Beginner’s guide to Mountain Biking with Halfords

I’ve always had a bit of a love-hate with cycling. I can still remember my first ‘proper’ bike; it was a pink Raleigh road bike and I covered the wheels in Kellogg’s bike reflectors.  My brother was horrified. I can also remember my first bike crash; I over-estimated my abilities a little and came to grief on a country lane in Dorset when I was 12.

Looking back, the accident in Dorset wasn’t that serious as I only suffered a couple of grazed knees. The handlebars of my bike came off worse and needed fixing. I returned from Dorset and abandoned my bike in the garden shed. It was very much a case of out of sight, out of mind. My focus shifted to other sports such as running and horse-riding; in my opinion riding a horse was a lot safer than riding a bike.

I didn’t go near a bike again until I travelled to New Zealand with my best friend in 2005. As you can imagine, I wasn’t very enthusiastic when my friend suggested we hired a couple of mountain bikes. Once I’d overcome my slightly irrational fear of failing off, I was thrilled to discover that I hadn’t forgotten how to actually ride a bike.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the photo of me looking terrified, so here’s another photo taken in New Zealand. My friend told me I looked a little reluctant.

New Zealand cycling

Although I enjoyed spending the day mountain biking in New Zealand, I returned to a wet and gloomy England, and immediately started training for a half marathon. I didn’t go near a bike for another three years.

In 2008 I completed the London Marathon with an injury and subsequently spent the second half of the year unable to run. I needed a running replacement, so borrowed my friend’s mountain bike, bought myself a cheap and cheerful bike helmet and started to explore some of the less popular trails in Sutton Park.

Sutton Park

I began to enjoy mountain biking so much, I asked for a mountain bike of my own for Christmas. I’m ashamed to admit that the mountain bike I was given almost 10 years ago remained untouched and unloved until the beginning of the year.

Regular readers of my blog will be aware that I’m nearly always injured. I should really rename my blog ‘The Frequently Injured Runner’. At the start of the year, as I wanted to mix up my training a little in an attempt to avoid injuries, I decided to give my mountain bike a second chance. As I’m still too afraid to cycle on roads, I decided to reacquaint myself with some of the trails in Sutton Park.

I made quite a few what I would call embarrassing, rookie errors.

What would be my number one top tip for beginners? Get your bike fitted properly, I didn’t realise my saddle was far too low until a more experienced cyclist stopped me in Sutton Park. While on the subject of saddles, spend a bit extra on a comfortable saddle, your bottom will most definitely thank you. Also make sure that your tyre pressure is correct, it makes a huge difference. Pushing my mountain bike up a steep hill was hard, hard work.

Luckily, the awesome people at Halfords have produced a Beginner’s Guide to Mountain Biking.

Beginners Guide Halfords

I wish that I’d read and digested the contents of this guide before I headed into Sutton Park. The guide starts with a section on ‘How to Pick a Mountain Bike’. Did you know that a smaller rider may find 27.5” wheels more manageable? I didn’t.

The guide then shares some basic mountain biking skills and a mountain biking trail grading guide. I think it’s safe to say I’ll be staying well away from black, double black and orange trails!

The guide then recommends a range of mountain biking trails. Although Sutton Park didn’t make it into the guide, I was pleased to discover that another local park – Cannock Chase – did.

Cannock Chase’s green and blue graded Fairoak and Sherbrook trails provide perfect options for those beginning to bike. Master these and you’ll be tackling its famous Follow the Dog and Monkey trails in no time. As an area of natural beauty the Chase is a perfect place to escape in the heart of the country.”

The Gear List is a little dangerous as it includes links to loads of bits and pieces I don’t really need at this stage in my mountain biking career, but will probably end up buying anyway.

Gear List

The guide then provides an incredibly informative section written by Fiona Outdoors on mountain biking etiquette.

I’m ashamed to confess that I’ve made a couple of blunders since the beginning of the year. Apparently, my approach of riding where I think I’m least likely to fall off is incorrect, I should always ride on the left. Next time I hit the trails – hopefully not literally – I’ll make sure I ride on the left.

