It’s been a crazy year since I took up running. I first joined Goodgym when I returned back to Norwich (May 2018) and I shortly after started doing Parkrun. I entered my first race in September 2018 and after a couple of races I joined a running club (Norwich Road Runners) and between Parkrun, Goodgym and NRR I got completely hooked and ended up doing 33 races in my first year.
My first ever race was representing Goodgym at the Jolly Jags at RAF Coltishall. I remember being pretty nervous given I had only been running for a few months and this was my first 10K distance other than sometimes doing 10KM or Goodgym but that wasn’t continuous.
I felt the weather was perfect for my first one, a nice bit of rain to keep me cool. I was over the moon how well it went and I remember the buzz of finishing. It was a shame my first medal was a tiny segment in a 3 medal series, I would have liked my first one to be a bit better but I remember being delighted with 46:13 for my first race.
No sooner than I had got my racing year underway, I had a major set-back. I raced the Great Yarmouth East Coast 10K and on the promenade there was quite a crowd cheering, not being used to this I was looking around and I missed a giant step down and twisted my ankle really badly. I somehow managed to finish the last 3K and still got a very respectful time given the circumstances. Not just because of the ankle twist, but I hated this course anyway (apart from the great support from a friend of mine Sue as Marshal). I had quickly realised that long, straight roads you could see the end of in the horizon were my hell and that has not changed to this day. Give me twists, turns and hills any day!
My ankle was massive and bruised for ages afterwards but I was retaining hope of racing Trowse 10K exactly 2 weeks later because it was my local race. It was touch and go whether or not I could race but I felt good enough and the swelling had gone down, even if the bruising had not all gone. I had decided that I would race and know within the first 1K if it was going to be a disaster or not. I was still racing as Goodgym here as I had not joined NRR yet, I was again happy with my time despite no PB, my comeback race (as I called it already, only 3 races in) was 47:12. That was it for October but the bookings were flowing at this point, I was hooked!
Just a single race in November but by this time I was embracing the Norwich Road Runners sessions as well as Goodgym and pretty much hitting Parkrun every weekend (with the PB’s tumbling).
I begged quite hard to get into this Breckland 10KM and it was my first trail run/race. Its odd because I didn’t get a PB but I absolutely loved the race and still remember it fondly. I think it might be because it’s one of the biggest medals I have and big bling = winner for me! I came in 20th which I was absolutely over the moon with, despite there not being a big a field as normal (there must have been a Sportlink GP race on elsewhere).
Another month of just a single race for me in December but I was hooked at this point but I went full scale running mad in the new year. The December race was the first of 3 Thetford Trail races which I absolutely loved. I am not going to lie, I thought all 3 courses would be different but anyway that did not impact my first.
Even though it was a trail run, I thought it was friendlier terrain than Breckland and I smashed my PB by over 2 minutes to bring it down to 44:05. A really great course and one I would tempted to do again next year (although 3 times the same course can get a bit tedious).
January is where racing started to take over my life! Armed with crackin’ new mean green New Balance Boa System running shoes from my sister @ Christmas I was keen to get racing as soon as possible, so what better than New Years Day!
I had forgotten my running watch for the race today which is unlike me, so I was quite down before the race – if it isn’t on Strava it doesn’t count, right?
Amazingly, with no watch I went out and smashed another chunk off my 10KM PB to take me to 43:26. I remember being so surprised and over the moon with this one and I was truly hooked at this point. I was reaping the benefits of training with Norwich Road Runners.
5 days later I was back at Thetford Trails race 2 where I got another PB taking the 10KM time down to 43:08. Around this time I had written my goals for 2019 blog and I wanted sub 20 5KM and Sub 42 10KM. I was heading in the right direction with both. Around January I was smashing PB’s but still hovering above 20, around 20 and a half.
2 weeks later in January it was my third race of the month at Snetterton which I was always told is notoriously fast and a lot of PBs are made there. I was pretty pumped for this one, felt good and loads of NRR were there so I was pretty nervous too. I got a PB at this race too, taking my 10KM under the 43 mark to 42:46, I went out way too fast but managed to compose myself and get a really good time.
My 4th race and the toughest one to date was the Freethorpe 10 miler. I had not raced 10 miles before and it was seriously windy. I found the distance fine but at 2 particular miles I remember feeling as if I was running normal pace but because of the wind the pace was terrible. I know it’s a decent time but I came away a bit disappointed because in my head I think I wanted 1:10. I got 1:13 so I was came away happy (and a great medal too) but I was (and still am) keen to tackle another 10 miler.
