Well, 1,565km’s to be exact, but who’s really counting (oh right, me, that’s the point of this post!).
It’s another year down so I thought I’d share my running journey from 2022 as it was very much a year of milestones for me, not only is 1500km’s the most km’s I’ve done in a single year, I also managed to get PB’s on all races I entered and I was (mostly) injury free.
The raw stats
As the saying goes, if it’s not on Strava, it didn’t happen, and according to Strava I ran a total of 1565km’s across 176 activities, totalling 129 hours and 17 minutes, with an elevation gain of 12,719 meters.
Like I mentioned last year Strava is a bit of a pain to get overly specific with, but I now have 12 months of data in Garmin to look at as well. According to this, the largest running month for me was January at 177.7km for the month, followed closely by August at 175.9km. This tracks as in January I was finishing my “run at least 5km a day” which I kept up for ~3 weeks, and August was the final training for City2Surf.
The big change for 2022 was that races were back. Races are something that I’d missed from the peak pandemic, so I set myself some goals, a sub-95 half marathon and sub-60 City2Surf (which I’d done in 2019, so it was more proof I could do it again).
For me, City2Surf was my A race, the one that I was targeting directly, and I ran the SMH and Blackmores half marathons in addition.
SMH Half Marathon
This was a bit of a spur of the moment event for me. Being in May, SMH is early enough that it’s an indicator for City2Surf (and where to adjust training) but also well enough into the year that I’ve had some time to get some fitness baseline setup.
But SMH sucks, it’s a really hard race and as much as I enjoy it, I also really hate doing it.
The course for SMH is through Sydney CBD, starting at Hyde Park, zig zagging through the CBD before heading out to Pyrmont, turning around, and then at ~15km in the hills start, with about a 30m vertical climb, and then it just goes up and down constantly from there.
As I mentioned, this was a spur of the moment event for me. It’s the first of the big Sydney running events in a calendar year, but I wasn’t sure I’d sign up for it. Talking with some running friends I was sure I could do it (and I did a few half marathon distance long runs at the start of 2022), but having not raced for nearly 3 years, I was unsure if I was mentally ready. But I decided to bite the bullet and sign up, best shake off race nerves before City2Surf!
One of my friends I run with was running similar pace to me and was targeting a sub-95 time so I thought I should be able to do that - it’s holding a 4:30 min/km pace and my training runs saw me hitting that with reasonable consistency.
Come race day I went to find my friend, but he’d gotten into the starting pack before me and was near the front, so I did my warm up of a 1km job, followed by some dynamic stretching and sprints at progressively faster pace, then I settled into the back of the starting group. I wasn’t going to run with the 95 pacer anyway, I don’t like running with pacer groups (I prefer to do my own thing), so it wasn’t that much of a bother.
The race got underway, I settled myself into a pace/cadence that was felling good for my body - I don’t look at my watch/wearing a timing print-out, I prefer to run what my body feels to be right and if I miss a pace goal, then clearly I wasn’t ready for it. I paced the 100 min pacer around 8km, clearly I’m holding a solid pace above 100 minutes, and then caught the 95 pacer a few km later. This is good, I’m on pace for sub-95 if I’m passing the pacer. I saw my friend pass me on the return, he wasn’t that far ahead so I pushed a bit and caught him, cheered him on and then dropped away - despite all our banter beforehand and him being convinced I’d out run him, he was clearly running stronger than me and I wasn’t going to be able to keep pace.
And then it went to shit.
At the 15km mark, after a few km of flat running, you turn sharply and go up, and up, and up. It was clear that I wasn’t prepared for hills and I knew this was going to be a tough finish to the race. I went from a 4:08 min/km pace to a 4:54 min/km over two km’s. Now sure, there’s expected slowdown when you hit hills, but even reviewing the GAP (Gradient Adjusted Pace) I was behind 4:30 which I needed for sub-95.
