Sunday, 1 March 2015

Where did February go?

February has just rushed by so quickly and I'm sorry I haven't been updating my blog so much.  Plenty has been happening, including a trip to the London Bike Show and quite a few runs to savour.

Life outside staying fit and healthy has been happening too; might be an idea to get these out of the way first.  My work life is as busy and varied as ever but also has some future uncertainties mixed in these days (the effects of Ministry of Justice reforms).  We are well as a family.

Jury service
I have hardly stopped during January and February.  In fact the only time off from work I had was during jury service which you might think is hardly an activity away from my work.  It was actually, almost to the point of enjoying being in a slightly different role and seeing the whole Court scene from the general public's perspective.  What made it even more interesting was that it wasn't a criminal court but instead a Coroner's court; something I have had no experience of.  It was a sad case, about a middle aged man who took his own life while in prison.  Quite a sad tale.  However it was a poignant opportunity for the general public to become involved in the whole question of justice; there were eight of us, all local people selected at random and there to have an input into the wheels of justice.  The inquest itself was listed for three days but in effect only lasted two days, so I took some flexi time to enjoy having a day off and I can tell you, that seemed so weird.

Interestingly I have another Coroner's Court jury to sit on later in March.  Again the case is listed for three days and I wonder if it will actually take the whole three days, not that these important things should be rushed.  We must take it seriously and return the correct verdict, according to the oath we all take at the start of the proceedings.

A new venture
To make a short story even shorter, I have found myself becoming a school Governor and will attend my first meeting soon.  I am actually looking forward to getting my teeth stuck into doing this and I like the idea of doing a few more things in my community as a volunteer.  Having the time has always been a factor, as well as finding something that I would be able to do.  I can tell you, I would be hopeless as a volunteer in helping local groups take care of the Downs (lopping trees, fencing etc).  

Kayaking and the running
I am still a non-paddling member at the club and this is fine for me.  Has to be said people there often encourage me to join properly and put my name down for the next introductory course on the water.  Instead I occasionally go to the Thursday evening training which is different each week.  Sometimes we go running (yay! Something I'm not bad at) other times it is more "gym" focussed and involves building up core muscle strength (not so good in my case).  My daughter, Hannah, seriously outperforms me with these things!

Actually the last training session was running, a kind of fast-slow interval training.  We, as a group of about 15, ran from the Boat House to Golden Riddy, Linslade which was a little under a mile away.  We then raced each other around the block, as shown in the map below.  Then the fastest was paired with the slowest, second fastest with second slowest etc.

Once we were paired up we ran in opposite directions with the faster runners sprinting until they met the slower runners who were jogging.  When we met each other, we 'high fives' each other and then turn around to run back the other way, alternating the fast run for the jogging.

This then is the interval training i.e. taking your heart rate right up for a few minutes and then jogging to allow recovery and bringing the heart rate back down.  Don't ask me what the heart rate is as I don't have a monitor but I dare say I push it to the limit, but only for a short burst each time.  Felt great afterwards!

As you can see this then adds up to be 5.7 miles; all good fun and it never seems that much when you do it with others.

With Hannah doing her kayaking on the water each Saturday morning allows me to have a 10 mile run along the canal tow path.  It seems to be working pretty well like this but having said that I need to get things organised so I could have increasingly longer runs in preparation for.....

The MK Marathon
Yes I have again entered this race, having enjoyed it so much before and especially as I ran a sub 4:00 hour time before (but only just).  This is in early May and ordinarily I would be happily trained by then without too much difficulty.

The issue is that I seem to have picked up an injury which is incredibly rare for me.  In fact the only injuries I have had to date have been short lived and minor.  This time one of my left calf muscles is complaining little when I run and more so on the following day.  I am fairly sure this is due to my running form changing a little and the shoes not compensating.

So my solution is to have a gait analysis done with a view to new shoes as being the most likely solution.

The probably cause is indeed how I have outlined it but digging a little deeper I think it has been exasperated by the increased miles I have been running - so far I have run 158 miles since 1st January and in the last 10 days of 2014 I ran consecutively every day.  So I might have over-done it and now I'm paying the price.  I must surely view this as a temporary set back as I cannot face the thought of backing off from running.

Other things
So much to tell you about and I hope to get myself a little more disciplined and blog more regularly.  Talking of being disciplined, I heard today about my friend Andrew who is truing for the Wales In A Day bike ride in September (this is a hilly 190 miles).  While he is already fit and a strong rider, he apparently has been getting up at 5:00am for a turbo training session in his garage.  Something I must surely be doing!

