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Sheffield Half Marathon 2018 – a lesson in pacing

When it comes to the best way to mentally approach a race, one of the greatest pieces of coaching advice I have ever been given is this,

‘Start logically, finish emotionally’

Emotion is certainly a powerful weapon to help drive you to achieve great things, but it’s a little bit like anaerobic respiration – great for short, powerful bursts, but a disaster for sustained efforts.

While this is true, applying it in a race is sometimes a lot harder than it seems. Having the confidence to trust in your own pacing, and not be drawn into the race for the lead in the first 400m is not easy to resist – particularly in a championship race, or a hometown race where emotions tend to run high.

Due to the course, Sheffield Half Marathon is a course on which pacing is vital. If you go off to hard, you’re going to suffer on four to five miles of climbs, which will compound both the pain, and the impact on your overall race result. It’s a tough course, and that’s why we love it. Amazing atmosphere, brilliant support, and a super challenge.

I’ve not always been the best at living up to the important piece of coaching advice I highlighted earlier. However, I’m delighted that this year I was able to do so. For probably 60% of the race I wasn’t in the podium positions. I was with my chasing group and together we caught and passed 2nd place. Looking back, possibly we could have caught 1st place.too (the challenge for next year).

Coming down Ecclesall Road with two miles to go I felt strong. Moving into the last mile I knew exactly where I was going to attack. Executed it to perfection and I took 2nd with 15-20 seconds to spare. That was only possible because I started the race in a logical, controlled manner. That enabled me to empty all the emotion into the last 400 metres and sprint flat out.

Delighted with the result, and even more delighted to have the chance to race in my hometown on one of my favourite courses. Having now finished 2nd twice in the Sheffield Half Marathon (once on the old course, once on the new), it’s probably time for me to focus on making that final push for No.1.


Bring on Sheffield Half Marathon 2019!

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WORLD OF WEIRD (WOW): Part Eight – The Anomaly


Six years!

Six years of the same route to and from work.

I run in.  Then roughly 8 hours later, I run home again.

And it’s uncanny….

The conditions can be ideal on the way in.  Or they’ll be the worst Mother Nature can throw at you.  But either way, having set myself up with the correct clothing and equipment for the environment – come Shalesmoor (exactly halfway), the situation will reverse itself.  Or the extreme weather kicks in.

Let’s say as a conservative estimate that I’ve run for 30 weeks out of every year.  An understatement I’m sure.  Then maybe 3 days out of every week or more.  2 runs per day, since it’s to work and back again.  So a minimum of 1080 times, I’ve run between Attercliffe and Hillsborough – at the very least.

And no word of a lie, if there’s to be a sudden deluge, or 60mph headwind, or freak hail storm…’s when I reach Shalesmoor.  It is the spookiest thing.

I can be looking at clear blue skies first thing in the morning, only to realise by tea time, that I ought to have brought a warmer/more water/wind proof top for the now horrifying journey home.

But it won’t actually pounce until I reach Shalesmoor Tram Stop, at which point I can have for sale signs whipping past my earhole, or hail stones bouncing from my nose.  If slightly over dressed, the sun will make a miraculous breakthrough and attempt to toast me as I cover the Langsett Rd trudge.  It’s as if the Gods are toying with me, on what already qualifies as a fairly soul destroyingly mundane run.

Trust me, the run through from Hillsborough to Attercliffe is not on anyone’s ‘Bucket List’.  I assure you.

And don’t get me started on the headwind changing direction during the day, so that it’s against me both ways…..!

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Leave it in ‘Park’


This weekend I re-visited my local Parkrun.  Hillsborough Parkrun.

Last time was in 2015, which I find hard to believe.

Anyway, I remember that I set off too quickly and almost blew up, so this time I thought I’d use the run to build up slowly.  It does involve 3 laps of the park, so I had plenty of room to improve as I went.

I’ve been a little out of shape recently, as we’ve a 9month old baby at home and all the associated obstacles.

That said, with the circumstances surrounding that 2015 slog, I thought I’d stand a better chance at enjoying myself if I avoided the same mistakes.

I turned up at a jog.

I settled away from the start line, among the masses, to avoid setting off like a lunatic surfer – riding a wave of runners behind me.

My plan was to enjoy the run, while gradually building my pace as I became more comfortable with the effort.


