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?

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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?

Rants and raves #27

**Disclaimer: I’m writing this post as my extra long weekend is coming to an end. I really don’t want to start the long journey back down to Wallingford later this afternoon. As always, all rants and raves and moans and groans represent my own views. Other, less negative and far superior running and fitness blogs are available**

Rave: Skid Row Marathon

Last Wednesday, I headed to the Corn Exchange cinema in Wallingford to watch Skid Row Marathon. I met up with some other members of the Run Wallingford group, treated myself to a bottle of Crabbie’s and settled down to watch the film.Wallingford Corn Exchange

I don’t want to give too much away, but if you get the opportunity please, please go and watch Skid Row Marathon. I was in tears before it even started. The actions of Judge Craig Mitchell definitely left me with a lot to think about. You may even spot another running blogger *waves*

Here’s the link to the official trailer and to the amazing poem that accompanied the film called ‘I Run On’ written by Molly Case.

Rant: My Garmin 235

Earlier this year I treated myself to a Garmin Forerunner 235. My old second-hand Garmin Forerunner 220 was over three years old and I wanted a slightly more ‘blingy’ Garmin.

Garmin 235

At the moment, I’m not very impressed with the Garmin 235. The battery life is useless, it takes over five minutes to pick up satellites, the wrist-based heart rate monitor is not even remotely accurate and the watch itself feels incredibly fragile and flimsy. I suspect that I’ll be treating myself to another running watch sooner rather than later.

At least the charging lead is machine washable…

Rave: Running

I’m really, really enjoying being able to run at the moment. As I don’t want to spend more time on the injury bench, I’m trying to be sensible and have been closely monitoring my niggles. I’ve been avoiding running down steep hills and have been careful not to increase my mileage too quickly.

My right knee still twinges occasionally when I walk to and from work. I don’t understand why as it doesn’t hurt when I’m running… Slightly strange! My left foot where I had a stress fracture a few years also feels a little ‘strange’

Although I’ve had some great runs recently and nothing beats running outside after a rubbish day in the office, not all of my runs in Wallingford have been enjoyable.

Rant: Hecklers

The first few months of running in Wallingford were both heckle and incident free. Unfortunately, last week I was heckled four times during a single five mile run around Wallingford. Most of the heckles were pathetic and rather unimaginative. I mean, shouting “Get those long bloody legs moving faster” from a car window was pretty tame.

The final heckle, however, was totally unacceptable, particularly coming from another female. I was so angry at being called a “fat bitch” I actually stopped running and stood in complete silence in front of the heckler. The heckler clearly didn’t think I’d be brave enough to actually stop running and walked away from me.

And I thought Wallingford was mean to be a posh town…

Rave: My Brooks trainers

I was a little surprised when Strava alerted me to the fact I’d completed over 400 miles in my current pair of Brooks trainers. My current trainers are still incredibly comfortable and I don’t think they need replacing. However, I’m an incredibly injury-prone runner…

The Strava alert left me with a bit of a dilemma; should I risk continuing to run in my current pair of Brooks or should I crack open a replacement pair? I’ve decided to replace my current pair at the end of the month.Running shoes

[Source]

I’ve just got to work out how to remove my SOLE inserts, they appear to be virtually impossible to remove.

Rant: Manspreading

Anyone who follows me on twitter will be aware that I like to have a good train-related rant. My number one pet hate is manspreading. For those people fortunate enough not to have experienced manspreading, here’s a definition:Manspreading

[Source]

I’m already dreading travelling back to Oxford later today. I can more or less guarantee that thanks to the layout of the seats on the Oxford train, I’ll find myself squashed into the corner of my window seat by either a manspreader or a womanspreader (they do most definitely exist).

Rave: Portable alcohol

I’m aware that drinking cans of pre mixed spirits on the train probably makes me look like I’m desperate for a drink. I’ve reached the stage I don’t care because it’s such an effective way of winding down on a Friday afternoon.Train booze

Opening a can also helps me deal with manspreaders, train delays, noisy passengers, smelly passengers and other train related irritations. Not driving home from Wallingford has some benefits.

Once again, if you’ve managed to reach the end of my latest random selection of rants and raves, thank-you. I’m aware that I said this last time, but I’m hopeful that my next rants and raves post will be slightly more positive.

Did you watch Skid Row Marathon? If you did, what did you think?

Have you ever found a running related purchase incredibly disappointing? I’m seriously considering returning my Garmin Forerunner 235.

What do you do with your old trainers? I’m a bit of a hoarder and tend to keep hold of my old trainers.  

