Running by the numbers and setting goals

Running by the numbers and setting goals – was the title of the talk I did at our local running event RunFest held in Wellington, New Zealand over the last weekend (27th and 28th February).

For those who could not make it to RunFest or was attending James Kuegler’s trail running workshop during the day here is your chance to read all about what I was talking.

You can directly download the slides [ Running by the Numbers and Setting Goals 5 years of Data 5 MB ] and use that as a reference, the post will go into a bit more detail.

Watch this short video to get started.

The Runner from Mike Heydon on Vimeo.

Michael Browne is a (now) 83-year-old who likes to run. He likes to run a lot. 1951 Wellington mile-champion, 9 time marathon finisher, multiple 10km races and plenty of track racing, Michael should be an inspiration to us all.

Filmed with Sony FS100 and Nikon D800.

Filmed and edited by Mike Heydon /

Running Goals

As a runner you could start from anywhere, I started running when I was in high school back in Sri Lanka, this was way back in 1987. I wasn’t much good at cricket so I signed up for our athletics team who at that time consisted of a bunch of mis-fits who were somewhat the out casts of the school because we didn’t play cricket.
However we were lucky in that we got one of the best coaches in Athletics at that time who was assigned to my school for one year. I tried different events and found my comfort zone in running 400meters and 800meters. I never excelled at them but I was good enough to be part of the relay teams selected out of the few regional schools to run at school events and at regional level. Our coach had a very disciplined approach to training, I remember we used to meet at the school play ground at 6:30am every morning before school started.

The routine consisted of drills for about 20-30 mins followed by designated workouts for the distance. At that time we ran on a mixture of gravel grass playing field as our school didn’t have a track. The only track was at the main sports stadium some miles away and we only got to run there when a competition was on.

Training or “Running Practice” as we called it back then was about 90mins before school started and then after school we also had either strength work or longer runs. During two years our group of mis-fits became quite good and six of us including myself was selected to represent our region at national champs. Then I did something really stupid and played basketball and broke my ankle which put an end to my running. So this was back in 1990 and I never ran again until after I moved to New Zealand in 1999. My first few years in New Zealand was mostly about work and only around 2005 I started to realise I needed to do some physical activity, I was stressed at work, consistently tired and quite unhealthy with a fair amount of unwanted baggae around the waist. I bought a mountain bike and did a bit of that, then I started slowly doing jogs for 10-15mins. It felt weird/uncomfortable but almost somehow good and familiar feeling. So I continued on until I could run for 30mins without stopping. I also signed up for the Wellington Scottish 5k series during 2006/2007 and ran a few of these. Back then my 5k times were between 23-24mins.

Then my work and life got in the way again where I had to travel quite a bit and I fell off the wagon so to speak and got side tracked. After 2010 I started to be a bit more disciplined in my effort to be healthy and fit and thus began a somewhat deliberated and planned attempt to push myself to see where I could end up with running.

2011 to 2015 The Consistency Factor

In 2011 I ran a 5km timed race at the Scottish Waterfront race. The time was 27 minutes (00:27:23 – 11 January 2011). In 2014 September I ran my current personal best of 18mins and 25secs.

This is the story from 2011 to 2015 and the progression with data collected over these years.

In early 2010 I started recording my runs on Endomondo, Endomondo was at that time quite new and provided a free service to track runs via an app, which I used on my iPhone. I also bought a Polar Running watch. This had no GPS capability so I used to time my runs and at this stage I was only interested in how much time I could run. I didn’t put any particular effort into running a particular distance but I kept using the app and the watch to check time and mapped the distance via the app.

In 2011, I upgraded myself to a Garmin (610) which boasted quite a bit of new features and also was one of the first “touchscreen” watches to hit the scene. There also was the ability to sync your runs to Garmin Connect and then export across to Endomondo.
Looking back at 2011 – my goal was to get fit, finish a half marathon and keep building a base. No big goals.I signed up for Wellington Round the Bays in 2011 and followed somewhat of a sporadic training plan. Which included about 2-3 runs per week with no target distances but rather time on feet ranging from 30min runs to 90min runs.