The guide concludes with a section on mountain biking slang. I’m already thinking of ways I can introduce the word ‘gnarly’ into my next technical hydrology report. I doubt that anyone would actually notice.

So although I’m still not very confident and tend to spend most of the time worrying about what might go wrong, reading the Beginner’s Guide to Mountain Biking has definitely given me some really useful hints and tips.

You never know, I might ask my friend to drive me and Boris – I gave my mountain bike the least imaginative name ever – the short distance to Cannock Chase to check out some new trails.

If my friend is really lucky, I might even take him to Halfords so that he can pick out a bike from their impressive range of mountain bikes.

Do you have any tips that may help me increase my confidence on two wheels? At the moment, I’m still quite nervous when I ride in Sutton Park.

Have you ever made any mountain biking or cycling blunders? I genuinely had no idea I was meant to stick to the left hand side of trails.

**Full disclosure: This post is written in collaboration with Halfords**

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Race Report: Aldridge 10k

I hope that everyone had an amazing weekend. This blog is a day late because I was actually at work yesterday. Shocking behaviour after an incredibly hectic weekend.

Some of you know I set myself the challenge of running completing 10 races this year. On Sunday I completed my fourth race –the Aldridge 10k.

So what did I think of the Aldridge 10k? Would I run it again? Would I recommend the race to other runners?

As always, I checked the weather forecast quite a few times. The forecast for Sunday was 23°c and sunny, typical. However, first thing on Sunday morning the weather was perfect; cool and dry with a refreshing breeze. The cool conditions unfortunately didn’t last. Ellen very kindly collected me at 09:30 and drove us the short distance to Aldridge. We found somewhere to park and walked the short distance to the race HQ, the local cricket club to collect our numbers.

I found race HQ a touch confusing. The signs weren’t very clear and it took us a couple of attempts to work out where we had to go to collect our numbers. Numbers finally collected and attached – there were a lot of safety pins – we decided to find out where the 10k race would start from. We found the 5k muster point, an impressive selection of trophies and the finish line. Virtually everything but the start of the 10k race.

The next challenge was finding somewhere for a pre-race pee. The queues for the portaloos were quite long so we checked out the cricket club’s Clubhouse. Bingo! Real toilets with a small queue. Toilet stop done and dusted, as it was still quite chilly we completed a pre-race warm-up. Ellen met up with some of her running club friends and organised some ‘before’ photos. We then squeezed in a second pre-race pee and then followed a sea of runners towards the mystery start location.

I’ve included one of the official race photos because I can just about make out my black cap in the distance.

Aldridge start

[Photo: Brian Smith]

The sun made an unwelcome appearance just before the race started at 11:00. One minute it was nice and cool, the next minute it was hot and sunny. I regretted wearing black.

At the start Aldridge

The first mile was hot and if I’m being honest rather uninspiring as it took us alone the main Walsall Road until we turned left at a pub and onto the amusingly named Bosty Lane. I’d describe the second mile as undulating and dull.

Youtube 3

[Source: James Cruze]

This section of the course was made more challenging as we had to run on the pavements as the roads hadn’t been closed. I was a little frustrated because I enter road races to run on the road, not on uneven pavements with niggle inducing dropped kerbs.

Mile three was also undulating. I wanted to walk but just about managed to carry on running. The highlights of mile four were the hoses and the sponge and drinks stations.

As I still haven’t quite mastered the art of running and drinking at the same time, I walked through the drinks station. I was a little disappointed to be handed a small plastic cup with hardly any water in it. A bottle would have been welcome on such a warm day! We spotted a camera, waved and continued on our way.

Youtube 1

[Source: Aldridge Now & Then]

Youtube 2

[Source: Aldridge Now & Then]

The penultimate mile was quite tricky because my fragile right knee didn’t appreciate the rather steep hill section. The half a mile down hill away from the centre of Aldridge and the start of the race worried me because I knew it meant the final part of the race would be incredibly challenging.