An awesome weekend of running

I hope that everyone had an amazing weekend. Thanks to the flexi system we have at work, I’ve got the day off.

Although my weekend was disappointingly less food-filled than last weekend, I managed to fit in a couple of awesome runs. Watching Skid Row Marathon must have inspired me more than I realised.

parkrun

[Source]

On Saturday I woke up well before my alarm – odd given my struggles with getting out of bed during the week, and laid out my kit ready for parkrun. I ate a banana, had a shower and phoned my friend to make sure he was willing to drive me to Walsall Arboretum. Although he took a bit of convincing – apparently it was too cold for parkrun – he eventually agreed.

We arrived at the Arboretum at 8:40. This was brilliant as it meant that I had time to warm-up before parkrun started. When I got out the car I realised that the weather was perfect, dry and not too warm or windy. I had no excuses. I jogged to the start and positioned myself a lot nearer the front than I usually would.  I spent 10 minutes or so chatting to another runner and managed to get ‘papped’ with my eyes closed – I must have been deep in thought – by Ron the race photographer.

parkrun start[Photo: Ron Reynolds]

“Three, two, one, go…”

It took me a couple of seconds to start running and I was able to run at sub 9:00/mile pace almost straight away. If anything, I was a little too ambitious and set out a little too quickly for my current fitness levels. I decided to run as fast as I could for as long as I could. Simple.

The first lap was a bit of a blur. I overtook a few people and a lot of people came flying past me. I made sure that I thanked all the volunteers and tried to relax. The only minor irritation was my  pair of new and untested Lululemon shorts which kept riding up.

parkrun lap 1[Photo: Ron Reynolds]

The second lap was physically challenging and my pace started to slow. I was paying for my fast start and was struggling to control my breathing, not ideal for an asthmatic. I tried to find runners to pace me, this tactic was reasonably successful and I spent most of the second lap tucked in behind a couple of male runners. I somehow completely dodged the photographer.

The final lap felt great, probably because I knew the finish was getting closer with every stride. I did some dodgy mental sums, and worked out I’d finish in under my target time of 28 minutes if I maintained a sensible pace. I just needed to avoid walking. I managed to dodge the photographer again, and headed towards the finish. The only minor irritation was getting elbowed by another runner in the final 100m. If anything, the actions of Mr Elbow made me run faster. I sprinted(?) across the finish line, stopped my Garmin, took a finish token, got my barcode and token scanned and then jogged back to the car park to meet my friend.

pakrun finish

I knew that I’d finished in under 28 minutes as my Garmin time was 27:10. I was thrilled when the official results came through a couple of hours later and matched my Garmin time.

parkrun result

So although I’m aware I’ve still got a long, long way to go to achieve my goal of a sub 25 minute parkrun, I’m finally starting to believe that one day I will. I just need to learn how to push myself out of my comfort zone when I’m running.

Yesterday morning, I met up with Ellen for a long overdue catch-up and chilled out run in Sutton Park. After a quick discussion about where to run, I came up with the suggestion of running some of the Great Midlands Fun Run route.

We headed towards Jamboree Stone – I was a little disappointed we didn’t stop at the ice cream van – and joined the Great Midlands Fun Run route at approximately 3.5 miles.GMFR route

[Source]

We left the Jamboree Stone, headed past Keepers Pool and towards Town Gate. I pointed out the usual location of the 5 mile marker and a drinks station and we embarked on the most challenging section of the Great Midlands Fun Run course, the steep climb past Blackroot Pool and up the infamous ‘Cardiac Hill’.

Anyone who has ever completed the Great Midlands Fun Run will know why ‘Cardiac Hill’ is so challenging. The hill is steep and feels like it will never end. There is an evil turn where you think you have reached the top but you haven’t. We just about managed to run to the top without slowing to a walk and then stopped for a few seconds to work out where we wanted to run next.

As we didn’t want to leave Sutton Park, we headed away from the Great Midlands Fun Run course and attempted to run along the perimeter of the park. We stopped for a quick selfie – I’m not sure why I look so worried – and carried on running.

Sutton park run

After a couple of enforced walking breaks due to virtually impassable patches of mud, we headed out of the park and back into Four Oaks. I asked Ellen how far she wanted to run and we agreed to run until we reached 10k. We increased our pace, made it to 10k and then walked the short distance back to Ellen’s house. I stopped for a couple of glasses of orange squash and some more running related chat, and then headed back home.

