Running Goals for 2020

Last year I ran in my first race at the Bracknell Samaritans 10k. The race took place in the blazing June heat, right in the middle of a summer heatwave. I finished with a time of 54m48s.

I followed this up with 2 more 10km races – the Brooklands Running GP and Windsor Lakeside 10km – completing both in sub-50 minute times.

After completing the three races, I’d caught the running bug and decided to push myself further in 2020.

Run 3 half-marathons

After completing 3 10km in 2020, I decided to double the distance and signed up for my first set of half-marathons this year. In February, I’ll be competing in my first half-marathon in Wokingham, before running the London Landmarks Half-Marathon to raise money for Prostate Cancer UK in March. I’ll round off the year in September with the Windsor Half-Marathon.

Training is well underway for this challenge, and I’m encouraged by my progress so far. I have no specific times in mind for the runs. That said, judging by the longer training runs I completed at the end of 2019 (approximately 11 miles), I think that with proper training a sub-2 hour time in one of them could be a real possibility.

My longest run – a loop of Bracknell

Run a 10km race under 45 minutes

Alongside my half-marathon challenge, I want to try and get my 10km time down. My fastest race is 3 minutes above the three-quarter hour mark, and I think with the right training plan, I can push it down to a sub-45 minute finish.

Brooklands running GP
Windsor 10k at Dorney Lake

I’ve got two 10km races booked for the year so far – the London Winter Run 10k in February as part of my spring half-marathon training plans and the summer Bracknell Samaritans 10k. The first is likely to come too soon, and the summer run is likely to be impeded by the heat (although it’s Britain so you can never quite predict this). My best chance will therefore probably a late autumn run, so I just need to pick the race to go for this PB.

2000km for the year?

My final running goal for 2020 is to run consistently and regularly. I’d love to break the 2000km barrier for the year. I don’t really know how possible this one is going to be, yet with the race training I like to do, I’d like to think I can give it a good shot!

9 months! Really?

It’s been almost nine months since my last blog entry. I’ve never been a prolific writer as you can see this in the gaps between posts. I think I’ve found the reason why.

Recently I came across the article Speed Matters by James Somers. Right there, in the second paragraph of the article, Somers summed up exactly my relationship with this blog:

“If every time you write a blog post it takes you six months, and you’re sitting around your apartment on a Sunday afternoon thinking of stuff to do, you’re probably not going to think of starting a blog post, because it’ll feel too expensive.”

James Somers

I feel seen.

Each time I’ve thought about writing a post, the idea comes into my head, I make a start and then… well then it doesn’t get finished. Or in the rare case it does get published it takes me hours or weeks of refinement and editing.

Each time I go round this loop, turning my next idea into text becomes harder to do. 

I’m not about to say I’m a changed man and that you can expect daily posts. However, I will aim to work more quickly, worrying less about getting the content just right before hitting publish.

And as case in point, this post only took me 10 minutes from idea to publishing. Start as you mean to go on.

Iceland – December 2018

Late in 2018, our thoughts turned to what we’d do to celebrate the end of 2018. Having had a couple of recent New Years Eve’s wiped out through illness, myself and Jo were ready to do a little more for the upcoming New Year celebrations.

Rather than spend time in the UK, we decided to book a last minute short break to Iceland. We booked through TUI, taking advantage of their pre-arranged Iceland tour packages to give us a view of the island.

Continue reading “Iceland – December 2018”

Removing Facebook (again)

Late in March 2018 I decided to delete my Facebook account.

Scheduled deletion of my Facebook account. I’d recently removed it from my phone and disabled my account. #DeleteFacebook— Steve Bennett 💬 (@stevebennett) March 20, 2018

This isn’t the first time I’d decided to do this. In 2014, as Facebook turned 10, I decided to put my own usage of the social network on pause.

This didn’t last too long and only a few months later I’d decided to reactivate my account.

In 2015, in another attempt to reduce my usage of Facebook, I removed the apps from my phone.

Purged #linkedin and #facebook from my phone.— Steve Bennett 💬 (@stevebennett) January 29, 2015

Once again, this didn’t stick and the big blue app found it’s way back onto my device. (LinkedIn is still absent though…)

Last year, a combination of factors convinced me to take more drastic action and delete my accounts on Facebook. Firstly, I was becoming aware that I was spending an increasing amount of time on the app and this time was taking me away from real personal interactions.

I was maintaining a semblance of managing relationships with people when in fact, all I was doing was observing only their personal highlights from afar. In turn, I believe that this was leading me to a false conclusion that I still had a connection with these people even though it’d probably been many, many months (years in some cases) since we last spoke. The truth is that at least for these people, any relationship or friendship I once had had now dwindled away.

Around the same time I was thinking about deleting my account, the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal hit with details of over 87 million profiles being shared between the two companies and used in political campaigning.