I’m ashamed to report that I gave into the heat, my dodgy right knee and my lack of mental toughness and walked quite a large section of the final mile. I’m afraid that the inspirational quotes someone had chalked onto the road did very little to inspire this hot and grumpy runner.

Aldridge Mile 5 and 6

[Photo: Ron Reynolds]

A few runners had warmed me about the “nightmare hill” between miles five and six. As a result I gave the hill far, far too much respect. Miles one to five had been completed at 09:xx min/mile pace; it took me over 11 minutes to complete mile six. The final part of the race was mentally tough as we had a couple of loops around a field.

I crossed the line in 01:01:45, collected my medal, goody bag and t-shirt -the Wolves colour was an added bonus – and found Ellen who’d finished before me.

Aldridge medal

We spent a bit of time recovering and then dug out our beer tokens and joined the queue for the free post-race half pint of beer. Beer successfully collected, we spent an enjoyable 15 minutes chilling out, discussing the race and drinking our beer. I couldn’t stay too long as I had to get ready for the journey back down to Wallingford.

Although my own race performance was a little disappointing, Ellen ran a seriously impressive time. I’m really enjoying watching her get faster and faster. The race was well organised and incredibly well supported. I received my official time via text the second I crossed the finish line and the first set of event photographs were available to download for free the same day as the race. It’s just a shame the photographer didn’t stay to take photos of everyone finishing…

This race report has turned into an essay so I’ll stop writing and leave you with a selection of Strava stats. I think it’s pretty obvious where I struggled.

If any more photos make an appearance online I’ll add them to this post.

So would I recommend the Aldridge 10k? Possibly, but I’d also recommend runners carry their own water with them if it’s a hot day. Advice I should follow myself.

Race ratings:

  • Cost: 9/10 – £13.75 (the entry fee included free downloads of official race photos)
  • Course: 8/10
  • Medal: 6/10
  • Race t-shirt: 9/10
  • Goody Bag: 8/10 (I loved the race number magnet thingys)

Do you ever wonder what happens to all the photos people take of runners during races? Loads of random people were taking photos on Sunday; they never seem to appear online. Strange!

Have you ever managed to dodge all the official race photographers? I’m starting to think that although I’m tall I’m also invisible.

Do you think 11:00 is too late to start a race? I much prefer an earlier start time as it’s cooler and the roads are less congested.

Still feeling a bit lost and alone

Last November I decided to risk blogging about something other than running and fitness. My Feeling a bit lost and alone blog was read by over a thousand people and the support I received was invaluable.

As it’s now over six months since I put pen to paper and poured my heart out, I decided it’s time for an update.A well placed bench

I’m pleased to report that if I ignore the fact my bank account was emptied at the end of last month – thanks Active! – at the moment I feel slightly more in control of my life. I know that I need to make a few changes but I feel more in control than I did in November.

My close friend and mentor is still battling his rare and unfortunately incurable form of thyroid cancer. I managed to spend some time with him just before Christmas and have seen him twice this year. I still miss our daily hydrology and life chats and I think it’s safe to say I’ll never forget him. I raised over £500 for a thyroid cancer charity and hope to raise more money for the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.

I got the opportunity to say “thank you” and later on this year have the opportunity to make him proud when I present my research at a hydrology conference.

Back in November I shared my concerns about working in an office environment for the first time in a number of years. I’m pleased to report that although from time to time I find working in a large open plan office a little overwhelming, my colleagues are awesome and have been incredibly supportive.

My line manager actively encourages us to take breaks as and when we need them and I doubt many other managers would have allowed me to drop what I was doing so that I could travel down to London to see my mentor.

While I’m still travelling back home most weekends, I’m pleased I accepted the temporary assignment and relocated (sort of) to Wally. The only downside to the temporary contract is the fact I’m now job hunting again. I’m really going to miss my colleagues when my contract comes to an end. I’m reasonably confident I’ll keep in touch with some of them.

