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This photo of the start of the 2004 Kirkby Malzeard 10K was taken by Eric Nutter

Beginners

Details (e.g., entry forms and results) of running races (e.g., 10K, 10M and half marathon), both road races and multi-terrain, near North East England: Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, County Durham, Yorkshire, Cumbria, ... Generated: Fri 22 Jun at 08:40:03 BST

Background

I started running in March 2001 (when I lived in Durham). Nine of us from work decided to enter a half marathon (the Great North Run that took place in September 2001). Most of us including me were complete beginners. Like others, I struggled to run 2 miles. The thought of running 13.1 miles was overwhelming. But then I got hooked on running. And gradually we increased our mileage. Until I got a knee injury in November 2004, I raced a lot (mainly in North East England). I did 149 races in 3 and a half years. There's more about my time in running at:
http://www.northeastraces.com/move2oxford

But that's enough about me. This web page is where I want to pass on information for those new to running and some tips for successful running. I hope you find something useful.

My three most important tips

If you are relatively new to running, then the three most important tips I can give you are:

  1. Get a decent pair of running shoes. Trainers will not do. And don't go to the shops selling trainers (unless you already know what shoe you want). The staff there rarely know about running. Instead, you need to go to a running shop. In Newcastle, I used to go to Start Fitness in Eldon Square (http://www.startfitness.co.uk/) or Northern Runner (http://www.northernrunner.com/contact.cfm). The "Up and Running" is a national chain and the shops have a good reputation. They have several shops in/near North East England: there may be an "Up and Running" shop near you.

    In these shops, you may be served by a runner, and so they will know what they are talking about.

    These shops have specialist machines that find out how you run so that they can get the right kind of shoe for you. My preference is for the machine where you run on a treadmill (I'd never done that before) and they video your running and later play it back in slow motion. Everybody's running pattern is different and there are different kinds of shoes for the common patterns. It is essential that you have this analysis done before you buy your shoes. Otherwise you are asking for injuries. This service is free.

    I usually pay 60 to 80 pounds for a pair of running shoes.

  2. If you start to take running seriously, join a local running club. Most of these have people of different abilities. Besides meeting a lot of new people (!), the club will probably provide lots of advice and answer your questions, and most important they can help you improve on your running as they should provide a good training programme for you. Look to see whether their programme includes (a) speed training; (b) hill training; (c) long relaxed-pace endurance runs; as these are the three kinds of runs you should do in your training. Often a running club will let you join them for a little while for free in order for you to decide whether the club is for you.

    There are a lot of running clubs in and around the North East. I'm providing a list at www.northeastraces.com/clubs. Each of the clubs mentioned on that page has a web site. So have a look at the web sites of clubs that are near to you and see whether any look suitable.

  3. If you get involved with racing, then discipline yourself on the day of the race!
    • Warm up before each race and stretch after the race. When I was running in the North East, I always warmed up (usually to recce how the race finishes). However, foolishly I often didn't stretch at the end. Again failure to do this can later result in injuries.
    • Drink plenty of fluids especially before the race and carbo-load before and after the race. I ate pasta the night before and consumed bananas and isotonic drinks on the morning of the race. And you also need to have no alcohol the night before!

parkruns

Throughout the country, parkruns take place every Saturday morning at 0900. These are free 5K timed runs, but you need a barcode to take part. So if you've not done a parkrun before, you need to register at www.parkrun.org.uk's registration page, print off a barcode and bring the barcode to the parkrun. A list of parkruns that take place in/near North East England are given on my web page about other races.

There is more about parkruns on the parkruns web site. That web site provides a web page giving a full list of venues.

The events are run by a group of local volunteers. Runners sign up on the website once in their life: then just turn up and run at any event in their country. A non-commercial, free, feel-good, community event. Results are e-mailed the same day and posted on the website.

If you are new to running, parkruns provide a way in which you can run regularly and an easy way for you to improve your performance. You can meet other people some of whom will have similar abilities to you. Often, runners and the volunteers running the event will meet for coffee afterwards, and this gives you the possibility of discussing your running.

Finding a race to enter

When I first started running, I was amazed to find how many races took part all over the country every weekend, and that you didn't have to be a member of a running club to enter.

Whether you get involved with racing is up to you. However, it is not just fast, super-fit people who enter races. If you look on the web at the results of previous races, you will find that the times of the first and the last person home are very different. For example, in a 10K race the time of the first person is usually about 30 minutes whereas the last person might take anything between 65 minutes and 100 minutes. When I did my first 10K I finished in 46m44s, and during my three and a half years of running the fastest 10K I did was 42m52s.

There are many web sites providing lists of races. If you live in/near North East England, I recommend you look at my list of "future races" which is at:
http://www.northeastraces.com
For other parts of the country, you can find lists of races at:
http://www.ukresults.net/2012cal.html
http://www.race-results.co.uk/results/2012/

There are also excellent lists of races at:
http://www.fetcheveryone.com/
http://www.runnersworld.co.uk/
Note: both of these sites require you to register in order to see the full list of races.