The numbers for 2011 was as follows:
Number of runs: 171
Distance: 1809 Kilometers
Elevation: 32,888 meters
Time on feet: 179 hrs
Average per day: 4.96 Km (assuming I ran everyday, but in reality once I factored in the days I ran an the average was about 10.5 Km)
Weekly Mileage: 34.80 Kilometers

During this period with the help of a Garmin watch I gathered a bit of data on how I was going. I also started to learn a bit about training and recovery by reading books by well known runners (The Runner’s Body). I learnt a lot about the Physiological changes and adaptation and goal setting.
To some degree this wasn’t new to me based on what I had done long time ago back in school but being an adult the absorption of this information helped a lot to formulate my future goals going forward.

In 2011 I ran my first half marathon (on road) – which was at Wellington Round the Bays. My time was 2hrs and 02minutes with an average pace of 5:47 min/km. This was what was possible given my level of fitness at that time.

Now fast forward it to 2014 August – My half marathon PB is 1hrs 26m with an average pace of 4:06 min/km.

So what happened between 2011 and 2015?

During this time there have been many set backs, things that didn’t go according to plan even when they should have. But all these things makes running interesting.

The data I was collecting helped me in many ways, which included

2011 to 2015 Running

2011 to 2015 Running in numbers

Snapshot from June to August 2015

A typical conditioning phase of 8 weeks of consistent high mileage (Snapshot from June to August 2015)


Same period with some Cycling also included

You can download the complete slide deck here Running by the Numbers and Setting Goals 5 years of Data (5 MB)- and if you have any questions please do get in touch.

Keep smiling, keep running! Thanks to Mike, Ewa and Brent for the opportunity to speak at RunFest.

Speaking at RunFest in Wellington

Now this is really exciting stuff! On the last weekend of February (27th and 28th) a group of runners in Wellington have organised this great running event which I have been invited to speak.

If you are a local runner in Wellington or actually anywhere in the world there is a great line up of runners who will be doing talks on various topics.

The top 5 reasons to attend RunFest according to me are:

  1. Beginners and experienced runners – understand the running journey and how to approach your running goals holistically to enjoy running as an everyday habit as opposed to a chore
  2. Meet and hear stories from some of the most inspiring runners, coaches who are both local and global – go check out the speakers page
  3. Trail heaven that is Wellington, yes if you’ve never ventured past Oriental parade you’ll get some insight to go off road and why most runners when they switch to trails never go back on road – yes you get a guided tour on some of these
  4. The Reel Wild Film Festival – awesome running movies, Pizza and Beer – go sign up!
  5. You get to run with some awesome bunch of runners and get first hand advice on injury prevention and improve your running!

All this and much more for the all-inclusive price of NZ$175! That’s a bargain if you ask me! Go sign up!

More of Running Less of Goals

Since running the Vienna marathon back in April 2015, and the subsequent disappointment of not achieving my goal time (3:15) I’ve been somewhat subdued in terms of my enthusiasm and hunger I had for improving my running. The few months that passed after Vienna I was suffering a bout of what I can only describe as self doubt of a different scale that I had not encountered before. Sure I’ve had plenty of ups and downs but this was something that I couldn’t shake off easily. Running was to a certain level my outlet and when that doesn’t provide the same level of satisfaction everything else became rather mundane and the net effect of which was quite bad mentally and physically.

The Northern hemisphere Spring bought a fresh perspective on things and although I didn’t have the same level of enthusiasm I still managed to get out and run a few trails now and then. Usually if I’d done a trail event I would be writing about how it all went on here but I just didn’t feel like it, partly because of work and living between Amsterdam and Coruña meant quite a few flights back and forth and my overall fatigue level I could feel was at a borderline where no matter what I did every run felt like a marathon effort. Orsi meanwhile was busy with her final stages of her dissertation and didn’t do much running either. In all fairness we both managed to go to a few local events, the write ups about these are on our combined blog #whatrunnersdo.

By June, July with extended daylight of the summer in Europe I managed to do get my enthusiasm back, This resulted doing some runs and going back to the basics of how I started, what I missed most was hills and trails.

In Amsterdam running can be so boring because everywhere you go everything is flat, coupled with the fact everything is so densely populated the only interesting routes that I usually frequent become a chore after a while. To compensate for this I would alternate the direction or do extended rounds through various neighbourhoods and try and avoid pedestrian or traffic cross roads as much as possible.