I was also incredibly stressed out about the festive period. I had very little money, had failed to find myself a temporary Christmas job and felt like I’d let people down. Although Christmas was a little stressful at times, my family and friends didn’t seem too bothered about the lack of expensive presents. If I ever find myself in the same sort of situation, I hopefully won’t let myself get so worked up.

Finally, I’m now 39 *gulp* and unfortunately still feel completely alone. I’ve now accepted that I’m going to be left on the shelf forever, and will end up living alone surrounded by rescue cats. I’m not single by choice and I’m not happy living alone and not having anyone to turn to for advice.  I guess I’ll have to hope that I meet my ‘Mr Right’ in the vegetable aisle of my local supermarket.

So although I’m feeling far, far happier than I did six months ago, until I find myself a permanent job and can plan ahead, I’m afraid that I’m still feeling a bit lost and alone.

Apologies for asking a slightly nosey question but where did you meet your partner? I’m thinking that hanging around the vegetable aisle in Sainsbury’s isn’t working.

Have you ever considered online dating? I’ve read so many horror stories I’m terrified of adding a profile.   

A parkrun, some sun, a fun run and a BBQ

Happy Monday! I hope that everyone had an awesome weekend and enjoyed the sunshine. I booked Monday off work so I’m enjoying another extra long weekend.

Most of you will know my Friday afternoon routine now. I left the office at 15:00 and arrived back home in Four Oaks three hours later. I spent what was left of the evening getting all my washing done, catching up on a couple of my favourite TV programmes and eating unhealthy food.

I woke up well before my alarm on Saturday which was a little bit frustrating as I wanted a lie in. I hadn’t originally planned to head to parkrun but when my friend offered to drive me I felt that I couldn’t say no.

Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy parkrun very much and kind of wish that I’d stayed in bed. I set out at a slightly ambitious pace, struggled in the humid conditions and seriously considered dropping out after the second lap.

Parkrun lap 2

[Photo: Ron Reynolds]

I gave myself a serious talking to, completed the final lap and finished in 28:14, a time I would have been over the moon with a year ago.

The short walk back to the car park felt like a marathon and I don’t think I’ve ever ended a 5k run with such a red face. The camera really doesn’t lie; sometimes I wish that it did!

Emma the beetroot

I also don’t think I’ve been so relieved to sit down for a couple of minutes after a run. I felt so nauseous, there was no way I was risking getting straight back into a boiling hot car.

A well placed bench

I’ve no idea why but I felt quite peaky for a few hours after parkrun and had zero appetite, definitely most unlike me and not ideal the day before a challenging 8.5 mile run.

Fortunately, a quick afternoon nap seemed to do the trick and I woke up feeling reasonably ‘normal’ again. As parkrun had left me feeling slightly dehydrated and I had a headache, I made myself drink a couple of glasses of orange flavoured Nuun.

The rest of my Saturday was quiet and relaxing, just what I needed. I made sure that I drank loads of water, avoided the local Chinese takeaway and the local weather forecasts. I went to bed at the not so rock and roll time of 22:00.

A combination of bright sunlight, heat and noisy birds woke me far too bright and early on Sunday morning. Not ideal when I desperately wanted a lie in. The fun run didn’t start until the incredibly late time of 11:00 so I had almost too much time to faff around before I set off on the short walk to the local train station.

My running buddy Ellen spotted me walking to the train station and kindly gave me a lift. We met up with Ellen’s friend Ruth and arrived in the centre of Sutton Coldfield with plenty of time for a couple of pre-race toilet visits. We entered the start area at 10:30 and spent the next 45 minutes or so getting hotter and hotter. I don’t think I’ve ever been so relieved to watch the sun disappear behind some clouds.