When you hit 19km you go downhill into Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, before a hairpin turn and heading back up and out. I summoned the last bit of adrenaline I had left, shouted some encouragement to the runners around me who were clearly in the same boat as me, then prepared for the climb… and then I heard a chirpy voice shouting encouragement behind me. A quick look back to confirm, that yep, there’s the 95 min pacer coming up behind me. Shit, I’d left them behind nearly 10km ago and that confirmed just how much I’d dropped pace.
It was now or never, I pushed as hard as I could for the final straight, rounded the last corner, crossed the finish line (and stopped my watch, can’t risk overage on the activity!), and sat down, exhausted.
I did it - 94:09, I broke my 95 goal.
My friend came over and congratulated me, he’d run a 92, so I was glad I didn’t stick with him! Then I went to find my family who’d come in to cheer my finish, my youngest was super excited cuz he’d seen Spiderman finish and I’d beaten Spiderman, so I was kind of a big deal!
It did take me several days to be able to walk properly again, but I’d gotten my goal and some useful insights on where I was lacking as I looked towards my next race, City2Surf.
The number one takeaway from SMH was that I wasn’t hill-fit, and that’s something I’d need to work on for City2Surf, because while SMH is a rough finish with the hills, City2Surf is unforgiving the whole way, there’s maybe 2km of flat across the 14km course, everything else is either up or down.
I rejigged my training plan - I was running four times a week, Wednesday became hills (I mapped a 3.5km loop at my local park that was up and down constantly), Friday would be speed work (I stopped RunLab as I wasn’t finding it valuable anymore), Saturday was parkrun (generally pushing both kids in a pram) and Sunday was a long run (generally around 15km). As City2Surf got closer, I doubled the hill session to run ~7km up and down, ensuring that I was as strong as I could possibly be on the hills.
On race day I stuck to the same plan as in 2019, hang to the back of the wave I’m in, rather than try and run in the pack. It’s probably more psychological than anything, but City2Surf is a huge event, 46,000 people ran/jogged/walked it in 2022, and in my wave there was easily several thousand and there’s a large variety of runners there, so by hanging back I hope for the pack to thin a bit and I can find a path through, rather than getting suck behind people who aren’t going at the pace I’m going.
I found my groove early, there was a lot of people traffic to dodge, but the legs felt good and around the 5km mark, when you hit one of the flattest sections, I knew I was running fast and strong (looking at the analysis, I did a 3:45 min/km!) and then we get to Heartbreak Hill. Heartbreak Hill is the hill of City2Surf, it’s ~1.4km (just under 1 mile) with ~85m elevation gain on a 6% grade and it’s about the midway point. A good rule of thumb is how you feel at the top is how the race will pan out and in 2019 I was done by the top of the hill (I still don’t know how I held on to the sub-60) but this year I crested it and felt good. Sure, my legs were burning but they still felt strong, and I knew this would be a good time, in fact, looking at the GAP for the segment, I ran a 3:59 min/km, which is insane for a hill like that.
Feeling good I hit the back half of the course confident. I pushed through the next couple of hills, waved to a friend who’d come out to cheer me on, past someone I know from parkrun (who is a strong runner and consistently beats me there), got horribly depressed when you see the finish line only to have to run past it before doubling back (honestly, that’s just mean!) and crossed the finish line with a 57:24.
That’s 2 minutes faster than my 2019 PB, so yeah, crushed it.
Blackmores Half Marathon
After doing City2Surf I was talking to other running friends and I kept getting asked if I was going to aim for sub-90 at Blackmores. I generally shrugged it off as not happening, after all, I only just managed to get sub-95 at SMH, and while I ran a pace a City2Surf to achieve it, I couldn’t have kept that up for another 7km.
But it nagged at the back of my mind, maybe I could. So I decided to push my training a bit harder, there was about 6 weeks to go, enough time to build a bit more in. I added a 2km tempo run onto the hills session and extended the length of the speed sessions to be longer segments at pace.