The rest of my Sunday was relatively chilled out. I entered the Aldridge 10k and made a few changes to my race calendar for the rest of 2018. I don’t think I’ll be taking part in the Vitality London 10,000 as I can’t get back from London on the Monday. At least I can get a refund on my hotel booking.

Next weekend will be a little different as I’ll be spending the weekend in Wallingford for the first time. If I manage to drag myself out of bed early enough, the plan is to head to either Didcot  or Abingdon parkrun on Saturday. On Sunday morning I’m looking forward to taking part in the Wallingford Thames 10k.

Did you have a good weekend?

Did you made it to parkrun?

Do you ever have to completely rearrange your race calendar?

A belated birthday, a parkrun and too much food

I hope that everyone had an amazing Bank Holiday weekend. How amazing was the weather? Returning to Wallingford later is going to be even more of a chore than normal.

I’ll start by rewinding a week. Last Tuesday I reached the grand old age of 39. I celebrated(?) my birthday in an incredibly quiet office. There was no cake and no after work drinks, I don’t think many people realised it was my birthday. The highlight of the day was my right knee surviving a five mile run after work.

I wasn’t too fussed as I knew my birthday celebrations would take place during the weekend.

I made my usual quick escape from the office at 15:00 on Friday, and arrived back in Four Oaks three hours later. After demolishing far too much Chinese food, I spent my Friday evening tackling the washing mountain, catching up on Chicago Fire and just chilling out. Boring but I needed some time to relax.

On Saturday, I woke up ridiculously early and couldn’t get back to sleep. I decided to risk running a little faster (for me) at Walsall parkrun.

I arrived at the Arboretum, jogged to the start area and made sure I lined up a little nearer the front than I usually would. I crossed the start line and spent a couple of minutes struggling to get into any sort of rhythm.

Not the most flattering parkrun photo, I can’t tell if I’m smiling or grimacing. Walsall 1

[Photo: Laurie-Anne Kennedy]

I wanted the finish in sub-28 minutes, but given the heat and my lack of running faster than 10 min/miles recently, I was happy to finish in 28:18. I’m aware that I’ve said it before but next time 😉

I jogged back to the top end of the Arboretum where my friend was waiting – apparently I looked just like a beetroot – posed for the traditional post-parkrun photo, and was given a lift home. Post Walsall

I had a couple of hours to start my ironing, to have a shower, to lose my red face and to get ready for my first belated birthday meal.

I met my friend at Bistrot Pierre in Mere Green, selected a table inside the restaurant (it was far too hot to sit outside) and spent a few minutes working out what to eat. After a lot of debate, I opted for the Cassolette de moules to start with followed by Steak-Frites and Crème brûlée to finish.

Although I managed to eat all three courses, I felt incredibly peaky when I’d finished the Crème brûlée. I never usually struggle to eat, so will blame it on the warmer than average weather.

Food food food

The rest of Saturday afternoon was quiet and may have involved a power nap; I guess it’s all good practice for when I turn 40 next year. I caught up on some blog related admin, listed some unwanted running gear on FleaBay and finished my ironing. Fun, fun, fun! Adulting tasks over, I had my third shower of the day, got changed and walked to the local pub to meet some school friends.

I had such a boozy night my early Sunday morning run didn’t take place.

After a very steady start to Sunday, mum collected me and drove me back home. The original plan had been to head to one of the local Chinese restaurants for an ‘all you can eat’ buffet. Due to the appearance of ‘summer 2018’, the buffet meal was postponed.  After a bit of sneaky sunbathing – top tip, remember to remove your socks first – we ate in the garden.

Summer 2018

I failed as a blogger and forgot to take photos of the food and birthday cake mum had made for me. The cake was amazing and possibly fuelled by Pimm’s and lemonade; I piled far too much on my plate.

Yesterday, I spent the morning and early afternoon working on the paper I am meant to be presenting at a conference later on this year. After discovering that my current assignment is not going to be extended, I also spent a couple of hours exploring some possible career options.

Definitely not the most exciting Bank Holiday Monday!

Did you have a good Bank Holiday weekend?

Rants and raves #26

**Disclaimer: I’m writing this post with an ice pack balanced on my right knee. A knee niggle I picked up during the Cathedral to Castle Run has prevented me from running for two weeks. As a result, I’m feeling more grumpy than usual. As always, all rants and raves and moans and groans represent my own views. Other, far less negative running and fitness blogs are available. I’m hoping that I can run again ASAP!**

Rave: The weather

I’m aware that not everyone appreciated the recent mini heat wave, but after what felt like several weeks of shitty weather, I decided to embrace the sun. After all, we may well have just experienced summer 2018!