February was a great month for me because I got sub 20 at Parkrun for the first time and I also got another 10KM PB. The Valentines 10km was a Roadrunners target race and I really wanted Sub 42. I had run really well the whole thing but there was a hill at the end, I glanced at the watch and I thought ok I’m well on for sub 42 here, but somehow the time just caught up on me and I crossed with 42:08 – I was FURIOUS! It was still a PB by around 40 seconds. I think it dawned on me when Alick sped by me on the hill, I had mis-calculated this. The good thing is, anger tends to make me run better next time!
That next time was certainly not going to be the third and last in the series of Thetford Trails though. This race came a day after Wales beat England in the 6 nations and quite frankly the day/afternoon/night before was a mess! I somehow managed to finish this race (in my Welsh rugby jersey I wore whilst out drinking all day yesterday) in 58:25… a miracle in itself.
It was back to a different part of the Thetford Forest for the 10KM Hoohah and I felt so strong in this race, I absolutely smashed it coming 10th with a PB of 41:40. I really didn’t think I could beat that time, I thought that was it for me. A nice change with the medal too, a long bar type shape as opposed to circular.
Wales went onto win the Grand Slam so naturally it was a disgustingly rough day/afternoon/evening for that too and I rocked up at Mad March on Coltishall Airfield absolutely rancid. I managed a respectable 52:58, better than my time after we had beaten England.
My final race for March was for the Stroke Association and I didn’t really gun for a PB on this but gave it a bit of welly. I finished in 42:10 which I was pleased about, and it was a really warm one too.
Originally I was intending to do 3 Half Marathons to challenge myself in 2019, the Three Castles Series in North Wales (Snowdonia, Bangor and Conwy) but once I become race obsessed I signed myself up to the Norwich Half. I was feeling great at the time and I thought it would be good practice for Snowdonia which was going to be so much tougher. I had a great first half marathon and I felt I had much more in the tank too, I got a time of 1:32:45 which I was delighted with but Norwich half is flat and the light rain was perfect for me too. To this day, I have not come anywhere near that yet but there may be other reasons for that!
A week after the Norwich half I rocked up the Bungay Black Dog Festival of Running 10KM race with Ben. Neither of us were feeling particular good about it as it was meant to be a bit tough. We both managed to smash PB’s somehow on this race, with mine now reduced to 41:20 which is where it remains right now. It really was a good race and a great medal too, I will definitely do it next year.
My third race in April was the Yarmouth 5 miler. These Yarmouth courses are not my friends, I really struggled even though I got a good time. In hindsight, this really was the first signs of me really starting to struggle, I remember grunting at parts of this race. I was happy with my first time despite this but I remember it being incredible difficult for what should be a dawdle for me. 34:11
My 4th race in April is where it all started to go wrong. It was my first International Race the Gozo 10KM race in Malta. I had an amazing trip, with a friend of mine from South America taking me to see some incredible places and the weather was incredible.
Weather being incredible is nice for the holiday, not so great for the race, it was a scorcher. The island of Gozo is beautiful so I was chuffed to be doing such a race. I started off fantastically well and I was feeling really strong. The course was incredibly hilly and it was scorching, I started to struggle towards the end and had to stop once or twice on the last mile. I finished really disappointed but I still had a cracking time and was the 2nd International finisher (I want that trophy and will almost certainly go back next year) – 44:32. Crackin’ trip, beautiful course and beautiful bling too.
May was when it all went wrong really. Henham 10KM was pretty much how it is running with the peak of this Hypothyroidism. For 3-4 miles I was in around 4th/5th place and running my usual pace very well but after that it hit a wall and your legs actually won’t go. Your breathing is fine, you feel fine but your energy just saps to 0. I was so demoralised after stopping but I plodded on and finished in 45:35. At this time, after stopping at Gozo I was convinced it was all a mental thing and that I stopped today just because I knew I can after Gozo. I left Henham fuming with myself.
3 days later I pipped my 5KM PB at Wroxham 5KM which confused me even more but I thought I was back in business now and had got rid of the mental demons of stopping. 19:23
4 days later I headed to North Wales for the Snowdonia Half Marathon (first of 3 in the Three Castles Series). It was such a hard course with huge hills and I walked a few of them but didn’t think too much of it because so many of them were, even the quick guys. I finished in a time I was really happy with because it was so tough 1:50:26 and I had a great weekend in Snowdonia as I hadn’t been there for so long.
There was still stupidly time for another race in May, I headed to the 10KM race in Holt. I had an absolute shocker with multiple stops again, I was at the end of my teather now to be honest. I was convinced still it was a mental thing and that I was just coming up to a year running so maybe I have had my fine but now needed to find something else to do. I finished in 44:01 and I was beating myself up big time now, telling almost everybody and looking for advice how to shake this off.
