Running with a bigger safety margin

Redhill Road Runners at the end of the half marathon

I have written before about my notion of ‘running within myself’. In essence, this means listening to your body and ensuring that you do not go ‘into the red’, i.e. not pushing too hard. Following this course of action, I have been able to: run every day for nearly five years, take part in a wide range of events (from 100 metres to 440 kilometres) without injury, and (bar one lapse of concentration) without getting into distress or difficulty.

This weekend I needed to adjust my normal parameters to cope with an additional risk factor. Last Saturday, I felt rough and tested positive for Covid. This was a blow on several fronts. Last Saturday was a memorial ParkRun for a friend, the amazing and much-missed Paul Stacey, from my running club, who had died the previous weekend. I could not risk giving other people Covid, so I could not attend the run. Less importantly, today I was scheduled to run in the Worksop Half Marathon, but would I be OK to run?

The symptoms of Covid had all gone by Monday, and on Saturday, I tested clear of Covid. However, I had to assume that Covid had compromised my fitness and durability. I decided to run, but less competitively and with a bigger safety margin – i.e. even further away from the red zone.

On Saturday, I took part in my local ParkRun, a hilly course at Gedling Country Park. The last time I did this ParkRun I completed the 5K in 23 minutes and 52 seconds. But this time I set off slower, and kept my heart rate below 140 beats a minute. This resulted in a time of 26 minutes 53 seconds, but I finished feeling very comfortable. Indeed I ran the last 1km a lot faster than the rest of the race. I was delighted to take part in this race as two of my Redhill Road Runner clubmates were getting married and ran in suit (her) and wedding dress (him).

For today’s half marathon, buoyed up by yesterday’s run, I again set off at a steady pace; indeed my first km was my slowest km, and I ran the first half of the race with my heart rate at about 140 beats per minute. In the second half of the race I let my heart rate rise to a more typical racing speed, and for the last km (which was mostly downhill) I really let rip. I finished in 1 hour 46 minutes 9 seconds – nearly 12 minutes slower than the last time I ran this race (in 2021). However, I felt comfortable all the way round, chatted to people, enjoyed the countryside, and felt good afterwards.

By monitoring how I felt, looking at the data from my heart rate monitor, and building in a bigger safety margin, I could enjoy the day, albeit slightly slower than I would have run it if fully fit.

Overall, I finished 388th out of 1379 in the race and 4th out of 32 in my age group (Men 65 to 74) – which is not too shabby ????

PS, I was able to maintain the streak, going out for runs on my own, as part of my isolation, at a very steady pace. None of this is medical advice, and it may not be particularly wise – but at 67 years old, this is how I choose to live.


Paul Stacey and fellow runners
Paul Stacey is the runner in the middle, at a fell race a few years ago, runner number 947. He was a great runner, a wonderful club member, a fantastic person, and is much missed.
Jon and Maria
Jon (in wedding dress) and Maria (in suit) at their last ParkRun before their wedding – with some of the many Redhill Road Runners who turned out to help them celebrate.
Start of the Race
At the start of the race
4 redhill runners
With three other Redhill Road Runners at the end of the race
Running Data
Chart showing the hills (grey, variable), speed (blue, variable), and heart rate (red, steady at first, letting it go up at the end)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.