GMFR 2018 start

Nervous at the start

The run started and it was so crowded it took me almost a mile to get into my stride. I don’t enjoy running in hot weather and felt incredibly nauseous so decided to slow down. Somewhere between the first and second mile I noticed that my Garmin had switched itself off, not ideal but I managed to get it working again. To make matters worse my dodgy right calf started to hurt, a lot. We entered Sutton Park, I stopped at a drinks station to grab myself some water and never really got going again.

I told Ellen and Ruth to run on without me and walked for a couple of minutes to assess my calf. Walking didn’t help and I decided to switch my focus from getting a decent time to having a good time.

I power walked up the numerous uphill sections and ran very slowly down the downhill sections. I soaked up the atmosphere as I ran through the centre of Sutton Park near Town Gate and stopped for a quick chat with a teacher I hadn’t seen for several years.

Cardiac Hill

I reached the bottom of Cardiac Hill and spotted Matt in the distance dressed as an Oompa Loompa. I caught up with Matt and we successfully negotiated Cardiac Hill together. We reached the top, grabbed some much needed water and headed back towards the centre of Sutton Coldfield and the finish.

Miles three to six of the run were shockingly slow and I was embarrassed when I looked at the stats on Strava. The final couple of miles were slightly more respectable – probably because they were more runner friendly i.e. down hill – and I had plenty left in the tank to sprint to the finish line.

I crossed the line, collected a medal from an old school friend, grabbed some water and then spent 15 minutes trying to track down Ellen and Ruth. We were eventually reunited at the train station.

GMFR 2018 medal

I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the sunshine, drinking beer and enjoying my first BBQ for years. The perfect way to take my mind off a somewhat disappointing Great Midlands Fun Run. Next year, I’ll make sure I’m on the other side of the barriers enjoying a pint of beer and supporting the runners.

My next race is the Aldridge 10k on Sunday. I’ve literally got everything crossed that the weather is a little kinder; I’ve had enough of running in the heat.

Do you enjoy running in the sun? If it’s boiling hot on Sunday I suspect the Aldridge 10k will be a DNS as it doesn’t start until 11:00.

Do you have any sun cream recommendations? The P20 I wore smelt terrible and wasn’t very effective.

Rants and raves #28

**Disclaimer: I’m writing this post in my boiling hot room in Wallingford as I’m doing my best to avoid my housemates. Sometimes, I just really need some peace and quiet. As always, all moans and groans and rants and raves represent my own views. Other, less negative and far superior running and fitness blogs are available**

Rave: Wallingford

It took me quite a while, but I’m finally appreciating how lucky I am to work and live in Wallingford. I’ve realised that I moved to Wallingford during possibly the most depressing month of the year – January – and found walking to and from the office in the dark really uninspiring. This month I’ve (kind of) made the most of the light evenings and have spent quite a lot of time relaxing next to the River Thames with a pint after work.WallingfordI’ve got to know some of my colleagues a lot better and have learnt how to chill out after work. I’ve also enjoyed(?) training with the local running group and have found plenty to do after work. The only negatives of living in Wallingford are the extortionate costs of renting a tiny room in a shared house. I could also add RAF Benson and noisy helicopters at 02:00 but I won’t.

Rant: Living in a shared house

I’m still finding living in a shared house a touch challenging at times. Since my last rant on the same subject, I’ve been scalded in the shower on several occasions. Not ideal and frustrating when I shower as late in the evening as possible to avoid this happening. As you can imagine, I wasn’t exactly thrilled when someone stuck on a load of washing when I’d just stepped in the shower. Cheers!

The kettle went ‘AWOL’ last weekend and hasn’t been replaced. Rather amusing. The smoke alarm in the kitchen has never worked and I’m not convinced the landlord has a clue about fire regulations.

Rave: Racecheck

I recently headed out for an evening run and returned to over 100 notifications on twitter. My initial reaction was something along the lines of “what on earth have I done?”