Summer in April

I spent Thursday on a training course in Reading. Looking at the sunshine through windows that couldn’t be opened was pretty frustrating. To make matters worse, the Reading office is located minutes from the Thames Lido. Luckily, I managed to escape the office at a sensible time and mysteriously found myself drinking a pint outside a pub an hour later. I managed to spend a bit more time in the sunshine on Friday and during the weekend.

Fingers crossed summer makes another appearance soon.

Rant: My right knee

After an amazing (for me!) run at the Cathedral to Castle Run a couple of weeks ago, a knee niggle has meant I’ve been unable to run. During the steep downhill section of the run I was acutely aware that my right knee was slightly unhappy. I could hardly walk the day after the run. The 1.5 mile walk into the office was a nightmare. Although my knee is gradually getting better, it still niggles from time to time.

Knee ebib[Source]

I’ve treated myself to loads of new running kit recently and want to wear it! I’ve already decided not to risk attempting to run the Treehouse 10k in Cholsey on Sunday. Although this is frustrating, it means that I’ll be able to travel back home for the weekend before my birthday.

Rave: Marathon season

Isn’t technology great? Thanks to the wonders of modern technology my slightly temperamental computer, I was able to watch both of the Commonwealth Games marathons several hours after they took place. I was also able to watch the Boston Marathon while ‘working’ on a conference paper.

After what felt like the longest build-up to the race in history – this isn’t a criticism, I loved all the pre-marathon tweets, photos and Instagram stories – I spent Sunday morning watching the London Marathon. A tiny part of me wished I was taking part, then my knee niggled and reminded me I was injured! #FOMO

At least I managed to play Marathon Bingo…

Marathon bingo[Source]

…I think I managed to tick off most of these during the London Marathon BBC coverage.

Rant: Living in a shared house

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m too old to be living in a house with six other people. There’s nothing wrong with my housemates – well not with most of them – I just need my own space. After three months I’ve reached the stage where I resent paying £110 a week to live in a house with no living room, no working smoke alarms, a front door that is never locked and noisy housemates.

I’ve been checking SpareRoom for better options on a daily basis and have realised that my options are limited. I could spend £100 more a month to live above a funeral parlour in a tiny box next to a building site. No thanks!  Renting outside of Wallingford would be cheaper but I wouldn’t have access to shops. I’d also have to pay £6 a day to travel to and from the office.

There’s also the small matter of me not really enjoying my job much. Some mornings I dread going into the office. I really can’t see myself in my current job in six months time. At some point I’ll update this post.

Rave: Making the top 10

Enough moaning! Last week, I was over the moon to learn that this little corner of the internet had made it into Vuelio’s top 10 UK running blogs for the second year in a row.

I was asked to answer a few questions for a blogger spotlight and took to opportunity to name some of my favourite running blogs.

Blogger Spotlight

I’ve genuinely got no idea how I made it into the top 10 but I’m pretty sure it’s mainly down to you, the people who read my waffle. Thanks!

Rave: Wolverhampton Wanderers

I’ve got a bonus rave; Wolverhampton Wanderers. After several slightly disappointing seasons, I was thrilled when Wolves were guaranteed promotion back to the Premier League. Sealing the Championship title on Saturday was incredible. It’s just a shame it didn’t happen at home.Wolves

I think the highlight of the season was when Wolves somehow managed to beat Cardiff at the beginning of the month. I just hope watching Wolves in the Premier League isn’t as stressful as it was last time. Seeing Wolves get beaten on a weekly basis wasn’t much of fun!

Once again, if you’ve made it to the end of my latest rather random selection of rants and raves then thank-you. My next rants and raves post will hopefully be slightly more positive.

Do you enjoy running in hot weather? Much as I love the summer and warmer weather, I struggle to run well when it’s warm.

Do you have any shared house horror stories? If you do, I’d really love to hear them.

Race Report: Cathedral to Castle Run

I hope that everyone is having a great week, I can’t believe that it’s Wednesday already. The weekend is rapidly approaching.

a0ba0559-b46c-4048-9105-4d9049c3550dLast Sunday I completed a new (to me) 10 mile multi-terrain race; the Cathedral to Castle Run. The race started near to Lichfield Cathedral, passed through Hopwas Woods and finished in the grounds of Tamworth Castle.

Route

Although I was nervous about running a 10 mile race, the prospect of running and exploring somewhere totally new was exciting, so exciting I got very little sleep the night before the race.