Races vary in length, but they are often 10K (which is 6.21M), a half marathon (13.1M) or a marathon (26.2M). There are also some races that are 5K (3.1M) or 5M long. If you are a beginner, then start with a 10K or something smaller. Obviously, don't enter a race until your training gives you the confidence to do the distance of the race. The first time you enter a race at some new distance, the aim is to get round, i.e., to complete the race: getting a good time comes later when you become more confident with the distance.

After doing a few 10Ks, I started doing longer races. If you're able to do a half marathon, you'll find that 10Ks are a lot easier to do. I decided not even to attempt a marathon. This was for two reasons: (a) I didn't think I would enjoy a race of over 3 and a half hours; (b) I didn't want to get involved with the extra amount of training, i.e., the extra distances you have to do whilst training for a marathon.

Entering a race by post

I'm assuming that, like me in my first years of running, you haven't joined a running club. Such people are known as "unattached runners". Most races have a lot of unattached runners and so you will not be alone! I guess that in some races a half of the runners are unattached. The number of people taking part in a race varies a lot. For me, it has varied between 22 and 43000! Normally, it is a few hundred.

The lists on the above web pages have, for each race, a link to its entry form. This is a link to a page either on the race organisers' web site or some other web site such as www.ukresults.net. The entry form is often a PDF file and so you will have to have something like Adobe Reader on your computer to read it. Or it may be a Microsoft Word document.

Most entries on my "future races" page also have a link labelled "raceInfo". Often this goes to the entry form as well! However, if this goes to a different page, then it may contain useful information about the race.

You need to print the entry form, complete it and send it with a cheque to the address on the form.

The entry form will indicate the amount for entering the race. If you are an unattached runner (i.e., you do not belong to a running club), the amount will usually be two pounds more. It will say this on the entry form.

Usually you should also enclose a SAE for the organiser to send you back details including your race number. Due to recent changes by Royal Mail, if the entry form asks for a large SAE, then you need to provide a stamp of a higher amount. These changes are causing some chaos for race organisers! There's more about these changes at:
http://www.royalmail.com/portal/rm/content1?catId=400147&mediaId=41500683

The entry form will usually indicate the closing date for postal applications. This is usually a week to a month before the date of the race.

After you have sent off your entry form, a race number will come back to you sometimes with other details about the race. Occasionally, you have to collect the race number on the day from the registration desk that is near to the start of the race.

Entering a race online

Sometimes you can enter a race using an online entry form and you pay by entering details of your debit/credit card. Where this is possible, my "future races" page has a link labelled "onlineEntry".

Entering a race on the day

When I was racing, I always tried to ensure I entered in advance. However, if you fail to enter before the closing date, then, for some races, it is possible to go to the registration desk near to the start of the race and enter on the day (EOD). They will give you a race number. Whether you can do this is usually indicated on the entry form. It may say that you need to turn up by a particular time to enter on the day. Usually there is an additional charge to enter on the day. My "future races" page indicates whether EODs are allowed.

Most races have a limit on the number of entries, and even if you apply by post your entry will be returned if the limit has been reached. Even if the race allows EODs, you will not be able to enter if the limit has been reached.

If you are planning to enter on the day and the race is a long distance away, you ought to check the race's web site to see if the race is full or maybe find out by phoning the race organiser. Often their phone number is on the entry form.

What to do at the race

All you then have to do is work out where the start is (!). On my "future races" page there are links labelled "smap" and "google" which go off to maps showing the area of the race, and there is a "postcode" which will be that of the start, a car park or the Race HQ. Make sure you arrive early enough. I used to turn up about 45 minutes before the start of the race in order to warm up. Usually, you don't have to tell anyone you are there: you just join the rabble on the start line at the appropriate time.

Your race number should be attached with four safety pins to the front of your shirt/vest. I usually did this before I left home. If you forget the safety pins, they may have some at the registration desk, but don't rely on this. It's useful to keep a box of safety pins in your car!

Three types of races

Races can be divided into three types: (a) road races; (b) multi-terrain races; (c) fell races. I never did any fell races as they didn't appeal to me.

Some of the road races are flat and they are occasions where you can improve on your "personal best" (PB) for the distance, e.g., your PB for 10K races. It's interesting to listen to runners after a race moaning that they missed beating their PB. Often we are talking about a few seconds, such as 10 seconds for a 10K. It can be soul-destroying to know that you've been running for 1h40m to miss your half marathon PB by 30 seconds. BTW, in order to run to your PB I found you need to concentrate on running for the whole time. I found that any thought of what I was going to cook for tea or what to do at that meeting next week caused me to slacken my pace. As you can tell, you can easily get obsessed with PBs!

Undulating road races or road races with hills are an interesting change. All you can do here is to compare your time with what you did last time you ran the course. However, I also compared my time with the winner's time and if I got less than 1.4 times the winner's time I was pleased. If you've not done the race before, you could look on the web at the winner's time in the results for previous years and use a factor like 1.4 to get an idea of what time to aim for. Yes, you can get obsessed with times even on non-flat courses.