Zuckerberg and Facebook apologised for the breach, yet (in my opinion) were more intent on shifting the blame to Cambridge Analytica. Both parties were (once again, in my opinion) complicit in the data sharing, however Facebook granted permission for Cambridge Analytica to use the data and therefore shoulders the accountability for ensuring the data is used responsibly.

As I read more about the data breach (was it really a breach?) I became convinced that letting my Facebook account die was the right thing to do. 30 days later, my big blue account had gone.

As the news coverage and hearings surrounding the scandals continued, I looked at my usage of two other properties owned by Facebook – WhatsApp and Instagram.

Instagram was a fairly easy to remove from my life. I’d never been a big user of the service, however, in the weeks and months since deleting my Facebook account, I had replaced some of my daily feed-lurking with Instagram usage. I took the decision that the cost of being part of the Facebook ecosystem (even via Instagram) wasn’t worth it and I deleted my Instagram account later in the year.

The last stage was to remove myself from WhatsApp. This was a lot harder.

I’d been a user of WhatsApp since the paid 99c days and was really impressed with the the service and it’s approach to messaging. I had a small number of contacts which I exchanged messages with regularly and was a member of a small number of groups. Moreover, unlike my usage on Facebook and Instagram, messaging was an interactive experience and the number of people who I knew on the service was growing.

I decided to remove my WhatsApp account to evaluate alternatives. So far, I’ve tried Telegram and Signal (in addition to SMS) and whilst they’re both comparable in terms of service to WhatsApp, they just don’t have the users. I do think that I’ll be returning to WhatsApp in 2019, especially as I predict that peer-to-peer and private group messaging will start to overtake our usage of broad public social network usage.

Of course, I’m never really out of the Facebook ecosystem. My wife, parents, siblings, family members, and many of my friends all still have accounts. I still appear in photos on their streams and I’m sure that Facebook is still able to put a name to my face.

Facebook tracing cookies litter the web, so I’m pretty confident in saying that I still have a profile. However, rather than it being one that I control (or at least claim to control), it’s a darker, shadowy profile that I can’t see or delete.

And there I think lies a problem. Whilst I can do a bunch of things to remove myself from the Facebook ecosystem, I don’t think you can really ever truly escape.

So, what’s life been like Post-Facebook? I’ve found myself using messaging and email more, and I’ve made more effort to reach out to people who I’ve previously lost connection with. Having not seen everything on Facebook, I’m able to have better conversations with people when we meet. I don’t spend as long on my phone, although my Twitter usage has gone up. Overall, whilst the first few months were more difficult, I can honestly say that I don’t miss Facebook or Instagram at all.

Have I missed stuff since leaving Facebook? Undoubtedly.

Do I feel like I’m missing out? Sometimes.

Am I willing to pay the necessary price to deal with this FOMO? Absolutely not.

Moving my site to WordPress

I’ve been a SquareSpace customer for a couple of years now, having decided to restart my blogging efforts. I initially chose SquareSpace as I wanted a simple, hosted option so that I could concentrate on writing rather than configuring web servers.

I liked the ease with which I could get started with SquareSpace, and I was impressed with the templates and designs that I could choose from. I wasn’t that impressed with the post editor, but it seemed better than most of the alternatives at the time.

Whilst SquareSpace had been a good way of getting started, I became increasingly frustrated by the editor and layout tools for writing blog posts. I also realised that I wanted more of a blog “feel” for the site, and in my opinion, the best blogging tool out there is WordPress.

I started the move earlier this week by exporting the content from SquareSpace and importing it all to a new hosted WordPress.com site. After some tweaking of templates and design, I had something I was happy with, so I switched on the new stevebennett.co domain. I still have steve.codes, but feel the new domain is more appropriate.

I had a problem though. I had content and links referencing the old steve.codes blog, and needed to redirect this to my new site. There was no clear way to do this in the WordPress.com instance, so I needed to set up a tactical hack to do the redirect.

The “hack” involved setting up a new free-tier Cloudflare account. Cloudflare’s free tier gives you limited DDOS and CDN capabilities, but the only thing I really needed was access to their “Page Rules”, specifically the Redirect capability.

After pointing the steve.codes domain to the Cloudflare nameservers, I was able to set up two new Page Rules for redirecting existing content to the new WordPress site.

Screen Shot 2017-08-18 at 13.29.29

Two rules needed to be added, one to redirect the blog content, under '/blog/', and another to cover all other content. Luckily, my blog on SquareSpace used the same slug format – yyyy/mm/dd – as used by WordPress.com, making the rules much simpler.

Once added, all existing links to steve.codes were successfully redirect to the new WordPress site, and the migration was complete.

Overall moving from SquareSpace to WordPress was incredibly simple, and I’m pleased with the new site.