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!

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.

Continue reading

The Skyline 160 – Post Event Update

160kms (100mile) relay on one of Wellington’s iconic trails – don’t mind if I help myself to a lap or two of that awesomeness with an even awesomer group of runners!

The idea was conceived by local runner/web stocker Mike Brown whilst.. wait for it running! Mike is part of Wellington Running Meetup who hold regular running events and help get like minded folk come together and run some of Wellington’s sweet trails. The Skyline trail runs along the ridge line starting from Karori (Makara hill) then connects to Mt Kaukau (the one with the tall radio mast overlooking Wellington).

One way is roughly about 10kms and a return is 20kms or so. So the idea was simply start at 10am (officially) then run there (1 lap) and back (2laps) in a continuous relay where runners can run a single lap or two laps (out and back) till 160kms was completed in 24hrs ending at 10am the next day. Officially there was 16 legs since each leg was  10kms to complete the 160kms.

From Saturday 1st Feb morning there was a stream of runners who started from 10am  and ran multiple laps so they could just be part of it. I signed up to do the final leg which started at 7am on Sunday 2nd February. I was joined by Amanda (celebrity runner), Gemma and Alastair. In fact Alastair had already done 2 laps (20ks) and he was doing another 2 to make it 40km in total. Amanda had already done 1 since she started at the Kaukau end and Gemma had done 2 the day before so I was in some serious running company.

We headed off at 7am on the last two legs – Leg 15 to Kaukau and Leg 16 final leg back to Makara start. It was a stunning Wellington morning with a slight southerly breeze coming off the tops and perfect weather for an early morning jaunt on the hills. We hit Kaukau in about an hour and a bit and picked up another runner Clinton who joined us at Kaukau. After a quick stop and some drinks we headed back, Amanda bid adieu at Kaukau so it was me, Alastair, Clinton and Gemma who were on the final leg back. Here are some photos from throughout the day and all those wonderful runners who were part of this great event. I think that this will be a keeper and we’ll do the same next year!

Ewa not enjoying the early morning shift being on support watch at top of Makara Hill - apparently sleeping in a car is not that fun whilst people are out running through the night

Ewa not enjoying the early morning shift being on support watch at top of Makara Hill – apparently sleeping in a car is not that fun whilst people are out running through the night


All set for the last two legs of the Skyline 160 – Alastair, Amanda (in her trademark yellow fancy pants), Gemma and Me.



Skyline 160 enjoying the views



Looking towards Kaukau in the distance and some company heading our way



At top of Kaukau Leg 15 complete only 1 to go!


Mark and Ash who started it the day before doing the first two legs.



Some of the other regulars from Wellington Running Meetup



Some of the other regulars from Wellington Running Meetup



Mike who tricked Mark to run with him in the middle of the night! They both seem happy enough.



Squeaky the Pig is transitioned from Ewa to Mike in the middle of the night.


We are officially done! 16th leg completed! Gemma, Clinton and Alastair.




So many hills, so little time…

Collectively I think we ran more than 160kms and vertical ascent would be close to 120,000 or more easily! Two laps is about 850meters or so according to my Garmin. Here is the elevation profile from my two laps.

Makara to Kaukau and Back Elevation

Happy trails and if you are in Wellington come join Wellington Running Meetup! More awesome photos are here on Meetup Event page.