I felt good, so I decided I would go for it as a stretch goal, with sub-95 being my main objective. Also, Blackmores should be easier to do it than SMH, it’s an “easier” course, with a bit of hills at the start of the race, but once you hit the final third it’s dead flat, and while I was now stronger on the hills, I know that on flat I can really push it.
Then, with about a week to go I felt a twinge in my calf. Shit, I know what this is, it’s the feeling I had last year, I’m on the edge of a calf strain. I decided that I would still run, I’d put in the training, I should be able to hold it together.
On race day I ended up a bit later than planned to the start area (extra bathroom stop along the way!) which meant that I wasn’t able to do the warmup I wanted, only a short jog and a few dynamic stretches, before having to get into the starting area, so my injured calf wasn’t warmed up properly. My race plan was to take the first few km easy as they are a bit hilly (you start from Luna Park, run uphill to the Harbour Bridge and then over it, very picturesque) and that’d give my leg a chance to warm up, knowing I could regain time on the final third once we hit the flat.
Of course I didn’t follow that. My first km was just under 4:30, with the next being 4:11 and a 3:54 3rd km. This explains why at about 10km I knew I’d torn my calf. I momentarily entertained the idea of calling it quits but I’d come this far, only another 11km to go and I can book a physio appointment!
With about 5km to go I broke my “no look” rule and snuck a look at my watch, partially because I needed to know how much longer I was likely to suffer for, and I was shocked, I was under the pace I needed to hit sub-90! I could do this, only 20 more minutes. Adrenaline surged and I pushed on, one step at a time.
87:46. I not only did it, I’d blown past sub-90! I called my wife and kids (who were still in bed) excited but exhausted. I grabbed a drink, headed up to the recovery area and got a massage then booked into the physio for 9am the following day 🤣.
The physio confirmed I’d torn my calf. Thankfully it wasn’t a particularly bad one and as the physio said, I got a PB so it was worth it!
A key part of my running is parkrun, a free, timed 5km event that happens at parks every Saturday around the world. I try to make it every weekend, even when I’m traveling I’ll look for where the nearest parkrun is (I rode 8km through Copenhagen to do a parkrun once).
I started the year with North Woolongong parkrun and ran a 20:22, which I found an amusing start to the year. I hit my 250th parkrun in January at my local parkrun, which is a huge milestone.
In September we were holidaying in Mudgee and I decided to run the parkrun there. It was a rainy morning and about 4c, so my wife thought I was mad. But, I managed to run my fastest parkrun ever with a 19:19!
Then, to cap off the year, I finally managed to get a 1st finisher on Christmas Eve in Queenbyane, on what is a very hilly course.
I doubt I’ll see this kind of “success” in 2023 at parkrun, I’ve set the bar pretty high for myself…
So I’ve had some pretty big wins in terms of events this year, and that begs the question, what’s changed?
The short answer is focus - I’ve trained in a more focused way on specific outcomes and on where I knew I had the biggest shortcomings. Weird that seems to have paid off right! 😅
My wife and I alternate workout days, each doing four days per week (we overlap Saturday with both of us at parkrun), and my week looks like this:
- Wednesday: Hills. I aim for around 10km when getting to the end of training before tapering for a race
- Now that races are done for the year, Wednesday is more of a social run with some friends at an easy pace, but we still hit around the 10km mark.
- Friday: Speed. I was doing RunLab on Friday but ultimately I reached the end of what I felt of was getting out of the program in the middle of the year and started creating my own program. The sessions range from short distance (400m) as hard as I can go, up to 1 mile around threshold pace. With warmup and cool down, this can get over 10km, but that’ll depend on the segment lengths. For this I try and do it on a flat area, and have some parks nearby that are good for that
- Saturday: parkrun. Since both my wife and I do it, and our kids don’t want to run it, I take the pram, so I consider it a strength training session! Trust me, when you’ve got ~60kg of kids and pram, going up Sydney Park Hill (which is in the middle of our “home” parkrun) and then down again is a good workout through the legs.