Off we went.  I started at a casual 7 min/miles and some change….

First couple of bends, taking things nice and easy.  Stuck behind a few folk going even slower, but hey – I’ll pass when the time comes…

No, I’ll run on the grass and go round them all now.

Actually, I’ll weave through the crowds and find a nice space ahead of these ‘stragglers’.  No, actually……

There I am in the yellow shirt, trying to keep up with the children.

The deal

I reached the first climb, the entire length of the park.  I generally enjoy climbs and know that I can pass people thanks to a reasonable ability to push.

So I pushed.

The Marshall announced part way up that we’d been running for some 4 odd minutes, so I started to agonise over my Maths.

Round the top corner and we were once again on the level, approaching the library.

I hadn’t exactly cleared the field.  In fact, I was hurting a little, trucking along slowly and still in the 7min/mile region.  At least the hill hadn’t slowed me down.

Now to the downhill section back to the start line for completion of Lap1.

Coming out of the downhill… deep in thought/anguish

A glance at the watch now and confirmation of race plan effectiveness…..  well, still 7 min/miles, but feeling okay.

Second climb, still 7min/mile.

And by the third climb….. the same.

Eventually and rather awkwardly, I reach the finish funnel.  Scrambling to retrieve my barcode from inside the elasticated fabric near my knee, but producing a slow march with one hand half way up my shorts!  If you were there, all I can say is sorry.

Thankfully – no photo of me ‘rooting’ about in my shorts.

So, 2015 result – 20min.

2018 was……. 21:53.     WTF!   I really expected to get a better time for having paced myself in the first lap.  I thought that to build gradually was a sure way of coming out at full speed by the finish.  Goes to show.  You can definitely mistake fatigue for performance.  Just cause you’re incapable of producing more, doesn’t mean you’re flying, it just means you’re knackered.  End of.

Anyway – I obtained what I went there for.  Something to build on.

The shakiest of foundations sure, but all the same, a start.

I just need to go back in less than three years to measure my progress.

Oh and it was hot and I’ve been tired all week and……blah, blah, blah…..


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Uphill Running Technique – from Colin Papworth


Colin Papworth works at the Accelerate Performance Centre (APC) as resident Podiatrist and has for years, taken the lead on all matters of running form/gait analysis/footwear assessment.  He hosts our 4hr Running Form Workshops and was in attendance as ‘drop in’ guru during the recent Big Running Weekend.  Here then, he shares the basics of how to successfully run uphill.




The idea here, to give some insight into what is good running technique, what it looks like and how to get there.   Also why running technique is important in relation to injury prevention and performance improvement:

So often we see people running who are only using a few muscles. Namely the quads and calves for up hill running. So, if you are leaning forward or calves are screaming at you then this is probably the case. Muscles work so much more efficiently when they are stretched before they have to contract, so if we can load then with a bit of stretch when we are in the stance phase of gait they will deliver more power in the push phase. Think of stretching out an elastic band, the bigger the stretch the more power is provided when we release it. Cadence is the number of steps we take and is measured in steps per minute. The higher the number the less time on the ground and shorter the stride. So cadence is a bit like your running gears, steeper the hill the faster the cadence and shorter the stride.

So this is what it is all about. Remember to address these things and that is all there is to it!

Start with your posture. This is so important as it is really hard to change anything else without first addressing your posture. If you lean forward you over stride, over use the muscles in the front of your legs, do not use hamstrings or glutes efficiently and do not have a good balance between the front and back of your body. Standing taller and not bending forward from the hips / waist is the key.

Arm swing will drive your foot and leg motion. The important bit is driving back with your elbows and trying to keep hands high. Keep arms moving from the shoulder and not rotating with your body. Elbow drive behind you will encourage more push from the legs behind you.

One reason you may be finding it hard running up hill is if you over stride. This causes a breaking force and means you have to move past your foot in the contact position. So keeping contact close to you minimise these factors and means you can move into the propulsive phase faster. So less time breaking and more time pushing.

So, to run more efficiently we have to produce more push and not be so reliant on the pull from the hips. So, if posture is good and arms are working well, we have not over reached at the point of contact then we should be in a position where we can push hard against the ground. So, stretch out the muscles at contact and then use the elastic return to help with the push. Muscles like to be stretched before they have to contract – think of the elastic band again. Big stretch more power generated.