Monday, 9 February 2015

Wifely motivation

This special form of motivation makes quite a difference in terms of my quest to eat well and stay fit and here's a quick run through of the different ways this is delivered:

Before going for a run
  • "How would you me to push you out of bed?"
  • "Your running gear is all washed and ready for you to make it sweaty and muddy again"
  • "Just get out there"
  • "Don't worry about doing the washing up, you go"
  • "Stop procrastinating, get out!" said in an increasing loud, assertive way
  • "You mean you've only done 5 miles this week?"  followed by that disapproving look.
And after a run
Mind you, I often find I get a similar kind of loving reception when I get back from such a run.  You'll have to picture the scene: we live in an ordinary semi detached house.  Hallway leading to the back of the house and the kitchen, bathroom upstairs etc.
  • "STOP right there!  Don't take a step further - have you seen how muddy you are?"
  • "Let me help you with your clothes, no DON'T get any ideas.  That running jacket needs to hang up outside as there's no way that's going to stink the whole house out"
  • "The bathroom is all clear for you, we've made sure of that"
  • "The washing machine is empty and the door is wide open, ready for those digesting clothes"
So there y'go.  Simply wonderful and couldn't do without it, even though it sometimes seems tough love.  That special form of loving, wifely motivation.  It's special.  I'm blessed and thankful.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Half full, or half empty?

Quite a few times recently I have been referred to as a “half full” person and I think that’s something I can take as a complement.   While being optimistic and hopeful, I believe this has some real tangible benefits which might be worth outlining”
I cannot prove this scientifically but I do believe people can make themselves ill by believing they are ill, or perhaps wanting to be ill.  I have seen this amongst some of the people I work with and it’s almost as if some might talk themselves into being ill and are wanting sympathy and understanding from those they meet.  In fact some people can appear to be constantly ill with one thing after another and relentlessly let every one know about it.
Conversely I think people can stay well and healthy by thinking in a healthy train of thought.  Likewise being positive and optimistic might help recovery from some illnesses or (and I cannot speak from any experience here) recover from operations and injuries more quickly.  Arguably some people recovering from serious situations might be more determined to recover and prove everyone wrong through being bloody-minded and utterly determined.
Now I know I have no evidence to back any of this up, apart from my own observations.  If you’re a Doctor or a medical type person, please feel free to correct me!   I am sure I’m being overly simplistic, but I don’t want to be.  Neither do I want to be glib or disrespectful to anyone.
Being a runner
Half empty, half full
Half empty, half full
Life is full of decisions.  A few people may have little choice and are forced into exercising like running through some kind of necessity.  Other people choose to be a cyclist etc for a whole variety of reasons.
Could I argue here that people who choose to be a runner do so through being naturally optimistic and positive in their outlook?  After all, it would be so easy to think of reasons why you shouldn’t run on a particular day.  “Oh it might rain, or be a bit windy” might be heard by some and yet many a runner will totally disregard these things and go ahead anyway, in preference to using another form of transport.
There are times when it has been pouring with rain and I have decided to go for a what-the-hell bike ride or a run, just for the fun of it.  On one level that might sound ridiculous and yet you’ll have to believe me it can be fun, memorable and exhilarating at times.
And then there is the unexpected.  You never quite know who you might meet or get to know.  Even though you might be running over familiar routes there is always the chance of something new and different happening.   Also there is always the option of looking out for a new track or footpath that you’ve never run down before.
Typing this has caused me to remember the time, last summer, when I cycled to work in Stevenage one day.  Now I am fortunate in having many different routes which I can take and there is a network of little country lanes around my part of the Hertfordshire / Bedfordshire border.  I am still getting to know these lanes and on this particular day I deliberately had no map and decided to do some exploring on my way home with some “where does this go?  I wonder what’s along here?  I bet there’s a nice view from the top of that hill”.
Problem solving
Running few bring up few challenges and problems.  Are these obstacles?  Or are these challenges which need to be solved?
This is where running succeeds over cycling.  You don't need to worry about your means of transport, after all modern bicycles are a bit on the fragile side and do need a fair bit of attention.  I ride one bike for 99% of the time and there always seems to be something needing attention.  This is general maintenance rather than dealing with a breakdown and it seems this is far more than with my car.  If I have to do anything with my car in between the 10,000 mile services, that troubles me.  And yet a bicycle in that time would need tyres, brake pads, a chain, cleaning etc etc.   But these are not problems.  Taking care of a bicycle is enjoyable and gives good results.
And as for actually solving problems, this happens in abidance!  I can set off for a run with all kinds of things bugging and troubling me.  And then something magical happens: I work through these issues and things always become clearer and I end up feeling able to solve things.  Also a brilliant way of keeping things in perspective and not allowing things to become bigger than they really are.   
Surely no one disputes the immense benefits from running?
So, are runners and cyclists naturally “half full”?
I am a runner and a cyclist.  I believe I am naturally “half full”, optimistic, sees good in people, likes people, likes new experiences (but not quite everything!).  I’d like to think this is a common trait amongst runners, cyclists (and bloggers!).
Am I right?