I then discovered that after reviewing the Cathedral to Castle Run on Racecheck, I’d become a member of their Visor Club. After a slight delay due to me not being at home, I rescued my visor from the local sorting office.Racecheck visorNext time I’m at a race I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for other people wearing a Racecheck visor. I’ll also work out a way to actually wear my visor as I’ve got a slightly smaller than average head…

Rant: GDPR emails

I’ve lost count of the number of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) related emails I’ve received this month. ‘Last chance to stay in touch’, ‘Would you like to hear more from us?’, ‘We need you to update your preferences’, ‘We’d love you to stay in touch’, ‘GDPR…you know the drill’ and perhaps the most amusing; ‘You’re about to become extinct’. Really?

I’ve received emails from brands and companies I don’t recall ever buying anything from or contacting. Rather ironically, I’m still waiting for an email from the most spammy company on the planet.

At least my email inbox will be a little less cluttered next month.

Rave: Competition wins

A couple of years ago I won quite a few useful bits and pieces through twitter and facebook competitions. My winning streak came to an end and I assumed I’d used up all of my luck.AfterShokzAs you can imagine, although I was obviously over the moon when I discovered that I won a pair of AfterShokz Trekz Air headphones in a twitter competition, I was also a little concerned it was a mistake.

I can’t wait to test them out when they arrive. I’ll definitely be writing a review at some point.

Rant: Working in an open plan office

The office I work in is large and at times incredibly noisy. I’m sure that there are bazillions of advantages to working in an open plan office but I find it hard to concentrate when it’s noisy. Luckily, my line manager lets me listen to music but it’s not a long-term solution. And don’t mention the lack of phones, the clear desk policy and window wars.

Rant: My local athletics track

Apologies for the ‘bonus’ rant. I walked past my local athletics track a couple of weeks ago and was horrified to discover that it would cost me almost a fiver to use.

I’m aware that athletics tracks are expensive to maintain but surely Birmingham City Council should be trying to encourage people to use their sports facilities. No wonder I’ve never seen anyone using the track in the daytime.

Rave: New trainers

I’ll end on a positive note with a bonus rave. After my old pair of Brooks trainers started to look (and feel) a little past their best, I decided to crack open a new pair.new-shooooeeess1.jpgOnce I’d successfully transferred my custom insoles into my new trainers – this was quite tricky as they we wedged in my old trainers – I was ready to run. The new trainers felt amazing and thanks to some online research were as cheap as chips. Fingers crossed my injury prone feet and knees also love them.

Once again, if you’ve managed to reach the end of my latest random selection of rants and raves, a massive thank-you. I hope my rants and my raves were reasonable.

Do you enter competitions? If you do, what is the best thing you’ve ever won in a competition?

Do you work in an open plan office? I need some tips for coping with the noise.

Race Report: Wallingford Thames Run

Happy Wednesday, the long weekend is rapidly approaching. If you don’t enjoy reading rather lengthy race reviews then I’d recommend you stop reading. I promise I won’t be offended.

Some of you know I set myself the challenge of completing 10 races in 2018.  On Sunday I completed my second race – the Wallingford Thames Run. I’ve clearly got a bit of catching up to do.Group photo

[Photo: Run Wallingford]

So what did I think of the Wallingford Thames Run? Would I run it again? Would I recommend the race to other runners?

Entry was straightforward. I headed to the race entry page, filled in my details and paid my entry fee of £15. The only minor irritation was discovering that numbers would have to be collected on the morning of the race. I much prefer having numbers posted to me and am more than happy to pay extra for the privilege.

The weather on Sunday was perfect – almost a little too perfect – and I decided to forget about times and to enjoy what was a completely new to me event.

Registration was simple and it took me a matter of seconds to collect my number and some safety pins. I then proceeded to spend 10 minutes struggling to pin my race number onto my t-shirt without stabbing myself. Number safely attached, I decided to locate the toilets while it was still reasonably quiet. I’m not sure if the queues got longer later on but I didn’t have to queue for any of my pre-race nervous toilet visits.