June was a really important month in my running and is probably the reason I am still running today and not taking up some random hobby like metal detectoring.
I had the Mike Groves 10KM at the RAF Coltishall airbase and it is flat as a pancake. I was pretty down on myself at the moment so I decided to try and run at 7-7:30 min miles which should be super comfortable for me. I struggled from mile 2 and stopped probably around times. I remember finishing and being close to tears because I just could not understand what was going on.
Walking back to the car, one of the coaches Neil Walpole urged me to go and see the GP and said it could be something trivial like an iron deficiency. The week after a friend of mine at club told me had an iron deficiency recently which hospitalised him so he urged to get it checked out too.
I promised myself I would go to the docs but I was in for the North Walsham 5KM and pretty positive about it given my 5KM had not been affected much given the short distance. I was very happy to get sub 20 in the North Walsham 5KM which was a great race hosted by a friend of mine from Goodgym. I got 19:57 which I was kind of happy with even though my Parkrun 5KMs had also slipped back a bit recently.
My last race of June was a hungover trot after being in London with the Arsenal boys the day before. I was glad really because I was still incredibly frustrated with my running and also had an appointment with the Docs the next day for a blood test. The Humpty Dumpty 10KM I got around in 51:21 but I actually enjoyed it, even hungover.
I finally listened to their both advice and went in for a blood test, fully expecting to have an iron deficiency. When I had my results it turns out I have Hypothyrodism. Normal for a male is between 3 and 3.5 TSH (thyroid stimulating level) but my reading came out 60 so it was extreme and doctor was not surprised when I was telling him I was struggling to get out of bed, was completely lethargic and struggling to get up the stairs etc. Anyway, I was partly relieved that I had found what it was and I could get on meds but also a bit worried because I had taking tablets and this meant taking tablets for life. It made me think back to my months running up to the move from Birmingham too and the Doc said it’s likely I have had this a long time and experiencing symptoms but only recently experienced severe given the reading. I honestly don’t think I would have gone to see the doctor if I wasn’t running or the coaches urged me to. I just thought I was tired or bored with work etc, I now reckon all the troubles in the lead up to my move from Birmingham with my piling on the weight and the massive anxiety (which is not really me) was down to it.
Early in July was the final Wroxham 5KM in the series and fresh from my diagnoses and on a really low dose of the meds I was feeling pretty down. Pre-race though I spoke to a friend of mine from the club who by chance also had Hypothyroidism and had for around 10 years I think. He’s proper slim and a cracking runner with great times so I instantly felt really positive in knowing once sorted I can still get better and not turn into a whale again.
I ended up beating my PB in this race to 19:11 which is where my 5KM remains. I was absolutely buzzing after this race, I felt I ran it perfectly and gave it absolutely everything.
The problem is, I had so many races booked up and despite the diagnoses I had the Lord Mayors Classic 5KM which was the race I was most looking forward to but most nervous about because of the cut-off. I was still determined to give it a go because the cut off was at 3KM and I knew I could still go well for that distance. I really really struggled but got past the 3KM and one of the guys who convinced me to go the docs (Aston) helped me massively in that race. I am already properly excited about slaying this race properly next year. You have to qualify with a sub 20 race and pass 3KM in 12 mins. I passed the cut off but finished the race in 20:27 because once passed the cut-off I was so relieved I just died a death. I was over the moon to the get the prestigious mug though and there were some great fellow NRRs doing the race too so it was a good day.
Unfortunately, the booked up races continued and I really struggled on my 10KM leg of Ekiden. I really wanted to reduce it to 5KM because of the condition but I also was freaking out about bloating in weight again so I wanted to run far but I struggled to run far… was a horrible Catch 22. I really gave it everything on the 10KM and gritted my teeth around the whole thing, it was incredibly tough and of course with these types of conditions nobody can see them so it probably just looked like I was having a shit run but only people with it (prior to getting the levels right) will know the absolute grind it is. 43:52
The big one was next but I knew my 10KM was shot to bits. I decided to run it rather than race it because I didn’t want all the spectators to see my grinding my teeth and grunting through the race and it would be embarrassing to have to walk parts I thought. I was so pleased with my decision, I throughly enjoyed it. By this time I had upped the dose further after blood tests had revealed I had not moved much. I was looking forward to Run Norwich since I started racing and despite me getting 45:26 I really enjoyed taking in the city and interacting with spectators and marshals. This is another race I cannot wait to give full beans next year.