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Which is harder?

Crikey, I have recently entered the Milton Keynes Marathon, this will be the third time I've done this event.   I didn't do it last year as I concentrated on cycling so I could compete in the Coast to Coast in a Day event.  This was 150 miles on the bike over a very hilly terrain.

So, which do you think ought to be harder?  Running a marathon or cycling 150 miles?

My gut reaction is a simple answer – running a marathon is easier, for me.  And then the more I thought about it afterwards the more complex the comparison seemed.
Firstly, to cycle 150 miles it might be worth considering what is involved.  It took me a little over 13 hours to complete the hilly distance earlier this year and this included four feeding stops (probably about 15-20 minutes at each) and a ferry trip across Lake Windermere.  Compared to the 700 other cyclists this time was slower than average, even when taking my age into account.  Getting ready took several months of training, gradually increasing the distances to the point I was fairly comfortable covering over 100 miles in a day – building up gradually is the key here, with a number of shorter rides in between the longer weekend rides.  The shorter rides are important, either for simply keeping those muscles, ligaments etc in good shape, for getting used to some steep hills or some brisker rides to keep my heart rate up to a higher level for a longer period.
For running a marathon, the format is remarkably similar.  I aim for a long run at the weekend and shorter runs during the week and these involved a few hills (which I absolutely love), some shorter sprints (bringing a dose of the Runner’s High) and simply a few short jogs around my local neighbourhood to stay fairly supple.
In running a marathon, it takes me about four hours, give or take a little, to run the 26.2 miles.  This is running at a steady, constant pace throughout.  There are no stops for feeding or drinking – this is done on the move and “little and often” seems to suit me best.  The only possible reason for stopping briefly is to use a Portaloo or at the direction of a marshall, so really it is non-stop, all the way.
The events – how they might compare
The Coast to Coast in a Day is not a race, although there is a hint of being in competition with each other or, at the very least, in competition with the clock and yourself.  After all everyone is given a timing chip and cyclists are identified as gold, silver or bronze according to their time.  You have a fairly broad window in which to start; if I remember correctly this is over two or three hours.
Running a marathon is completely different.  Everyone is lined up against the starting line waiting for the gun to send everyone off.  We also have timing chips which generally differentiate between the chip time and the gun time, since it can take several minutes to actually get over the start line owing to the 2000 – 3000 other runners.
Coming in towards the finish line is also different.  With the marathon it is a case of one last push in trying to shave off a few seconds and come in with a real rush of the Runner’s High and the need to walk or jog a little to aid recovery.  After a long 150 miles the applause was just the same but the focus is on having completed the gruelling challenge and never mind the time.
The mental challenge
It is easy to chart a physical training programme and record your progress, increasing long ride miles each week or two (20 miles, 30 miles, 80 miles, 95 miles….).  Training ourselves mentally for the challenge is more subtle and less easy to pin down.  It is influenced by personality, natural determination, how easy it is to do physically and a whole range of other factors.  And yet we shouldn’t under estimate what part this has to play in an endurance event.  Being physically fit is essential, yes of course, but I would argue you must be mentally prepared as well.  In preparing mentally for a challenge, it is not simply a case of building up the miles.
Taking part in running a popular marathon you’re surrounded by other runners, pretty much all of the time and the effect is to sweep you along.  I tend to run a little faster in this situation, which I suppose is part of the general idea.  This doesn’t stop the occasional feeling of being low and down, this can happen at various points when it seems a struggle.  Cycle events are at times more solitary with people starting at different stages and the field stretching our more easily.  It could be argued that the mental challenge is the biggest challenge of all; having the grit and determination to keep going when it all seems to be too much; this used to be referred to as “character building” by unhelpful, well-meaning people.  Sometimes the monotony of the cycle training used to get to me, particularly on the same roads, in the same bleak weather, the same irritating rattle all added up to be uninspiring at times.  I used to allow my mind to wander onto other things, quite often cycling-related and tried to be positive and this generally worked.  Nevertheless there were low periods when it seemed sensible to ask “why am I doing this….?”
It was using my bike on the cycle turbo trainer which was arguably the most difficult.  I still do not like it and find it very unmotivating.  I can only see it as a means-to-an-end.  Some people I know rate spinning classes quite highly and enjoy them, so this could be a possibility in the future.
Sometimes thinking of some kind of a reward is motivating. When I used to be out cycling last winter – and not always enjoying it – I used to think of that red hot shower I’d have when I got bcd to warm myself up, or that lovely coffee with a slice of cake containing 1000 calories.  I used to think of losing a little more weight.  When I did the Coast to Coast I “gave myself permission” to go and buy myself a carbon fibre bike afterwards (and I still haven’t got around to this and I doubt if I will).
Sometimes any of us will hit a bit of a wall, when our energy levels seem to drop and legs feel like jelly.  Generally this lasts about 5 – 10 minutes and occurs around 20-30 minutes in if I’m running and a little later if I’m cycling.
It is also a tricky challenge in the training, for either discipline, when you’re out in bad weather slogging away and questioning why you’re doing it – I find this is a healthy question to ask and reflect on.   It was during the Coast to Coast cycle ride that I once hit a low patch, somewhere in the second half when I found myself cycling alone – this was unusual in that event.  I also remember feeling a bit fatigued and had cramp.  That was the lowest point and probably the most testing. It was also a point where I had to stop because I had cramp in my upper right leg which was extraordinarily painful (I still remember that!).  And yet no matter how bad it became, there was no way I was going to give up: I knew I was being tested in a way.
So, which is the most difficult then?
For me, it is cycling 150 miles.  Running a marathon seems “easier” by comparison.  However, that’s just me and thank the Lord we are all different.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Running before breakfast

