It’s not bad enough to pull out of the race (lots of ibuprofen gel will help) but it means that I’m not able to push my training just ahead of having to taper.

They haven’t sent out a race guide this year in an effort to be a bit greener presumably. You can download it (PDF link) and it gives you all the details you need about baggage arrangements and start times for the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships.

Paula and the rest of the women start at 9am so they’ll be close to finishing by the time the rest of us start at 10am. As I said to my family, if they want to see Paula they’ll have to be loitering around Maryvale road in Bournville at about 9.30am. They’ll then have plenty of time to pop home, get a cup of tea, some toast, watch some telly, before I appear at the same point about 10.40am. They should actually hang around for the elite men at about 10am as that line-up is impressive.

The race is again billed as the ‘Race Against Climate Change’. Shame then that the public transport arrangements for runners seem ill thought through. There are no early local trains on the Sunday and I can’t see evidence of extra buses being laid on. In fact, where I live all the buses will presumably be diverted due to closures on the race route. The race information that goes out for the London Marathon makes it clear that taking the car is pointless and then lists all the train times to get you to the start from various points of the capital. If the race grows in numbers again then we’ll really have to address this issue. If you do go by car then there’s a document about car park closures (PDF).

If you are travelling by public transport here are some useful links:

Best of luck to all the runners.

Tweeting my running

I’ve got a new GPS watch thing. It rocks. It records distance/elevation/pace etc. and then by the magic of technology uploads my route to a website where the runs are mapped onto google maps and I can set goals (this week’s goal is to run more than 40 miles by next Sunday – I probably won’t manage it).

Naturally enough I want to share my wonderful running exploits with the world – who wouldn’t. I want to tweet my athleticism. In fact I want to tweet it automatically so that you get to hear about every single run I do.

So I’ve created a twitter account for doing just that. daveharteruns sends a tweet every time a new route is completed on my watch and is uploaded to the Garmin website. The RSS feed from this is then fed to Twitter Feed which spits out the tweet when it detects new content.

It works seamlessly. In fact all I have to do is put my watch next to the laptop and while I’m in the shower it transfers the data and does the rest of the business. I can tweak the title of the run but other than that there’s no intervention needed.

So if you want to see where I’m running the go follow daveharteruns on twitter.

Birmingham Post column – sporting data

Sometimes the column I write for the Birmingham Post materialises online – other times it doesn’t. When it doesn’t (not sure why it doesn’t) I’ll reproduce here (although newspaper columns are such a different tone to posts on blogs).

This one was a version of the presentation I gave at wxwm2 the other week:

‘Mileage data to Inspire’
Published Monday 6th July (hey, that was my birthday!).

“Years that end in odd numbers usually make for dull sporting summers as the Olympics and the major footballing tournaments only occupy the even numbered years. However, as well as annual tournaments such as Wimbledon we do have a World Athletics Championship and The Ashes to look forward to this summer.

But given how concerned the government are with obesity levels it’ll take more than the sight of a group of blokes throwing balls at each other to persuade a nation of sport-loving couch potatoes to do something about their own health and wellbeing

All the data tells us we’re fat and we’re getting fatter. In fact not only are we fat but our kids are fat and even our pets are fat. Given the state of the economy the only thing that isn’t fat is our wallets. So what’s the approach taken to deal with this? It’s simple – an advertising campaign to remind us how fat we are that goes out of its way to blame computer games and television as the main culprits.

I’m not denying that the Change for Life campaign hasn’t persuaded some people to get off their backside but there’s so much already happening that we could celebrate rather than just play a familiar blame game. Take running for example. On any random weekend there are about 50 organised amateur races happening around the UK with about 50,000 – 100,000 runners taking part. In total that’s up to a million kilometres covered. And that doesn’t even include all the people just running by themselves for training or those running around Sunday league football pitches.

Many runners use GPS watches or other devices to track routes and record mileage. Now imagine all that mileage data gathered on a single map – a map that instead of sending a dour message about our laziness would celebrate ordinary citizens’ everyday sporting activity. What a powerful message that would be that might inspire others to join in.

We’ve got an Olympics coming up in 2012 and so far the only mass participation angle seems to be focused around the Cultural Olympiad. Nothing wrong with that but amateur sport is something that gets overlooked too often. It’s a shame as it’s got the mass participation thing down to a tee in a way the arts can only dream about.

So why not badge up Sunday morning football games as ‘inspired by 2012’. Have every jogger blog, tweet or map their runs as part of a national celebration of sporting engagement leading up to 2012. A digital campaign that visualises mass participation could inspire us all to get off our backsides.”