The race HQ was a local primary school. Thanks to some excellent planning, the race coincided with the annual Summer Fete. This meant that there were several stands to keep me occupied. The only downside was having to ignore the aroma of sausage and burgers. I doubt that even my hardcore stomach could cope with a sausage sarnie 30 minutes before a 10k.

I met up with some of the members of the local running group – most were volunteering – posed for a group photo and then headed towards the start area for a warm-up. By this stage it was really warm so I decided to watch everyone else leaping around.

Warmup

Warm-up completed, we shuffled closer to the start, listened to some announcements and then the race started.

It took me a minute to cross the start line.

It took me a couple of minutes of being overtaken by speedy runners to realise the 5k runners had started at the same time as the 10k runners. I stopped worrying about how fast other people were running and started to enjoy the rather epic scenery. The race followed a section of my not so enjoyable run on Wednesday evening run and into a much needed shaded section. A few runners were complaining about the congestion through this section, I shut out the moaning and focused on attention on the surface which was a touch ‘bumpy’ in places. I smiled grimaced for the race photographer and rather reluctantly left the shaded section behind.

Lap 1

[Photo: Barry Cornelius]

The next section of the course was a little uninspiring and involved running alongside the A4130 for a couple of minutes, a steep downhill back towards the river and a slightly speed-sapping 360 degree turn. Tricky turn completed, we ran next to the River Thames before heading into the centre of Wallingford.

I’m not sure why I’d assumed the race took place on closed roads because it didn’t. For several frustrating seconds I found myself trapped behind an elderly pedestrian I couldn’t overtake so I used the unexpected walking break to catch my breath. We left the centre of Wallingford behind and ran across the bridge back towards the start of the 5k route.

Seeing loads of runners finish when I had another 5k to go was a tad demoralising. I stopped at the water station, made sure that I actually drank some water and headed out on the second lap.

The hazards of running in the countryside were highlighted when I had to slow to a walk to give way to someone driving a tractor. I found ‘tractorgate’ quite amusing, other runners didn’t. I ran past the location of the race photographer on the first lap – he’d moved – and back towards the River Thames.

I was really struggling by this stage so wasn’t exactly thrilled when I spotted the race photographer in the distance. By this stage there were hardly any other runners around me so I had no one to hide behind. I smiled and thanked the photographer and carried on running.Lap 2 1

Lap 2 2

[Photos: Barry Cornelius]

On the first lap I got stuck behind a pedestrian, on the second lap a group of us spent what felt like forever waiting for the opportunity to cross the main road.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt so relieved to reach the end of a 10k. I crossed the line and headed straight to the water table. I was impressed when I discovered that the Wallingford Thames Run was a plastic free event and I was handed a plastic cup of water. I guess starting and finishing a race at a primary school does have some perks.

Medal

I was handed a medal and headed towards another major perk – the bar – and treated myself to a pint of cold and refreshing beer.

Pint pose

I found myself somewhere to sit in the shade and spent an enjoyable 30 minutes people watching and relaxing. Recovery (and pint) complete, I walked the mile or so back to my shared house, had a shower, got dressed and had a Sunday snooze.

Although my own race performance was a little below par, the Wallingford Thames Run was incredibly well organised from start to finish. Event photographs were available to download for free a couple of hours after the race and the official results were published in the evening.

As always, this race report has turned into an essay so I’ll stop waffling and leave you with a selection of Strava stats from the race.

So would I recommend the Wallingford Thames Run? Let’s just say I’m a little disappointed I won’t be around to improve my time next year.

Race ratings:

  • Cost: 10/10 – £15 (I think! All profits went to charity and the entry fee included free downloads of official race photos)
  • Course: 8/10
  • Medal: 5/10
  • Race t-shirt: n/a
  • Goody Bag: n/a

What is the strangest thing you’ve had to ‘give way’ to during a race? I can honestly say I didn’t think I’d ever be held up by a tractor.

Do you think race organisers should do more to reduce the amount of plastic waste that is produced during races?