One of the nice things about being a runner is that I'm often asked for advice, tips and so on from friends, colleagues and occasionally through my blog.  The latest question is about running before breakfast i.e. running on an empty stomach.

My answer
Yes, it's fine to do this and I'm speaking from my own experience only here.  For new runners it makes sense to try by "trial and error" to find what's right for you as an individual.  Personally, I like to run without much in my stomach.

In the summer I like running early in the morning, before breakfast for a number of reasons and I have never had any problems in terms of fuelling myself.  I do, however, normally have a mug of tea before I set off but this is about 10 - 15 minutes before I head out.

Normally my pre-breakfast runs in the summer are between 60 and 90 minutes (i.e. 6 to 10 miles).  It's never hot so I have never needed to take any water with me.

If I run a little later in the morning, say 10 or 11am, well it makes sense to have a smallish breakfast at 8am.  That gives enough time for me to digest the food.   For these breakfasts I would normally have a little muesli, with my usual added mixture of ground flaxseeds, a little oat bran and a piece of fruit.  This is washed down with a small glass of smoothie and a coffee and our usual time reading of a passage from the Bible.

Normally I think we will have sufficient fuel stored in our bodies to go running before breakfast.  When we run initially, we use oxygen in our muscles and carbohydrates to fuel us.  As runs become longer we start to draw on fat reserves in our bodies.  Although there isn't a tap which suddenly gets turned on, we need to be running for a while before much fat is used.  When we start burning much fat depends on the individual and a number of other factors i.e. weight, body composition, fitness levels and so on.

But you can take some fuel, if you want
For longer runs or races i.e. marathons, half marathons, energy gels are a good idea for on-the-go fuel.  Click here for some examples of these which are worth trying - important not to take these for the first time on race day, in case they don't agree with you.

Energy gels are easily carried and use, also quick to digest.

If you are diabetic, or have some other medical condition, only you will know the right approach here.  As I said, all I can do is relay my own experience.

Previous post
I have touched on this subject once or twice before, you might find this helps:

When is the best time to run?

Ever done a Bleep Test?

The Strava view of my Bleep Test
Well I can tell you Thursday night's training was fun, once again courtesy of the seriously serious Reggie and James who work together as excellent coaches.  The first challenge for us was a Bleep Test and we were accordingly split into two teams.  I was in Reggie's Reprobates.

