What a year! 2018 was pretty mediocre for my running with injuries and other health problems effectively meaning I couldn’t get in a solid period of training until the last three months. In 2019 I got my head down and put in the mileage, breaking my 5K, 5 mile, and 10K PB’s. Ultimately I feel I’ve leveled up, and here’s how it happened;

January

Much like 2018, January was a bit of a struggle. I’d been injured for most of Christmas with my gluteus medius injury and most of my training at the beginning of the month consisted of laps of Caedelyn. New Years was a pretty heavy night too. However, once I’d gone back to uni I got back into a bit of a flow with training and gave a decent showing in the Ashdown Forest XC.

A week later I did Hastings parkrun and finished 13th with a time of 19:49. By the end of the month my late 2018 confidence was coming back and things were looking up. However, disaster struck on the 24th. I’d been getting blisters on my left heel while running in York and at first I didn’t think much of it. But a morning 8 x 400m session on grass on a freezing cold day combined with getting lost going back to Jacks house meant yet again I picked up Achilles tendonitis, unlike last year this time on my left heel. At this point I thought I was the running equivalent of Jack Wilshere.

Non-Running Highlight: A trip up to York is always mandatory in January. This time we went to Sheffield as well. Soon after I was back in London again to see Bev and Alex as well as Morgan after the Arsenal v Cardiff City match at the Emirates.

Song of the month: Oliver – Comfortable

February

This was just a weird month. I had a physio session with Kim and joined the gym that Adam had been going to. Nevertheless, I found it hard to fill the time where I wasn’t running. I think I even spent a fair bit of time doing a puzzle! I had Hastings Half Marathon in my sights as well but as I month went on I realised how much of a bad idea running that would be.

By mid-February, I was getting some running in. Just around a patch of grass nearby Falaise Fitness Centre. I was still turning up to training too and “coaching”. Realistically I think I just wanted to be around my running mates but I did enjoy kind of taking some sessions. Maybe in the future running coaching is something I’ll go into?! Plus I volunteered at Hastings parkrun. By the end of the month I was running on the treadmill and even did one very slow track session.

Non-Running Highlight: This was the month the wheels started turning on my university dissertation on recreational running. Helping at parkrun was giving me some good insight and I was genuinely excited about getting all my research together on the topic.

Song of the month: Lil Wayne – Mrs Officer

March

And we’re back racing! My final ever XC race in a Hastings AC vest and fittingly enough it was on home turf in Pett. It was probably one of my worst XC races and it certainly wasn’t helped by the fact I wore road shoes over the muddy course because I was worried about the lack of heel protection on my spikes. It was actually quite sad in a way, with talking about the next season when I wasn’t going to be there! Nevertheless, I’m glad I did this race.

Anyway, the University year still had a couple of months left and I had finally recovered from my tendonitis by the end of the March, managing a 19:36 at Hastings parkrun on the 30th. Moreover, I was starting to take note of my mileage again like I did in preparation for Cardiff 10K in 2017. Let’s just say good things were brewing.

Non-Running Highlight: During this time I came home for work experience at Buzz Magazine, then we had Newsweek, (my role was deputy sports editor) did a week at the Hastings Observer. Football-wise I was continuing to cover Lewes Women games too, so there was a lot going on. Let’s just not talk about my 80 wpm shorthand exam!

Song of the month: Promoe – Long Distance Runner

April

This month was probably my favourite month of the year, the clocks go forward, Spring starts to rear its head and the end of the uni year is in sight. Something just seemed to click and running-wise I haven’t looked back since. I was back in Cardiff for Easter and there’s always a good buzz when you can see your mates at home again. On Friday I came back to Wales and decided to run Cardiff parkrun the next day. Despite spending the start of the week on holiday I managed a new PB of 19:14. Suddenly a sub-19 looked very possible.

I went to some San Domenico sessions and two weeks later – 18:56! The thing was I was still going out a bit and drinking now and then, but I think I was just so positive and motivated that nothing was going to stop me. By the end of the month, I was doing my first 40 mile weeks. On the 27th I got 6th place at a very windy Hastings parkrun with a relatively slow time of 20:33. Nonetheless, I was in great shape and targeting a big PB at Hastings 5 mile.

Non-Running Highlight: Going to Amsterdam was pretty good, as was the MVE Collective at Undertone. For a month which included two 5K PB’s, there were a lot of nights out – even watching Spurs somehow get past Man City in the Champions League in a Plough and it absolutely went off!