Multi-terrain races involve some running where the terrain is not tarmac. It is often wide tracks, but sometimes it can be narrow footpaths through fields. There may even be obstacles like kissing gates, stiles and cattle grids. Often the latter are covered with rubber mats. Obviously with a lot of runners taking part, the organisers have to ensure that any narrow bits don't occur at the start! Sometimes it can be muddy or even very muddy, and/or you may have to run through a stream. Multi-terrain races are often undulating/hilly. Some people use a different pair of shoes for off-road races but that's not too essential.

How to get a good time in a race

If you want to get a good time in a race, I would recommend two things:

  1. Recce the route beforehand. On my "future races" page, sometimes there are links labelled "gpmap" and "map" which provide maps of the route of the race. If there isn't a map on the web, you may get one in the post with your race number. Failing that, there should be one at the registration desk near to the start of the race. Most races have either K markers or M markers on posts along the side of the road. (Surprisingly, 10K races often have M markers.) Look at the map, work out where the markers will be and look at the contours to determine where the hills are.

    I used to commit all this to memory and so whilst driving to the race I would go through it all in my head: "the first marker is at that corner, the second one is just after the railway bridge, then there's an undulating bit". Just like revising for an exam!

    If it's a race that's new to you, you may want to drive round the route beforehand. I used to allow an extra 30 minutes for this. You have to watch out for (a) off-road bits which you can't drive; (b) getting there too early that the race organisers have not put the markers in position yet; (c) getting there at a time when the race organisers have already closed down the road to traffic (they don't often do this); (d) getting entangled with a race for kiddies that takes place before the start of the main race. All these have happened to me!

    The other thing to do is to recce the end of the race. When you're doing the race, this is where you want to go full out and you want to know how much race there is to go: you don't want to go too soon. So, when warming up before the start of the race, I would run to the 9K marker of the race and then run the last 1K to the finish in order to work out how the race ended.

  2. Get a watch where you can record "splits", the amount of time you take to do each K or M. (Mine cost about 32 pounds.) Each time you pass a K/M marker, you click your watch to record how long you took to do that K/M.

    Before the race, you need a "game plan" of how you are going to tackle the race. Suppose it is a flat 10K race. You should know what you are capable of at this distance. So you divide the time you want for the race into the times for each K or M. Some people write down a list like 1:4m10s, 2:8m20s; 3:12m30s; ... and carry it with them. As you pass each marker you adjust your running speed to fit the game plan.

    Sometimes the markers have been wrongly placed, and you have to allow for this possibility. You mentally record that that was a surprisingly short/long time for that K/M and wait until the next marker to see whether it corrects itself.

    Sometimes people do negative splits. This means doing the first half of the race slightly slower than the second half. So you have reserves that enable you to have a strong finish. I tried it once but got a poor time and so I didn't try again.

    At the end of the race you finish up with a set of times like 4m08s, 4m14s, 4m15s, 4m20s, 4m26s, 4m40s, 4m40s, 3m56s, 4m12s, 4m02s. These are the figures from my 10K PB (which took place at the Leeds Abbey Dash in 2002). In this race, I ran fast at the beginning which is not good but it's a crowded start and there's pressure internally to get away from anyone to create your own space to run in. After the first K, I slowed down to probably the right pace. Although this was several years ago, I guess the game plan was to aim at 4m15s per K. It looks as if I was getting tired at the 4m40s. Obviously, as you get nearer to the end, you get more determined and hopefully you've got the energy to go faster. My notes for the race say that the 3m56s looks odd. It may be right (in which case I did a very fast K), or more likely the 7K marker was too late. Just to confuse the picture my notes also say that I missed the 6K marker and so the two 4m40s are obtained by dividing 9m20s (obtained at the 7K marker) in two. So if the 7K marker were late, then instead of 4m26s, 4m40s, 4m40s, 3m56s, 4m12s, 4m02s, my times might really have been 4m26s, 4m35s, 4m25s, 4m16s, 4m12s, 4m02s, or anything similar. Anyway, the final two Ks are fast and that would have been part of the game plan. I completed the 10K in 42m52s which means a pace of 6m53s per M (or 4m17s per K). It beat my previous 10K PB achieved 8 months previously by 37 seconds and so I was well pleased!

    At most races, the race organisers will record each person's time and these are usually published on the web. I would also use my watch to establish my time. If my time was significantly different from the official time, I would note this on the web page where I listed my results. The timing marshals have a difficult job and sometimes they get it wrong. If you use your watch to record your time accurately, you should be happy knowing that that is your time.

    Sometimes there's a reason for this discrepancy such as it being a crowded race and so you take a long time to get to the start line.

    I always regarded the official time as a confirmation and if it were just a few seconds adrift I would use their time on my web page. The few times when I went with their time when it was significantly faster were wrong. You're only cheating yourself if you say you got a faster time.

    So if you and your watch accurately recorded your time, then that's your time.

Feedback

I hope you found some of that useful. Please let me know.