A challenging run and a weekend in Wallingford

As always, I hope that everyone had an amazing weekend. The weather in Wallingford was almost too perfect.

Before I recap the weekend I’ll rewind to last Wednesday. After a rather challenging day in the office, I decided to join up with the local running group after work. I discovered that my options were limited to either a one mile or a five mile run. As I didn’t see any point in paying £1 to run a mile, I decided to join up with the five mile group.

We headed straight out on our run without warming-up – not ideal as my Garmin didn’t record anything for the first five minutes – and headed along a slightly overgrown track. We crossed a main road, ran down a path and ended up running through a random field. As a newcomer to Wallingford; I genuinely had no idea where we were.Wednesday runI checked my Garmin and saw that we were running at 9:xx min/mile pace. So much for a relaxing and enjoyable five mile run after work.

We ran along past Benson Lock and across a rather springy bridge, past some seriously posh houses and cottages and onto a main road. I was still completely lost and was starting to struggle to keep up with the rest of the group.

It was a case of keep up or potentially get lost. I kept up.

After a couple of miles we ran past my office and I finally knew where I was. We reached the end of the road, turned left and started to run away from the centre of Wallingford. Miles three to four are a complete blur. The three ladies I’d been following headed further into the distance and I was left on my own.

The pace increased even more as we ran across Wallingford Bridge and back into the centre of the town. We ran through the town, past the fish and chip shop, through Bull Croft Park and back to where we started.

The rest of the group looked like they’d been out for a Sunday stroll; I could hardly breathe and had to sit down for a couple of minutes. It was more than a little embarrassing. I slept well that night.

On Friday afternoon, I headed to the Boat House straight after work with a colleague. I’m not sure drinking three pints of reasonably strong beer was that sensible, but after tweaking my right knee on Wednesday, I’d already decided not to head to Didcot parkrun.The Boat HouseAlthough not heading home straight after work felt a little strange, I really enjoyed chilling out next to the river. I’m such a lightweight, however, I don’t think I’d ever make drinking after work part of my Friday routine. I enjoy parkrun far too much.

Predictably, my head felt quite fuzzy when I woke up on Saturday morning. I made myself a much needed cup of tea and headed back to bed for a snooze. Unfortunately, one of my housemates seemed to be determined to make as much noise as possible so I decided to get up.

I spent what I suspect will be the only Saturday I spend in Wallingford applying for jobs, lying on my bed relaxing, dozing and reading a book. I only left my room a couple of times and did an awesome impression of a hermit. Not the most productive or sociable of days but after a pretty full on week, I needed to spend some time on my own.

I ate a reasonably healthy meal, checked the weather forecast for the millionth time, laid out my running gear, set my alarm for 06:00 and watched some of the Night of the 10000m PB’s online. Next year I’ll make sure I travel down to London as the atmosphere looked amazing.

BBC weather

I was woken up at 06:30 on Sunday morning by what sounded like a couple of dog walkers having a heated argument about an out of control dog. So much for a lie in. I dragged myself out of bed, had a shower and got changed into some running gear. I then popped downstairs to make myself my usual pre-race cup of tea. Well that was the plan. Unfortunately, when I got in the kitchen I discovered that the kettle was missing. Have I mentioned before just how hard I’m finding it living in shared house.

I packed everything I thought I’d need in my running bag and walked the mile or so to the HQ of the Wallingford Thames Run – a local primary school. As I’m going to review the race in another post I won’t go into detail but it was hot, challenging underfoot, friendly, and slow.

Wallingford 10k

I walked back home, had a much needed second shower of the day and walked the short distance to meet up with another colleague for lunch. It was so nice to spend some time in a ‘normal’ house with luxuries such as a kettle and an incredibly well maintained garden.

The rest of my Sunday was spent napping, writing, catching up on emails, and generally chilling out. Although I don’t think I’ll be spending too many weekends in Wallingford, my first weekend was enjoyable. The only thing missing was a BBQ.

Did you have a good weekend?

Do you find running in the warm weather challenging?