Race Review: Star Wars Rival Run

2016 was the last time I ran a half marathon, it was in Disneyland Paris and you can read about it here. I wanted to run one last year but the pandemic hit and nearly everything was cancelled so I decided to wait until the pandemic passed. Here we are in 2021 still in the pandemic and I couldn’t wait anymore. Many races have switched to a virtual model anyway so it was just a matter of picking one to lock in a date, and start training for that goal.

Completing another half-marathon after a 4 year absence is also part of my DDPY Positively Unstoppable Challenge which you can read more about here.

I picked the Star Wars Rival Run. I thought it sounded fun because its Star Wars and its non location specific. I’ve see virtual runs advertised for actual cities, for example, run the virtual London / Copenhagen / Paris marathon, and get a medal posted to you for said run with the cities landmarks on it. If I’m going to get a medal with city landmarks on it, I want to have run in that city. Star Wars seemed like a better alternative.

In 2012 I ran my first ever half-marathon and I did it in a time of 2 hours and 5 seconds. I’ve only once completed a half-marathon in under 2 hours. This time around, based on my training, I thought father time was catching up with me. A half marathon is 13.1 miles. While training I had run 12.5 miles in 2 hours and 23 minutes and I ran 14 miles in 2 hours and 35 minutes. I was sure that come race day I’d finish roughly around 2 hours and 30 minutes, my slowest ever time.

But no. The week of the race I made some changes to see if I could improve my time. And the changes worked. I ran the Star Wars Rival Run on April 18th, in a time of 2 hours, 5 mins and 33 seconds. I’m pretty pleased with that time. I trained for 15 weeks, following the same training pattern I have for all the half-marathons I’ve run. Two 30min runs during the week, and a gradually increasing distance run at the weekend. What changes did I make that could have me cross the finish line 25mins sooner than expected? Heres what I did:

More Rest

I normally exercise 7 times a week across 6 days, with one rest day. On race week, I had two rest days in the two days before the race to allow myself to fully recover.

Change the time

I usually run late at night after the kids are in bed. On race day I set off earlier, at 1.30pm.

Change the location

I normally run in the areas surrounding my house. I ran the actual race in the much more scenic and enjoyable Phoenix Park in Dublin.

Virtual Water Breaks

It occurred to me that on my long training runs, I ran the entire time. In a normal race, I’d walk through the water stations, which gives you a short bit of recuperation time. So I decided to walk for 60 seconds every 3 miles, as if I were at a water station.

All of the above made a huge impact. Its crazy how a few variables, none of them running related as such, could so drastically change my finish time. In sum, it was a fun race to do and it was nice to have a specific date to aim for to help keep focus. I did miss the excitement of a “live” race and I look forward to the day we can do those again. Now all I have to do is wait for my Yoda medal to arrive in the post. “Do or do not, there is no try”

A tale of two races

My new Vivobarefoot shoes arrived today. Its mad to think that they are the only brand of shoe I wear. Minimalist shoes have really helped strengthen my feet and ankles. Running has become low impact and pain free. As an example, I give you a tale of two races.

Walt Disney World Half Marathon 2012

  • I had a standard pair of Nike running shoes, nice big soles on them
  • I trained for the race using Jeff Galloways training programme, two timed runs a week, and one distance run a week that gradually got longer
  • I ran the half marathon in 2hrs and 5 seconds.
  • My knees were in agony. I hobbled back to the hotel.
  • I was in Disney World so after I’d showered and changed, I went to the Disney Studios theme park. With my knees too sore to actually walk around, I spent most of the day on a bench people watching, envious of the other runners I saw with ice packs strapped to their knees, “clever” I thought

Walt Disney World Half Marathon 2014

  • Between this race and the last I had learned to run with a professional running coach (yes, running is a skill that has to be learned) and on their advice I now wore Vivos, a minimalist shoe
  • I trained for the race using Jeff Galloways training programme, two timed runs a week, and one distance run a week that gradually got longer
  • Ran the half marathon in 2hrs, 9mins and 24 seconds.
  • I felt fine and walked back to the hotel
  • I was in Disney World so after I’d showered and changed, I went to the Disney Studios theme park. I spend the day in park, went on all the rides and had great day

If you have 9mins to spare, the below video from Vivobarefoot is a great watch.

My Disney Book

A book that I’ve been working on for some time has recently been published. This blog post is for the most part, a shameless plug of that book, but I will try to shoehorn this post into the general health and fitness theme of my blog.

The book in question is “The Story of Disneyland Paris”, and rather than dwell too much on what the book is obviously about, you can just click here to find it on Amazon.

I set myself the goal of writing a book, a goal that I imagine is on many a bucket list. In my head I envisioned myself being the next J.K Rowling or George R.R Martin and creating entire fictional universes. The problem is, I don’t read a lot of fiction, and I had no ideas. Then a simple thought, “write the book I’d like to read” – and thats where the history and continuing story of Disneyland Paris came from, it’s the book I’ve always wanted to read, since I first went looking for it in 2010 to help with my M.Sc thesis.

It took a year and half for me to write this book. I worked on it nearly every day. I did miss a few days, maybe Christmas Day, or if I was at a wedding, but for the most part, I worked on this project every single day, for a year and a half. Consistency is key. I didn’t necessarily work for hours everyday, sometimes it was as little as 15mins of either reading, writing, editing or researching, but the point was it was done, progressing word by word, not chapter by chapter.

Writing the book also proved an enjoyable past time, I wouldn’t describe it as work. “Working” on this book reminded me of this quote from James Michener:

“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure…..He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both”

I wouldn’t describe myself as a “master in the art of living”. People can usually tell if I’m working or playing, but its an admirable goal and to some extent writing the book fit the quote. “Are you working this evening?” my wife would ask when I opened my laptop in the evenings, “er, yes, no, I’m not sure, sort of.”

I did a small bit of research into publishing at the beginning but I ditched that pretty quickly, as getting published sounded impossible. I wanted to write the book so I’d write it, even if it was just for my own amusement for an audience of one. And during the process, I read a few books from a small independent publisher called Theme Park Press who I thought might be interested in what I’d written. They were interested and they published it, but they were never the goal, just a happy by-product of the process itself.

Now, to take what I’ve learned from the book writing experience and shoehorn it into my health and fitness blog, here are the key learnings:

Consistency

  • If you want to lose weight, add muscle, increase flexibility, write a book, whatever, it can only be achieved by consistency, there is no quick fix.
  • Commitment to your goal. If you get on a streak, like 10-20 days of consistent work, that creates a desire to keep the streak going, until eventually, it becomes habit.
  • Think about the things you’ve not been able to do and ask yourself if you’ve really tried. For example, I’ve always said I’m not flexible, but have I worked on flexibility every day for a year and half, nope. So theres your answer.

Concentrate on the journey, not the goal

Enjoy the process, the rewards will come by themselves.

Have a pastime

Pastimes are good for mental health. Exercise is my pastime. For a time so was the book. Pastimes that require a high level of concentration (so not TV) have therapeutic effects because they limit anxious self-reflection. Consciously living in the moment reduces stress.

You’ll not see me and my book on any bestsellers list, the book is not likely to appear in any bookstore (just Amazon), its a quick read and if you do read it, it will be clear this is my first rodeo, but its a major tick off my bucket list and has me wondering about what else I might be able to achieve if I give it enough attention. Now, get working on your own bucket list, and enjoy!

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The unboxing

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I’m at the height of coolness, a proper millennial working on my masterpiece in Starbucks

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And there she is

 

 

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