You have two parallel lines, 20 metres apart, with cones etc to mark where they are and a coach is positioned at each line to make sure everyone plays by the rules (as if!).  The idea is that you run back and forth in time with the bleeps which gradually get faster and faster.  It starts off fairly easily so there's little more than a jog needed to cover the 20 metres.  Every few bleeps you hear "Level 2, Level 3" and so on, indicating you're moving up to the next level which is slightly faster than the one before.

James fixed up a ghetto blaster so we could all hear the bleeps and this was all done on a tennis court, as you can see on the above image is from the Strava App.  Mind you, the photo is a little deceiving as it was pretty dark and frosty but you can get the drift of how it has picked me up in running back and forth.

Once you have arrived at the line late three times, you're out and the coaches made sure of this.  For myself this was easy to determine as I seriously over-shot the line on one of the sprints and that then put me way behind, so the next two sprints had me out.  I made Level 8.5 which put me roughly in the middle of the field.  I take my hat off to Charlie who kept going until he'd almost doubled my score (this is a reminder of youth - done so effortlessly, without breaking into a sweat).

I am not sure if it was universally liked by the others, as there was a faint groan when it was suggested it could be repeated NEXT YEAR.  Never mind NEXT YEAR, I'd quite like another go, now I know what's involved and even better would be in daylight so I don't over shoot the line again - I might even make Level 9 (he says optimistically, ahemmmmm).

If you're a runner or vaguely interested in fitness, it is worth doing and I can see these are positive reasons for doing so:

  • Great fun, especially in teams
  • Warm up is built in with a gradual build up, although there's nothing to stop anyone from warming up more fully beforehand
  • A great test of speed, cardiovascular ability and agility
  • It doesn't go on for too long, therefore great to combine it with other forms of exercise or training
  • You have a score which you can remember.  Then next time you'll see the difference
  • It tests outright speed, acceleration and agility in turning around
High recommended!

Friday, 23 January 2015

Raspberry smoothie recipe

Raspberry smoothie

My Mother-in-Law is a bit of a hoarder at times and this applies to her stash of frozen raspberries, as well as 40 year old home made mead in her cellar.   So I'm thankful for a couple of things: firstly that she doesn't read my blog, secondly she's happy for me to work my way through her frozen raspberries.  They are now mainly of 2008 vintage, as the younger ones have now been consumed.
I do like raspberries, one of my favourite fruits and they do remind me of summer so much.   Below I will expand on their health properties along with the other fruit.  Firstly, here's my recipe for one of my favourite smoothies:
4oz Raspberries
1 Pomegranate
Quarter of a pink or red grapefruit
Apple juice and/or water for preferred consistency


Couldn't be easier.  Wash or defrost the raspberries.  I normally check them over as raspberries are a soft and delicate fruit, so avoid any bruised or damaged fruit.  With the pomegranate, cut into quarters and spoon out the pink flesh, discarding the skin as best you can.  Pink or red grapefruit is best and use about one quarter, peeled and cut into small slices.
Put all of the fruit into a glass jug, add some juice or water gradually and then use a sharp hand blender to whizz them all together into a scrummy smoothie.  I don't mind having a slightly thicker, soup-like smoothie but I imagine many prefer a more liquid consistency.

Why this smoothie is so good

Above all else, this is a kind of "cleansing" smoothie and delicious.  This is why:
Rasperries contain Vitamins C and B3, folate, biotin, folate, manganese, citric acis, fibre and some sugars.  Also, according to Eating for Immunity by KirstenHartvig, raspberries activate the body's natural self cleansing ability and improve the health of the skin, hair, sweat glands, nerves, liver, bone marrow and mucous membranes.  Actually their usefulness for the body goes much further and at least this will give you an idea about their precious health-giving qualities.
Grapefruit is a very powerful detoxifying fruit, even on its own and helps to remove harmful microbes and strengthen the immune system.  It also has Vitamins A and C, potassium (helps deal with my frequent cramp) and a number of other nutrients.  Of course, grapefruit is not to everyone's taste; I will have it because I know it's good for me and it's quite nice and refreshing on its own.
Pomegranate is a funny kind of fruit that takes a bit of work to get the edible flesh out.  I think it tastes quite nice, sweet but not overly sweet or sickly.  I always had it in the back of my mind that pomegranate was a protective fruit benefitting the prostate gland.  From this NHS article it appears this might be the case but research is not viewed as conclusive at present.
Water and a dash of apple juice helps make the smoothie the right consistency and sweetens it a little.  I hope you like my raspberry smoothie recipe - let me know!