Obviously I toned down the race bookings once I found out so I only had one race booked in August (initially). The Scotty Sundowner 5KM was ANOTHER race on the RAF Coltishall Airbase and I ended up with a respectable 19:54 but I was really gunning for a PB in the first half of this race but I hit the wall mid-way. No stopping, I just didn’t have it this time around which was a shame because I felt good. As long as I keep my 5KM times always under 20 I am happy though.
After originally just wanting the Three Castles Series Half Marathons I had already added the Norwich half back in April and I stupidly signed up to the Rock n Roll Dublin Half Marathon! I had a weekend in Bray, Ireland rather than Dublin as had been so many times. It was beautiful there but was an early start to Dublin for the race (4am). I knew I still wasn’t in good nick for running but I was keen to give it as much as I had. Sweet mother of God it was struggle, it was a tough course and I really had to dig deep to finish this one without stopping. I was pretty chuffed not to stop because it showed the meds were working, but it was so so hard. I finished the race in 1:39:09 and I felt I deserved the swanky medal you got! After the race I had genuine pain in both of my legs, it was horrific aching, I’d never experienced it before and I am not all that keen on feeling it again! Still, that was 2 half marathons down in my first year of racing, so I felt quite proud.
Despite me knowing I am not top of my game I stupidly decided to do ANOTHER half marathon and sign up to the Wissey Half Marathon. David Field kindly donated the £20 entry fee (I transferred from him) to my charity Save the Rhino http://www.justgiving.com/RoweFarah . I hate the course and no medal at the end meant it was pretty horrific. I also stopped during this race but I don’t think that was the condition, I just was not feeling it, had not trained and I entered at short notice. I got a time of 1:42:23 which is not the end of the world but a huge 10 mins off my Norwich Half PB.
So, there we go, that was my first ever 12 months of racing, and now in my 16th month of running. Tomorrow will be the Jolly Jaguars 10KM which was my first last year. I doubt PB will be on tomorrow, I am currently on a higher dose again and my blood test results are now from 60 to 20 and now on 12 with a target of 3 – 3.5 so it’s progress but no means there yet. I am told I will feel a eureka moment when I get there and I’ll realise how long I have had it… very much looking forward to this moment!
The best I felt during a race was the Norwich Half Marathon. I was doing so many short distance races at pace, it was really hard to enjoy them but the Norwich Half was a great time but comfortable pace. Equally, I absolutely loved the Gozo 10KM because of the surroundings.
I have to give my favourite race title to the Lord Mayors 5KM Classic though. Just the fact you have to qualify, the relatively small field and the fact that the nerves hit about the race weeks and months beforehand. The fear of having that rope drop on you and take you out of the race is something new and it feels like such a massive achievement a. to be in it and b. to finish it. As I mentioned earlier, I cannot wait to smash it next year!
I really dislike anything and everything around Yarmouth. I always say the things I really struggle with are long, straight roads where you can see the end miles in the distance or places where terrain changes quite drastically. The Yarmouth 10KM and the 5 Mile series I just cannot get along with. I feel really bad because a friend of mine Sue is part of the club that puts them on and I always get great encouragement and cheers… but I just don’t like the courses themselves at all.
I have to say though, the Wissey Half Marathon has to get a mention. It is likely you will see me at a Yarmouth race again but there is absolutely no chance you would see me at the Wissey Half, I struggled with the course/surface and no medal. If I don’t get bling at the end of a race then I am not a happy bunny!
I will have to update this with photos at some point but my favourite 3 medals are
- Gozo 10KM
- Breckland 10KM
- Rock n Roll Dublin Half
Goals for the next 12 months
My main immediate goal is to get this Hypothyroidism under control and get the dose right so I can stop having weekly/fortnightly blood tests. I am convinced then the only thing holding me back from results will be the effort and training I put in. At the moment I am completely hamstrung because I am so far away from the levels in my blood I need it to be. Anything over 5KM is a real slog and a grunt and teeth grinding exercise, that doesn’t mean I don’t give it everything mind but it is frustrating knowing I have the speed and fitness but I just cannot do it!
My time goals are pretty simple, I want
- 5KM – Sub 19:00
- 10KM – Sub 40:00
- 10 Miler – 1:10:00
- Half Marathon – 1:30:00
- Full Marathon (never done one) – 3:30:00
In terms of wider goals, I want to learn so much more about running. I want to learn technique for breathing, arms, cadence and I want to educate myself more about stretching, cross training and how to fuel the body in the run up to races. I have been having on the main an absolute ball with running and racing the first year, but I have just rocked up and raced with no real targeted training. I am keen in Year 2 of racing to take it seriously and hit all those time goals above.
All my race results can be found HERE