The evening before the run was very relaxed and I may have ended up in my favourite local pub. I checked out the race route, got my kit together, located my running number, scoffed a load of pasta and made sure that I kept myself reasonably hydrated.

The morning of the race was unfortunately a tad stressful. The prospect of running 10 miles made me feel incredibly nervous and I struggled to eat. Most unlike me! I also made the fatal error of not pinning my race number to my t-shirt until just before leaving the house. It took me four attempts to successfully pin my number to my t-shirt.

My friend dropped me in Lichfield with enough time for me to use the real toilets twice, to get my trainers soaked, to untie and retie my laces twice and to generally faff around.

Pre Race

I was waiting to start, when I became aware of a male runner scrabbling around on the floor picking up worms. He was fighting a losing battle and I suspect a few worms would have been trampled by runners. Slightly surreal!

The race started with a lap around a very muddy and undulating Beacon Park. This short lap set the tone for the rest of the race. After leaving Beacon Park we ran past Minster Pool, through the centre of Lichfield, over a wobbly bridge and onto the route of the Lichfield 10k. Once we left Lichfield, I was so focused on running and not breaking something – there were a lot of potholes, mud and uneven surfaces – I can’t actually recall much of the route between the third and fifth miles.

Highlights included running past an Army shooting range and an abandoned assault course, into Hopwas Woods and then up a huge hill.

The course was described as “fast and relatively flat” and as suitable for runners of all abilities. However, in my humble opinion, the section through Hopwas Woods was anything but flat.

The hill between approximately five and six miles was epic. Had I known how long the hill was I would have probably ‘given up’ and walked. Not knowing where I was going was definitely an advantage.

I reached the top of ‘Mount Everest’ and immediately found myself attempting to navigate myself down a really steep hill. It was so steep I was constantly trying and failing to slow myself down. Tripping over one of the numerous loose stones would have ended in disaster. I don’t think I’ve ever been so relieved to make it to the bottom of a hill.

After leaving the peace and tranquillity of Hopwas Woods, the route briefly ran parallel to the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal – have I mentioned how I have a serious phobia of canals? – through Hopwas and Coton and then into the outskirts of Tamworth.

Hopwas Woods[Photo: Mick Hall Photos]

Although I was thrilled to leave the energy-sapping mud behind, I must admit that I found the final couple of miles of the route a little disappointing. There is nothing more demoralising than running along completely deserted streets and through a slightly dubious looking industrial estate and having to dodge dog mess and broken glass. I guess that the organisers had to make sure that route actually measured 10 miles.

The final section in the grounds of Tamworth Castle was mentally tough. Fortunately, I had been warned that I would have to complete a lap of the grounds before reaching the finish. I made sure that I saved enough for a ‘sprint’ finish, checked that I wouldn’t be sharing my finish line photos with runners in fancy dress and crossed the line feeling amazing.

Finish 2[Photo: Mick Hall Photos]

Finish 1[Photo: Mick Hall Photos]

I stopped my Garmin and found out that I’d completed the 10 mile run in approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes. I was thrilled with both my time and with myself. For once I hadn’t even contemplated taking a sneaky walking break.

I grabbed a couple of bottles of water and a banana and took a couple of minutes to compose myself. I then walked the short distance to collect my race t-shirt, medal and goody bag, stuck my new t-shirt on over my sweaty kit, presented myself with my plastic medal and tried and failed to take a respectable selfie. It took me five minutes to pluck up the courage to ask a friendly policeman to take a photo for me.

Post race

I’m aware that this race report has turned into an essay so I’ll stop waffling now and will leave you with a selection of the Strava stats from the race.

After the Cathedral to Castle Run reminded me how much I love off-road running, I’ve already entered next year’s race. As an added bonus, the goody bag contained a flyer for a 10k race in Hopwas Woods I had no idea existed. I’ve added this event to my race calendar.

I just have to hope that my right knee recovers ASAP. It’s feeling a little niggly at the moment.

Race Ratings:

  • Cost: 9/10 – £25 (all profits went to charity and the entry fee included free downloads of official race photos)
  • Course: 9/10
  • Medal: 4/10
  • Race t-shirt: 10/10
  • Goody Bag: 2/10 (full of random flyers and not a lot else)

Would you rather have free downloads of race photos or a ‘proper’ metal medal? There has been a lot of debate complaints about the plastic medal we were given on Sunday. According to Facebook, some runners only run for  medals.

Do you have any slightly irrational phobias? As a hydrologist people find my phobia of canals really amusing.