- Sunday: Long, easy run. Ok, maybe I should say “easy”, as I have had a tendency to run it a bit too fast. But still, it’s generally around 15km and I aim to run just what feels good, without any sort of pushing myself.
After injuring myself at Blackmores, my physio reiterated that I really should be doing some strength work, and no, pushing the pram or picking up my kids doesn’t count. So, I’ve started hitting the gym. I’ve replaced Friday’s speed session with a gym session, as I don’t really need to do speed work outside of race training, instead I do a program of:
- Jog to the gym warmup
- Leg press
- Leg curls
- Step ups
- Calf raises
- Longer jog home
And, yes, it seems to be paying off. So I guess that the physio was right… I’ve kept this up for a few months now, so we’ll see what the impact is next year.
The other major “change” I made this year was shoes. One thing I like about running is that it’s reasonably cheap. You buy a pair of shoes, some workout gear, and that’s your expenses done. I only ever own one pair of shoes at a time and I’ll run them into the ground. Annoyingly at the end of 2021 I had my shoes stolen from out the front of an apartment we were holidaying at. Granted, these shoes had done ~1200km and were ready for retirement, but I was aiming to run the year out in them and crack a fresh pair for 2022. And really, who steals a pair of beat up old runners? The smell alone should have warned the thief off!
For the last few years my go-to shoe has been the Adidas Adizero Adios (I’ve run both the 4’s and 5’s), and had a fresh pair of them waiting at home to get me started. I find them a good all round shoe for the kind of running I do. But one of my running friends had a lot of excess shoes (from doing reviews of them), and is the same size as me, so they offered me a few pairs to try out.
There are two main pairs that I’ve added to my rotation, Saucony Triumph 19 and Saucony Endorphin Pro v1. The Triumph’s are what I use for my long runs, they have a huge amount of cushioning in them, making them very soft and cushy, ideal for a long distance run at an easy pace. The drawback of them is they are harder to “go fast” in, as they absorb so much in each step that you don’t get the same return on effort as you do in a less padded shoe (I also find they lack much tread, making them very slippery in the rain, but that could be cuz they are a bit warn).
The Endorphin Pro’s are the complete opposite, these are racing shoes. They are of the style with a carbon plate through the base of them, making them ultra ridged, and giving you a lot of return momentum for each step. I only tend to crack them out just before a race to get use to them again, the rigidity makes them feel very different through the ankle and it takes time to get use to the change in movement. For all the races I did this year, I wore the Endorphin Pro’s. Have they made a difference? it’s hard to tell, as I don’t have comparable data (not like I also ran the race on the same day in different shoes). Yes, I beat my PB’s in each race, some by considerable margins, but it’s also been several years of progressively increasing running and training, which will have had an impact.
But hey, now I’m a shoe snob who has multiple pairs of runners and when I’m going out I select the “right” shoe for the kind of run I’m doing… I guess it was bound to happen 😅.
2022 was good to me as a runner. I really never though I’d be in a position to run a sub-90 half marathon, but I did it and I can see the impacts of proper training schedules. I haven’t gone as far as getting a personalised plan (yet…), but the past few years have helped me learn more about judging paces when running so I can pace myself better, and how to put together a session for myself that meets what I’m trying to achieve.
I’m not sure what 2023 will bring, I’m currently nursing a sore calf as I strained it a bit chasing some Strava crowns just before New Years (I managed to get them though, so that’s all that matters), so it’ll be a lighter start to the year. I’m also going to be seeing a surgeon about the varicose veins in my right leg, as I’m starting to notice the difference in swelling between them, so that may see me out of action for a bit.
The intent is to keep to the three days of running plus one day at the gym, and I hope to target the same three races again, to prove that 2022 wasn’t just a fluke year in running, but for that I’ll have to work out how to fit an extra day of running in.
So fingers and toes crossed, and we’ll see what this post looks like in 12 months time.