...but how many days of running?

My first December run was during a trip to Kyiv. Feba supports radio ministry in Ukraine, which includes some programmes serving the conflict-afflicted region in the east of the country as well as more youth-oriented content in the capital. It was interesting to visit less than a week before the important international meeting between Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France. There is clearly a very real underlying fragility and sensitivity, but the place is beautiful and the people very welcoming. I was accompanied on my morning run by Marie - the wife of Sergey, the FEBC Board Chairman in Ukraine. She kindly led us on a really enjoyable 10km circuit including many of the city's sights, made all the more attractive by a covering of fresh snow. I was very thankful for some warm fleecy running leggings and trail shoes: I kept warm and felt steady on my feet.

Sergey himself claimed not to be a runner, but he stayed with us for the full 10km and even managed to capture some video too! Please do have a look:

Part of the recommended preparation the London Marathon is to take part in some other organised events. There is no substitute for experiencing the race-day busyness and important decisions around kit choices, breakfast, travel, parking, registration, bag drop, toilet stop and whatever else might distract you from the task in hand! It might sound daft, but there is a great deal of wisdom around being comfortable and confident with race-day routines well in advance. I've taken part in a handful of races and am trying to do something approximately monthly, and the Milton Keynes Winter Half Marathon fitted that schedule.

The MK Half was the first time I had ever run a race with anyone I knew - and it was my younger brother, Steve. We met in the car park at World Vision (- where I used to work) before making our way to the start area by Willen Lake. The entire course was on paths around Milton Keynes, and most was very scenic with canal-side and woodland stretches. Steve is certainly fitter and faster than me, but he kindly held back and we completed the full distance together, which was special. Our time was just a fraction over two hours, so not quite my fastest but it was my best official half marathon event time to date (- just few minutes slower than an earlier solo training run).

The following weekend, I managed to get out for a half marathon distance training run on my own. It is a very different experience, with various pros and cons: there are no crowds, no-one trying to talk to you, and no temptation to run at anyone else's pace; but there are no supporters to cheer you on, no sense of occasion, and no refreshment stations either. I ran a fairly constant 5:40/km pace and completed the distance in 1:58:32 which was just three seconds over my PB! It was somewhat frustrating to be so close to setting a new best time (- I certainly had some energy left and could have bettered it had I known), but at least I seem to be getting reasonably consistent. [A new 10km PB of 52:54 was some consolation the weekend before Christmas.]

On any long run of much more than an hour, it is recommended that you replenish energy reserves on an ongoing basis rather than letting them get too depleted. What's required is a readily portable and easily digestible source of carbohydrates. There are various specialist products available in drink or gel format, and some people carry peanut butter sandwiches, but many others - myself included - simply use jelly babies! In order to get the necessary level of carbs, I tend to consume three sweets every 20 minutes; that might sound a lot, but I can assure you it doesn't feel a 'treat' or in any way excessive! I accumulated quite a haul from different people over Christmas, but am confident they’ll all get used before too long.

I guess it is inevitable that the normal routine goes out of the window over the Christmas and New Year break - I had expected it anyway. The combined effect of the last few weeks of term (- with various special events at children's schools and work) and then the holiday itself (- with house guests and family visits) makes a regular schedule very difficult, so some runs had to be completed early morning and late evening - irrespective of weather - to maintain anything like a pattern of three runs and total distance of 30km per week. I knew that winter training could mean sometimes being cold, wet and tired; it has started, but I press on!

Over the past twelve months, I have been out for a total of 108 runs and covered a distance of over 950km (590 miles). At least mentally, the start of 2020 marks the beginning of my more formal, structured and 'serious' marathon training - with increased frequency and some longer distances as we approach April. I'm pleased with my progress to date and it feels as though I'll be starting the new year with a decent solid base of running experience from the past few months, but I still have a very long way to go in order to be ready for 26 miles on 26th April.

The main reason for doing all this is to raise awareness and funds for the ministry of Feba. It is therefore encouraging to be approaching the £800 mark at the end of the year. My target of £4,050.60 was always going to be ambitious and still seems a very long way off, but to be 20% of the way there with four months to go is a great start. I can honestly say that knowing people have already donated so very generously is a great motivation when setting out on an unwelcome early morning / late evening / cold / wet run at this time of year! If you would be able and willing to sponsor me please - and haven't yet done so - then I would be tremendously grateful. Thank you all very much indeed for your support.

I'll keep running...

**STOP PRESS - 30 Dec 2019** Completed my last training run of the year this morning and clocked a total distance of 27.9km (17.3 miles) in 2hr 40mins - essentially 2/3 of a marathon, a new longest run (both distance and time) for me. Getting there!

If you would like to sponsor me, please see my fundraising page.

To read more about my marathon efforts, please click here.

Thank you!

Credits: Jelly Babies and Milton Keynes Winter Half Marathon © Bob Chambers; Kyiv © Sergey Burlaka.