In contrast running in Coruña as I previously mentioned is similar to the Wellington waterfront and of course far more options to go off road. Most of the running events in Coruña that I had been to is all on #whatrunnersdo. This provided a bit of a balance and a welcome change but the constant travel was always a factor coupled with tiredness.

Amidst all of this Orsi and I signed up for Budapest marathon. This happened just after the Vienna marathon as this was in my mind was going to be the “comeback” marathon for me. Orsi had other reasons for choosing Budapest. As I mentioned before during August and September I did a pretty decent amount of mileage with the goal of aiming to run Budapest in 3:15 or better. Compared to my training regime that I followed diligently for Rotorua back in 2014 I took a different approach to my training. The longer 30km+ runs were replaced by shorter runs and also incorporating doubles. The longer dayight hours allowed me to accommodate two runs in a day whilst balancing work commitments plus travel betwenn Amsterdam and Coruna. In August we finally had a holiday and met up with our friends Brent and Ewa from Wellington Running Meetup and went for a week of running in the Italian mountains.

Lesson in Humilty

Before Budapest I did two long runs (distance) wise. One was a 30km run on a pretty warm day about 5 weeks out, this incidentally was also my highest mileage for 2015 at 122km in a single week. After that 30km I was full of confidence, partly because I ran the second half strongly and by the end I felt I could have gone on for another few more kilometers easily.

Two weeks after we were in Amsterdam again and went to a trail event in Masstricht. This was a 32km run and with about 800m of elevation I set myself a goal of running this in 2hrs 45, essentially treating the event as the last long run before Budapest. In hindsight I think I pushed myself a bit more than required on this event which resulted in having to take about a week off because of some aches and pains which started to shape a doubt in my mind if I’d be able to start Budapest.

Nevertheless we went to Budapest of course. We arrived in Budapest where our hearts sank a bit as the weather was quite a contrast from the nice warm late summer we were expecting. It was raining, and worst of it was the cold. That particular week all of Europe’s temperatures were at a low and Budapest was cold and wet. Over at whatrunners do you can get a full recount of what it was like leading up and the marathon itself as told by Orsi.

As I mentioned earlier I was already at a low, and the self doubt crept in, which resulted in some very bizarre things happening to my body. Maybe part of it was due to the cold, maybe it was all in my head. Whatever it was I had stomach problems, cramps and at one point I stopped and emptied all I had for breakfast on the side of the street. This by far was the worst time I’ve ever had running.

In the end I finished, in somewhat of undignified fashion. As I crossed the finish line it was a relief of a different kind. Not my best marathon, finishing in 3hrs 50mins, nevertheless I crossed the line. Looking around me I could still see others coming into finish and being completely satisfied that they finished. Then why am I not satisified, did I not finish the same distance of 42.2km, what reason have I got that I am not satisfied with?

Yeah I finished, Almost gave up... but I finished

Yeah I finished, Almost gave up… but I finished…

It took me a few days to get out of the negative head space, I started to think about why I started running in the first place. I remembered when I just wanted to run and not think about goals or achieving time goals. We can sometimes forget the simplicity of why we first wanted something and get dragged into wanting more, there is nothing wrong in that, however sometimes being objective now and then helps to overcome the battle of wanting better versus acceptance of what you can.

Thanks for reading… run free, run bold!

Road to Vienna and two winters

After the Berlin marathon in September 2014, I have been in Europe for the most part. This meant that I left the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere just about when winter was about to start. In Wellington (NZ) winters are not that bad compared to some other places but still the effect of darkness, rain and cold inevitably has an effect. Add another winter in the northern hemisphere to that and it becomes pretty demoralising overall. The time spent in Galicia from September to January 2015 was broken up by a few short visits to Portugal where it was comparatively sunny and warm. Then I was in NZ to get a little taste of summer for about 16 days in January before heading back to Europe to base myself in Amsterdam from February.

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B is for Berlin and the place for Marathon World Records

So yes, it’s been actually a month since running Berlin (28th September) and yes I’ve been a bit slack in updating the blog lately and I’ve also been travelling but that is not an excuse.

To get to Berlin from Wellington, NZ is a fair bit of travel. Door to door I think it took me about 40hrs until I slumped on the bed in a Berlin hotel room completely exhausted. Not the best way to run a marathon in a few days with that kind of travelling.

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