Song of the month: S-X – Turn Me Down

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May

Ah yes, the month I turned 21 even though I definitely don’t feel that old! On the Tuesday club grass session, I averaged 3:40 km pace for the 7K – an indicator that I was in the best shape I’d even been in. Then on Sunday it was Hastings 5 mile; despite going off too quickly in the first kilometre, I held a good pace and came in at 31:49. In 2018 my time was 35:22, meaning I improved by almost four minutes – it was such a hot day as well.

Before I ended my time at Hastings AC there was one more thing I had to do – PB at Hastings parkrun. Remember, I’d set my course PB of 19:28 in October. I really wanted to prove how much fitter I was. Needless to say, I went about achieving that finishing in 18:47. I even finished the last 400 in 86 seconds! Unfortunately, the month ended with my last training session with Hastings AC and University coming to an end. Not gonna lie, I did shed a tear or two knowing the day to day life I’d built up for myself in Hastings was over. University could be pretty rubbish at times, but I gained some great memories and friends from it. The third-year was especially enjoyable for me with all the opportunities on offer – nearly all of which I took.

Non-Running Highlight: Working at Nice Work, a race management company in Rye, was really interesting. I updated race results, stuck on timing chips, sorted out relay batons and helped out with the marketing of the company.

Song of the month: S-X – Rain Now

June

June started with a visit up to York and the York 5000 metres! I did not feel good that morning having come off a 45-mile week, which at that point was my longest ever. I got lapped by Jack and George but still managed to get under 19 minutes. With a proper build-up I think I could’ve done so much better that day, but coming 5th out of 9 in my first track race isn’t so bad.

Having just finished university I was pretty stressed at this point in the year, running-wise I think I needed a break too. Nevertheless, I thought it’d be a good idea to build on the fitness I’d built up since March and go for a sub-40 10K at Chepstow. DNF. Maybe this was my most important race of the year because it showed me the price you have to pay if you overdo it, the build-up to the 10K wasn’t excellent either. Now it was time to take a break and recharge for the start of my Cardiff 10K training.

Non-Running Highlight: Summer truly starting. BBQ’s, house party’s, pre-season football and everything in between. Also, Will rainbow flicking a ball over a fence was pretty funny!

Song of the month: The Wxrld – Maelstorm

July

Out of the running rut – that’s how I’d summarise the start of July. On the 6th did a tempo effort on the Llandaff Fields alternative Cardiff parkrun route and came in at 20:43. Sometimes it’s just nice to get out on a sunny morning and run in a competitive environment I guess.

This was the month I also started my new job. Unsurprisingly my general mood was high. However, on my first full day of work I felt ill, this wasn’t ideal as I had the Cosmeston relays in the evening! I didn’t really tell anyone about it, but you could say I was nervous when Ron said he expected our four-man (Dan, Andy, myself, Alistair) team to win the whole thing. Somehow I got through my third leg in an okay-ish time, and luckily Alistair was there to secure the win on the fourth leg. My first and only race win of the year, the Instagram post was mandatory!

Non-Running Highlight: There’s a couple here, Alannah’s 21st, Alex’s, James’s 21st, going to Shrewsbury to watch Villa’s pre-season friendly, filming the speed session I did with Jack on my YouTube channel.

Song of the month: 21 Pilots – Nico and the Niners

August

August has been where my Cardiff 10K time has been made in the past few years (apart from in 2018 when everything was going to pot!). It’s the month where I give up alcohol, plan my training meticulously and bump up the mileage. This month I did mileage weeks of 35.5, 42.5, 45, 43.5 before bringing it back down to 34 the week before the race. Also this month I went back to Hastings and ran a disappointing 19 minutes flat at parkrun, but the week after I broke my 5K PB at Cardiff parkrun with a time of 18:33. Perhaps this was the fittest I’ve been this year.

I wasn’t even too happy with my 18:33, even though conditions were pretty atrocious. Nevertheless, I really should be considering it’s nearly a minute quicker than my 5K PB in 2018 and shows how far I’ve come. On another note, I was really stressed for Cardiff 10K, the day really couldn’t come soon enough!

Non-Running Highlight: Going back to Hastings and Brighton to graduate was a really nice, plus we went to the New Forest in Southampton to visit some relatives afterward. It was great to see friends I hadn’t seen in a long time, although I was still sticking to my no alcohol in August rule!

Song of the month: Grady – Garden

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September

02/09/2019, my favourite day of 2019. No sub-38 but a PB by nearly three minutes at Cardiff 10K! Man did I have to work hard – it was a pretty sunny day and I remember feeling very tired going up Pontcanna Fields to the Swalec Stadium, but the fact I’d put so much emphasis on the race pulled me through. As always the photos of me on the finishing straight weren’t too aesthetic, but I’d rather have a good race with dodgy photos than the other way round!