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Run with us - Strava

There's probably a time when all runners need a reminder about how great running is, or perhaps need some inspiration and a nudge to simply get out there and run.

I love this short film by Strava, it's just under two minutes and a wonderful bit of filming in some stunning scenery.  Well worth a look.  I particularly like the opening words of "I like to run by myself, fast and far and free" which brings back a whole load of the memories I have from fantastic runs.

These runs are locked into my memory, nobody can take those away from me and sometimes I will day dream a little and re-live them.  That is such a precious thing and I guess all runners will have memories of their own special runs.

Enjoy the video.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Running at Weston-Super-Mare

Weston-Super-Mare, January 2014
You might think running in January at Weston-Super-Mare sounds a bit optimistic.  January and February are normally the worse months of the year for weather and even on "good" days the conditions can be pretty hostile to runners.  Right? No, wrong.

Sure, it can be rough by the coast with Atlantic winds battering anyone brave enough to run along the seafront - but it doesn't have to be like that.  We were in Weston-Super-Mare this last weekend and the weather was perfect and I could squeeze in a couple of runs.  Exactly the same weekend last year in 2014 was also nice, although you can see from the above photograph, the tides were pretty high then.

So what is there at Weston-Super-Mare?
Weston-Super-Mare is in North Somerset and grew into a significant seaside town in the Victorian era.  The main feature is the promenade, a wide pavement which is about two miles long with views across the bay.  The Severn Estuary is famed for having a particularly wide tides - when the sea goes out, it goes a long, long way!  Needless to say the town has been the butt of such jokes for many-a-year and deservedly so.

From the north end of Weston Bay there is Birnbeck Island and the old pier (currently looking very ropey and probably destined to fall into the sea in a rough storm). Marine Lake is a little further south and that's where the proper promenade starts.  The promenade passes the Grand Pier with all of the usual seaside ice cream shops (looking much smarter these days) and then on to the quieter Beach Lawn area to the southern end passing by some smart apartments.  When I say it is looking better, I do mean that although it is fair to say there is some trashy tat still around, especially near the Grand Pier.  

You can go further on along the beach towards the village of Uphill at the mouth of the River Axe.  This is all flat, quite varied and always something different to see.  

All this gives a runner a few miles of flat surfaces, leading to Personal Best (PB) potentials.  If you look carefully, there is a little sign on the sea front wall by the Winter Gardens telling you it is exactly one mile from the Royal (the apartments at the southern end of the promenade) and this is useful for timing a fast one mile sprint.  My PB is 6 mins 24 seconds, I'm no Roger Bannister!

It's not all as flat as a pancake
Most seasoned runners like to take on some hills as part of their training and I too love running up and down hills!  To the north of Weston there are Weston Woods and the sharpest road climb I know is Monks Hill at about 30% incline but there are plenty of others around which will test the fittest of runners.  

Monks Hill is actually from Kewstoke and at the top it's near one of the entrances to the Woods and I also like to cycle up this road from time to time.  Mind you, you need to watch out for cyclists on their BSOs (Bike Shaped Objects) when realising their brakes are inadequate coming down and their legs/lungs are equally inadequate for riding up.  

At the southern end of Weston Bay there is the hill of Uphill (now that sounds a bit odd, I know).  From here there are some fantastic views across the Somerset levels to the south and well worth taking a look on a clear day.

And other runners
As an occasional visiting runner along the seafront, I'm always amazed at the variety of other runners.  Right from those who are taking their first steps (wobbling along slowly, overweight and carrying a water bottle) right up to faster, lean runners.  You get men, women and teenagers.  You get single runners and couples, sometimes small groups.  Sometimes events are staged (5 and 10k races are often popular) which also brings quite a mixture.

The thing about the runners I have come across is that they're a pretty friendly bunch, always exchanging a "hiya" or at the very least a knowing nod.  I have noticed cyclists also seem to respect the runners.

Promenade -v- beach?
These days I normally tend to stick to the promenade: it's fast, wide and flat.  

If the sea is in - and it looks nice - I'll run alongside the very edge of the water, sometimes splashing my way as the small waves run up over the sand.  This is a lovely thing to do, in fact everyone should do it at some point.  I challenge you to resist thinking of the opening scene from Chariots of Fire....

So there ya go
Weston-Super-Mare, often knocked and ridiculed as a holiday destination and all the cheap seaside tat, is actually a nice place for running, in my humble opinion.