Birmingham Half Marathon 2009 is go

Entries are now open for this year’s Birmingham Half Marathon taking place on Sunday October 11th. The route is changed to a flatter south Birmingham one (from last year’s undulating north/west Birmingham one) that happens to go very close to my house in Bournville. There are some undulations as you come into Bournville and it looks like the last half mile is a bit uphill but other than that it’s relatively flat. I’ve mapped an approximation of the route in g-maps:

Birmingham Half Marathon 2009 route

This year’s event incorporates the World half-marathon championships so there’ll be an elite field competing for quarter of a million dollars in prize money. I still have a vague hope that Paula Radcliffe will squeeze it into her schedule as it would form the perfect build up to the New York marathon in November.

Even if she doesn’t show then rest assured I will – my entry is already in. Online entry attracts a hefty booking fee of £3.10 so it may be worth just printing out the form and putting it in the post. The race may well fill up early this year so do get your entries in ASAP.

Edinburgh Marathon 2009 – race review

Well at least I was smiling by the end of the 2009 Edinburgh Marathon. But then I did have a beer in my hand and unlike many of the runners I passed in the last couple of miles I was still walking unaided and without the need for additional oxygen.

This was a race of two halves for me, a quick first one and a much slower, way more painful second one. By the time I’d done a 1hr 27min first half it was getting hot. That’s always going to be a potential issue with a marathon this late in the year but hey, this was Scotland, I didn’t realise they had temperatures above 20 degrees Celsius. Even on the start line at 9am it felt warm. The first few miles are shaded so it wasn’t until we hit the coast that it was obvious the sea breeze would be slight at best.

So great, a quick first half and then immediate tiredness. Miles 13-19 were really tough going and I struggled to maintain a sub 7 minute/mile pace. Any hope of the target I’d set myself, a sub 3 hour marathon, was ebbing away and I realised that to cope with the heat and not end up a wreck I needed to slow down. In fact at three separate points I walked for a short distance to compose myself. It worked as I felt fine for the last couple of miles and even managed a sprint finish on the home straight as I noticed the clock nearing 3hrs 10 minutes.

In reflection I ran a bad marathon. If I eased up in the first half I might well have been nearer the 3 hour mark. But I was heartened at the end by the knowledge that I now run ‘bad’ marathons in under 3hrs 10mins – not bad I think. Plus the crowds at the end were great (I was virtually alone down the finish straight and got huge cheers) and then I spotted some ladies serving beer – how could I refuse.

Many thanks to all who sent messages of support on Twitter and donated to the charity I was supporting. Unfortunately those finishing later in the race had a rough time with some of the water stations running out. That aside (and I realise that’s a big thing to put aside) I thought this a well-organised race in a great city. Great to see so many Bournville Harriers there as well – thanks for the company at dinner the night before.

David Harte (Male 40) (301) 228th 03:09:47

Split times:
10k: 00:39:21
Half: 01:26:47
30k: 02:06:35
Marathon: 03:09:47

wxwm2 – half a review

It’s only half a review of West by West Midlands 2 (hosted in the excellent Spotted Dog in Digbeth/Highgate) as I ducked out at about 9pm. But going by what I saw in the first half it gladdens my heart that Birmingham is fast developing a knack for these self-organising, quick and dirty events that help develop a strong bond amongst those with an interest in social media and its applications.

It’s appropriate that the only pic I could find of my contribution to the evening is the above blurry shot by Jon Bounds. For a start I’d rather not see a clearer picture of me wearing a running headband, singlet and, as you can see, my special running pants. Secondly, the evening was by its nature hazy and meandering, in fact that was its strength. The image captures the spirit then, and leaves the detail to linger in the memory.

But enough of the semiotic deconstruction. I pitched in with an idea for a Birmingham Un-marathon to celebrate mass sporting participation but not before instructing the crowd through some pre-race warm-up exercises. Went down well I think. Next up was Jon Hickman who reflected on the reactions to his MA Social Media proposed at the last wxwm but then expanded to discuss his worries over the relative cosiness of Birmingham’s social media scene. A randomly chosen question from the audience about the visibility of women in the social media scene produced a lively discussion which suggested that we shouldn’t get too wound up by the fact that men and women may talk about different things online but the underlying issues of equality and representation still need to be addressed.

The final talk I saw was from Dynamic Arts in relation to their future plans for Rhubarb Radio (who were covering the whole evening live). Some exciting developments there it seems, particularly around mobile applications and an expansion to FM.

There I left it, hopefully someone else will review part two. I had a blast but my non-social media life beckoned and I had to go water the cabbages on the allotment. Thanks for having me.