07 Apr A shaky 2014 so far… | Ben Fish

Apologies, it’s been ages since my last post. It’s been a busy few months; new job, relocating, along with the typical runners trials and tribulations of either getting ill or injured. 2013 came to a dissapointing end after running so well for such a long period of time, but I ultimately lost out when it came to the crunch. After getting ill and missing Berlin, I had targeted a strong finish to the year at Brighton 10k and Ribble Valley 10k races. I then sprained my ankle, thus missing Brighton and just about able to put up a respectable run at Ribble Valley with 30:23. Last year limped out with just over 4,300 miles covered and I probably averaged little over 50 miles per week from October to December, I guess I’d just had enough.

I then started my new job at Sweatshop and instantly benefitted from working in an environment that supported my running. I  posted a 65:59 time in the Helsby Half, enjoying a great battle with Abu-Rezeq and Josh Lilly, both of whom had the edge on me in the last couple of miles. I then relocated back to Darwen and it took a bit of adjusting to get my pattern of training to work effectively. I also could sense that my running just didn’t have the usual spark; sessions were laboured and off pace, and training runs seemed to be more of a slog. Apart from some sessions with Ben Riddell and my club, Blackburn Harriers, most training was a bit of a dirge.

Training started to click by the end of February and although I ran a fairly modest time of 67:12 at Reading, I still took some encouragement from it considering a rather lacklusture period leading up to the race.  I battled hard, especially at half-way when Dean Lacey lead a group of runners past me as I was starting to slow. Fortunately I was able to respond and for the next 6 miles everyone was going at it trying to drop each other. Tom Payn broke the group up in the last mile with a blistering finish with Dean Lacey, myself and Richard Kay chasing in vain. After passing Lacey, it was down to a sprint finish between myself and Richard Kay for the humble position of 15th! I got my nose in front right on the line!

Next came the Northern 12 stage relays at Heaton Park and I had another solid (if unspectacular) run of 28:12 for 5.5 miles, taking Blackburn Harriers from 10th to 6th and it was a great result for the team to finish in 9th overall at the end. It’s probably our best relay result for the best part of a decade and there’s plenty more to come with quite a few rookies stepping up to senior level! Off the back of a 100 miles and 96 mile weeks I went to the Hastings Half Marathon and though the mileage was pretty standard, I felt like I was nailing sessions as good as I had been for the most part of last year. I planned to go out steady and try to blast off the top of the hill, believing that this may be my best strategy of winning if I’m front running. As soon as the race set off it was quite clear that my plan was gone, as was the leader, Boniface Kongin of Run Fast, who started carving open a massive gap after I had been sprinting after him in the first mile, which was covered in under 4:45. Fortunately the other Run Fast guy Richard Murithi struggled with that pace and for the next few miles we were battling it out for 2nd place. After tough climbing up to the 5th mile (26:51) I started to open a small gap and by a turnaround point near the 9th mile, I could see I had a lead of 200 yards, though heaven knows where the leader was!!! I carried on strongly to the finish in 67:36, my best performance since January, though I was a whopping 3 minutes behind the winner. It was quite humbling meeting some of the greats of the 80’s and 90’s after the race; Paul Davies-Hale, Eamonn Martin, Mark Flint and the first winner of the race in 1985, Derek Stevens.

It was then a case of ploughing on towards Manchester Marathon on the 6th April and I felt confident of getting around or under 2hr 20, but then disaster struck at the end of my penultimate week; I sprained my left ankle again during the third rep of a 500m session in the park. I knew it was a good one as I nearly went flying into the tarmac and perhaps that might have been the better outcome, for in managing to stay on my feet I think it only made matters worse. I could barely walk and it took me about three quarters of an hour to get to the nearest bus stop, by the following day it was still no better after icing and elevating it thoroughly. By Wednesday I thought I could attempt to run, but couldn’t land heavily on it and blundered my way through 4 miles in a shade under 35 minutes, probably my slowest ever 4 mile run! It’s a similar situation to Berlin and ultimately the same outcome; I have no choice but to accept that I cannot race by Sunday. It’s disappointing, but it’s nothing compared to last year and as ever, I will bounce back and I expect to with almost immediate effect. I plan to attack any race I feel like doing this year, which is likely to include three marathons, plenty of half marathons and any track races that I can throw myself into! I just want to enjoy my running and racing again, so I have no plans for this year other than to train hard and race hard.

I’m looking forward to watching the Manchester Marathon and supporting the guys, many of whom I know quite well, they have worked really hard and overcome many setbacks themselves. I personally would say that the Manchester Marathon is the best marathon on these shores for any British elite runner to tackle; British only prize money and time bonuses, elite drinks, plus a decent range of pace makers, where-else would a British marathoner get that?