In last year’s “reflection” blog post, I started off by saying, “Well, what a year! It certainly didn’t end the way that I would ever have imagined, but I am very happy in my life right now.” I can honestly say that my reflection on the year of 2020 can be summarised in much the same way! Although this is my first blog post in over 6 months, I did manage to write and publish 20 blog posts this year, compared with just one in 2019 so I am happy with that.
I shall start off by summarising the main events of this past year before moving on to analysing the goals which I had set myself at the start of the year and then finishing off by reviewing my performance highlights.
So, in January I moved from Tunbridge Wells in Kent to Forest Row in East Sussex, which is approximately 13 miles away. I also reduced my employed working days to just one per week as I looked to focus my time and efforts on my self-employed business. During the first few months of the year I did my best to continue to deliver and indeed add to my existing running group sessions in Southborough although a few storms lead to some of the sessions having to be cancelled and then in March a full UK lockdown meant that outdoor running group sessions would not return until June and in smaller and socially distanced settings.
The move away to a new area also meant that I would have to build up a client base and establish my business in a new area. I was fortunate enough to find an indoor space at a local estate agents office which was vacant (pictured below) and offering the space on an ad-hoc hourly rental charge which I could make use of as I began to deliver 1:1 sessions for my clients. I moved all of my equipment into the office space in February and was allowed to keep it there full-time. I delivered my first couple of sessions in March before the lockdown was introduced but was unable to make use of the space thereafter.
At the end of March, I, like many other businesses, had to completely adapt my business model to cater to this new socially-distanced, online World! I provided group online exercise classes using Zoom as well as 1:1 sessions for my clients using the same medium. As for my running groups, I came up with some virtual running challenges and created a WhatsApp group chat so that we could all remain connected. In May, I introduced virtual running group sessions whereby members would sign up each week to receive a new interval session which they could complete in their own time and at their own pace.
When the restrictions were eased in June and during the Summer months, I was able to provide socially-distanced evening outdoor running group sessions in both Southborough and Forest Row. However, I decided that once the light was starting to disappear in the evenings that I would stop the outdoor group sessions as I was unable to locate a suitable Covid-secure outdoor environment where I could keep my runners safe and socially distanced. Virtual running groups therefore returned at the start of October and will continue through until the end of March 2021 when I plan (if restrictions allow) to restart the evening outdoor running group sessions in the Southborough area.
Goals for 2020 – achieved or failed?
Build up my personal training & running coaching business – now that this is my full time job and the main source of income fo me, I will be putting in a lot of time and effort to establish myself as a PT and running coach. Having qualified as both a PT and a England Athletics Coach in Running Fitness in 2017, I now have 3 years of experience behind me and I continue to develop my knowledge and understanding through regular reading and attendance at courses and workshops. Achieved. I was able to dedicate a lot of time and effort to my business in the first few months of the year and in March (just before the lockdown), I picked up a new regular PT client who had contacted me through my advertisement in the Forest Row Local magazine. The restrictions which have been in place for much of the year for indoor gyms and close contact personal training have limited me in that I have been forced to provide my services remotely. However, I have adapted to this change and had it not been for the introduction of such restrictions, I would not ever have considered such an avenue for providing PT sessions and group exercise classes. The same is true of my running coaching, whereby I introduced virtual running groups in May 2020 which have proven to be very popular.
Strength and conditioning – I have seen the positive impact of keeping your body strong and conditioned through regular strength, stretching and conditioning workouts. This body maintenance is crucial in preventing injuries and provides the runner with consistency in their training which in turn breeds confidence and success in achieving goals. I shall continue to fine-tune my own training and can use this when providing sessions to my clients. I started off well by keeping to a structured routine during my marathon build-up, however, once the Covid19 Pandemic hit and my marathon was cancelled, this had a significant psychological impact on me.
Running goals – at this point, I do not have any time-based goals and think it would be unrealistic to set my sights on any PB’s this year. My aim for the marathon is to again, run a well-paced race and enjoy running the distance in another new location. It will be interesting to see how my training will affect my race, but I think a PB is off the cards. I’m looking forward to representing a new club in Lingfield running club, but at the same time, sad to be leaving Tonbridge AC who I joined in 2012 when I first started running. I’m pleased that I was sensible in not setting any time-based goals given what has happened in the World this past year! As for representing my new club, I have yet to do this in a competitive outdoor setting, although there was one cross country test event which went ahead as planned toward the end of October at Lloyd Park (Croydon) where we raced in waves of 10 runners.