Another quick physics lesson. A foot on the end of a long lever (leg) is heavier (takes more energy to move it) the further away from your bum it is. So if you want a fast leg / foot moving through the swing phase then you need as close to you as possible. So a higher heel makes for a faster cadence. It also makes for a contact closer to you and allows more drive through the knee. So not lift your foot but let it naturally swing back following a good push off phase. One last thing, a high knee drive through the swing phase will activate the stance leg hamstrings. Meaning they will be primed ready to push against the ground and recoil through the swing phase.

So that is running up hill. Posture first, arms second, contact close to you, push the ground away, allow muscles to stretch before firing and do not run too hard. Set the pace and cadence as one you sustain. If you are running a race / training run with lots of hills you do not want to fatigue small muscles quickly on the first hill. Use all your muscles and keep breathing. Have a look at diaphragm breathing – it will really help you if you are not doing this already.

Stuart, Laura and I are able to offer either one to one sessions or small group sessions on the hill if you want to go into this further. We use video on these sessions, so you can see what you are doing. All sessions are drills based and so suitable for everyone. These sessions will improve your up hill running confidence and can be tailor made to what you want to get out of the sessions. Please contact us for more information.

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Putting the ‘Eeek!’ in Peakrunners – By Caroline French


Caroline French runs for and represents the Accelerate ‘Community’.  As part of Team Accelerate, she not only blogs, but also attends events, group runs and sessions in the Accelerate store.  She’s about to focus on completion of an event supported by Accelerate, the Peakrunnrs Ladybower Trail Marathon.  This is part one of what we hope will be a series, recording her progress, with an eventual race report for good measure.












Eeek, so I’ve entered the Scott supported Peakrunners Ladybower Trail Marathon – 30 June.

Train, race, recover ….repeat. Simple?

Ha ha, if only!

The old cliché is so true: just when you think everything is going great, bam!

In April 2017, all was great.  ‘Had a brilliant time at the Lightning 12 hour run, covering 30 miles and loved it.

In May it was the Hathersage Hurtle: 20 miles smashed and a breeze!  I chatted the whole way round and we (running partner and myself) finished 6th and 7th female.

Finishing the Hathersage Hurtle

“This girl’s on fire”….

Shortly followed by stress fracture in left tibia. Noooooo.

This actually meant rest.  Actual rest: it got exciting when I could run again after 6 weeks of not doing anything.  Hard going, but great being back.


After only 2 weeks of being back ‘on it’, my foot decided to strike the door frame in my bedroom at high speed.  Crunch.  Knew instantly it was broken.  Pain like you wouldn’t believe.

Gutted doesn’t even some it up.

It hasn’t been plain sailing since then either.  Had issues with my back and conflicting advice, but incredibly happy to say I’m running!


This kind of stuff makes you focus on building strength and really appreciating being able to run.

I’m setting different goals and my training plan is very focused and I’m disciplined.  In training and in diet.

I’ve entered a few shorter distance events, in May (Stanage Stumble – 12 miler being one of them) and building up to the Ladybower Trail Marathon at the end of June.

Race Start – Ladybower Trail Marathon 2017


So, what’s the training plan look like?  Probably a little different than it would have last year.  New goals!  This is a major distance milestone for me.  It isn’t about winning and it isn’t about surviving.  My goal is to finish, finish strong and enjoy it.  11 weeks to go, it’s:

  • building those long runs, slowly increasing the distance
  • drills – one session a  week, building technique and muscle memory
  • strength training: short sessions but looking at body weight exercises focusing on functional strength (stolen from @teamaccelerate @Laura and @Stu)
  • yoga & pilates
  • Rest (one day a week will have no running or strength.  Maybe a gentle mooch, but nothing more)

To sustain all of this, what I put in my body has to be good, to get the results and keep myself strong.  I’m vegan and have a crazy busy job, and although I eat a varied and healthy diet, I’m not afraid to say I supplement my diet and do make sure I take protein after training sessions.  I’m new to it, but the Mountain Fuel shakes are ace.  Love ’em for recovery and a protein hit.

Peakrunners are also supported by Mountain Fuel.

(Drumroll) I’ve quit alcohol too.  Now I’ve said that, it gives me extra motivation.  It might not be forever, but I’m giving it a whirl.


Do you know what, I’m feeling great.  New goals, new challenges: bring it on!

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