Two days later I was part of a San Domenico team (Alistair, Andy and I) that finished 6th at the Rose Inn Relays. I was happy with how the race panned out, averaging 3:38 mins/km on the final leg. Excluding 1500m races in school, it was the shortest distance I’ve ever competed in. Next summer I hope to do some shorter races as I’m still in need of a mile and 3000m time. The rest of September consisted of me taking a break before slowly getting back into it – there was a Barry Island parkrun too where I came 8th with a time of 20 minutes flat. Nevertheless, it was all about building up to XC now.

Non-Running Highlight: Going with Morgan to Arsenal versus Villa at the Emirates was pretty cool, even though we lost! Annoyingly they had a man sent off, but we couldn’t test the ten-man Gunners enough. If you want more of my Villa rants, head to http://www.underagaslitlamp.com.

Song of the month: J-Hus – Like your style

October

XC season was finally upon us. In all honesty, my first Gwent League fixture at Llandaff Fields was a bit of a shock to the system. More importantly, the senior men did well overall, finishing 7th. To give you an idea of the standard, at Cardiff 10K I came 201st out of 6000 runners but at Llandaff I finished 236th out of 512. I simply didn’t pick my moments when to push well enough and knew I had to race differently at the next XC. Also at this time, my job started getting stressful, so maybe that was a factor as well.

Later that month I ran Pontypridd parkrun in the pouring rain and finished in 19:23, massive kudos to the volunteers for putting on that event that day. I felt I was in sub-18 fitness at the time after some good track sessions, but that first K at Ponty felt very tough and signaled I was still quite a way off. Generally, I was stressed with work this month and I think my running suffered because of it.

Non-Running Highlight: Halloween was quality with Bev and Alex, it was one of those nights where I drank a decent amount but didn’t go overboard and was pretty much fine the next day on my long run.

Song of the month: Orson – No Tomorrow

November

If you can’t tell already, I wasn’t too happy with how I raced my last XC. But at Pembrey Park I felt so much better. Picking people off was my main tactic, and thanks to my rather conservative start I finished the 9.9km course in 173rd place with a time of 37:43. I can name two XC races I’ve been happy with before this one, and I was hoping the December Gwent League at Blaise Castle would be more of the same. Moreover, this firmly cemented San Domenico’s 7th place in the Gwent League first division.

Within the space of 12 days, I raced three times this month. On Thursday I went up to York for Cameron’s birthday and ended up doing the York 5K even splits series. I didn’t feel too good going into it after a long journey the same evening, conditions were pretty terrible so to come away with a sub-19 was decent. However, after Cardiff 10K, one of my goals for the rest of 2019 was to break 18 minutes for 5K. I think the best I could’ve done this year in ideal conditions would be 18:10-18:20, but that’s a target for 2020 now. On the 23rd I did a wet and windy parkrun at Cardiff but again just scraped a sub-19.

Non-Running Highlight: I’ve got two for this month. One was a family trip to Whitemead Forest Park, the food was good (especially the rocky road), and the walk was a good way to get rid of some stresses about getting a job. The other highlight was having a few ciders at the San Dom Christmas party at Salt in the Bay.

Song of the month: Ed Sheeran – Cross Me (feat. Chance The Rapper & PnB Rock)

December

December started with one of the toughest races I’ve done mentally – Gwent League at Blaise Castle. The lead up to the XC was just a case of one last training push for 2019. When I race did come around on the seventh I wasn’t in the greatest mindset ever, an example of the opposite happening would be at Pembrey Park. Nevertheless, I got a similar placing compared to Pembrey coming 178th. In all my XC races this season so far I’ve been in good shape, so it’ll be cool to carry that on into 2020 and see where I end up overall in both the senior male and U23 rankings.

After that, I took a break for a bit – in fact I didn’t race for the whole of December. The training was sporadic and on the 23rd disaster struck, on an easy run with Jack my right Achilles started to get sore. Nevertheless, the running year was ended on a high, with an easy five-mile around Caedelyn with Jack confirming that my injury wasn’t as bad as I once feared. It was one of those runs where I just felt optimistic, excited about the party that evening but also about running in the new year.

Non-Running Highlight: Getting a job at Moti Running and Triathlon store, basically monetizing my hobby!

Song of the month: Brockhampton – Sugar

Top five races of the year:

  1. Cardiff 10K (02/09/2019)
  2. Hastings 5 Mile (12/05/2019)
  3. Gwent League XC – Pembrey Park (09/11/2019)
  4. Cosmeston Relays (10/07/2019)
  5. Cardiff parkrun (10/08/2019)