Coaching – I plan to further my existing running coaching by specialising in endurance as a discipline. I will be signing up to the England Athletics “Event Group Endurance” running coaching course this year and hope to qualify by the end of the year or early 2021. I have also identified a couple of other CPD (Continued Professional Development) courses which I am required to complete in order to maintain my membership of the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs). I signed up for the Event Group Endurance online course, however, time constraints due to working more hours for my employed job has meant that I will need to complete the course in 2021.
Nutrition – I have become a bit more relaxed in my nutrition, however, my main intake of meat is still fish (tuna and salmon mostly). I continue to avoid processed foods and cook the vast majority of my meals from scratch with natural ingredients. This is something that I enjoy and like to share with others. Near the end of June I moved towards a plant-based diet and was quite strict with this for a couple of months. I have now cut out most dairy and meat, choosing plant-based alternatives, but I do stray on occasion…
My 2020 running journey
As you can see from the graph below (left), my own running has been rather up and down this past year (like many, I’m sure). When the lockdown was introduced in March and April, I rarely ran, choosing instead to use my “once per day” allowable form of outdoor exercise to be a lunchtime walk with my partner. Once restrictions were eased and virtual running challenges were introduced, my mileage creeped up with me running close to 200 miles in June alone (see extract from one week in June, below right), in part thanks to the Virtual Comrades marathon challenge. The months of July and August saw a dip in mileage as a combination of life events meant I had less available time, however, since September I have been able to string together a very consistent block of training and I am now almost 3 months into my 12 month training plan for the Budapest Marathon, which is due to take place in October 2021. Interestinly, the 2020 version of the race went ahead in October with entrants limited to Hungarian nationals or those who had self-quarantined upon arrival for the required length of time, so I am very confident that the 2021 race will go ahead as planned!
This year’s performance highlights
22nd February: National Cross Country Championships, Nottingham (12km) – 00:59:28
I finished in the top half of the senior men’s race, in position 805 of 1,706 finishers and this was my 5th consecutive appearance at this national event. This annual race is always a great event and made even greater thanks to my previous Tonbridge AC coach, Mark Hookway. Mark is instrumental in organising an enjoyable trip (when the race is not held in the South of England) which involves travelling up the day before the race, an evening awards dinner at the hotel and return travel the day following.
8th March: Lydd 20 mile – 02:27.34
This was my one and only outdoor mass participation road race of the year and my final time representing Tonbridge AC as I was to transfer to
Lingfield RC on 1st April 2020. Given that I was just 4 weeks into my Cork City marathon training at this point and had only started to
introduce a long run into my training towards the end of January, I cannot be displeased with my finishing time, which was only 4 minutes
slower than my first attempt at this distance in the lead up to my debut marathon in London 2018. My only long runs of the year leading up to
the race were – 11 miles (23rd Jan), 11.5 miles (6th Feb), 15 miles (13th Feb) and 15 miles (25th Feb). Following this race my next long run
in excess of 10 miles wouldn’t be for almost 4 months (10 miles on 16th June).
23rd May: BMC 1km virtual race – 00:03:33
This was a fast and frantic dash along the Forest Way – a rather unpleasant feeling towards the end of the run!
19th June: (not) parkrun PB – 00:19:00
Whilst this was still almost 1 minute off from my PB at this distance (18:06 at Hastings parkrun), I was pleased to get close to breaking the 19 minute barrier and in fact, this is my fastest 5k since my PB which I set in 2018.
30th June: Retro 90’s half marathon – 01:26.10
I completed this virtual run along the Forest Way from Forest Row to Groombridge (out and back) in order to raise funds and awareness for the
Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. The run was in memory of my partner’s father who tragically passed away just a few weeks later following a relatively short battle with Lung Cancer. Thank you to everyone who donated in order to help me exceed my fundraising target as I raised a total of £392.10.
28th November: Run New York Virtual Marathon – 02:54.27 (combined time from 8 runs)
Whilst I didn’t complete a full marathon this year, I did complete a virtual marathon by running 3.275 miles every day for 8 consecutive days. I completed this challenge in order to raise funds for Blue Cross pet charity in memory of my rabbit Austin, who sadly passed at the age of 10 in November. Thank you to everyone who kindly donated and help me to raise a total of £90 for such a worthwhile charity!
And there we have it, a year in the life of me! I hope that the year has been as kind as it can for you, given the difficult and strange circumstances that we have all found ourselvese in for much of the year.
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Check back soon for my next blog post which will be a preview of 2021.