2021 will always stick strong in my memory thanks to finally ticking off the item at the top of my bucket list when I ran the London Marathon in October. It was also a year that saw me tick off a couple of other running goals but as we approached the end if the year, there was still time for one more race and one more run.

Most years I seem to have found myself working on New Year’s Eve and that has always prevented me considering the Peterborough NYE 10k. However, this year I had the day off work and when I saw that a friend was running it, I got my entry in.

When the entry went in, straight away I started to look towards times. When I started running again a few years ago, hitting the times I had achieved as an 18/19yr old looked to be near on impossible. But, in the past year I have gone faster than my 10k PB twice on training runs so I was targeting making this official. Also, as we entered December I realised that if I didn’t ease up, I would be able to hit 1,000 miles for the 2nd year on the trot and this race would be the finish line.

Fast forward to December and having run Pontefract parkrun on Christmas Day and knocked out a 15km training run earlier in the week, everything was on course. Then I felt ill! On the Wednesday night I convinced myself that the cold I had been brewing was going to be me finally getting hit with covid. In my mind I was going to fall just short of my targets. However, thankfully, tests came back negative, even if I still felt rough.

By the time I had arrived in Peterborough on NYE morning, plans of a PB had been pushed mostly to the back of my mind. I was feeling better, but not great. On the drive up it had teemed it down with rain and knowing the course was muddy in sections, this wasn’t boding well for a good time. But, as much as the run was important, for me it was also a chance to catch up with someone I hadn’t seen since Thomas Cook went bust over 2yrs ago. It was great catching up and then bumping into another ex colleague who was volunteering at the event.

It was now time for the race although the start wasn’t as smooth as I would have wished. Having started to follow the crowd towards the start area we had been turned back by a marshal who had said we’d be called forward in time bands. I heard the first band of sub 35 mins but nothing else so we started to edge forward again, only to now hear them calling sub 55 mins and then sub 1hr. Whilst I knew a PB was unlikely, I was still hoping for sub 45 so I started quite a way back from where I would have liked to be. The first 2 or 3km were therefore spent with quite a bit of weaving in and out, running on grass verges or getting “stuck” when the course narrowed. Had the PB target still been on the cards I would have probably been quite annoyed but as it was, it did help temper my speed a little. I did also see a third ex colleague on course as a result as well.

The course was a real mixture of terrains with some on roads, some on paths and some through mud. I had abandoned any pacing strategy in the earlier stages of the race so each km was taken as it went with no more than a cursory glance at the watch. I ended up finishing in an aesthetically pleasing 44:22. It may have been just under 30s outside my PB but is still the fastest I have officially gone since that date 19yrs ago and given the less than ideal preparation and slippy conditions I was pleased. I could see me doing this again in future years though as a year ender.

2021 is a wrap!

At around the 8km mark on the course I did also hit my yearly mileage target of 1,000 miles. I managed this last year as well and this year was again helped by marathon training, at least this time with and end product. The year started relatively quietly with March being the first month I got myself over 100km in a month mark.

Volume did then start to pick up as I trained for my first race of the year. The Hertfordshire Half didn’t really go to plan but it did help put me back into the training feel.

Late July like many I was pleased to see the return of parkrun. I had probably been more regular doing virtual parkruns than I can ever manage in real life. Since the return I manged 9 events and the pleasing thing for me has been that, excluding 2 events done with my daughter, I was faster than my historic parkrun PB on all but one run (and that was the hilly Dewsbury parkrun!). I am hoping to be able to work my way into 2022 with a renewed focus on aiming at 20mins (I got to 20.15 on my virtual course)

The summer really saw the mileage surge with over 1/4 of my total coming in August and September. Training was harder for an autumn marathon vs the first training for a spring marathon but this was a unique year for training distraction as well.

The main goal of the year was finally getting to the line in London. There were times where I started to wonder if it would ever happen but the memories of October 3rd will live with me forever. I’ll admit that as time has passed, I have started to focus on the next marathon. I wouldn’t change a thing from my London experience but I know that there are changes that I could have made to my training, my preparation and my race tactics and in my mind, I could go quite a bit faster. What the next marathon would be and where is still undecided but I am pretty sure there is more in my future.

It would have been easy to ease right off in the back of the year. Thankfully though I was able to put the marathon fitness to good use when I finally got rid of the monkey on my back and broke through 1:40 at St Neots Half Marathon. Almost as soon as I crossed the line the thought process was “how quick could I go?” but that should be easier as mentally I know it is possible. The 1,000 mile target then kept me going through December.

So what of 2022. I want to set some targets for myself but I don’t have a definite plan yet. As mentioned before, a sub 20 parkrun would be high on my list. Then working through the distances, the key targets will be simply trying to further improve PBs. 2021 was a great running year for me, here’s hoping 2022 can keep pace!

By Mike

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