2018 Review: Running highlights & lessons learned

As 2018 is almost over – I swear January was only a month ago – I’ve decided to review my running highlights, lowest points and lessons learned throughout the year. As always, if you don’t enjoy reading lengthy posts I’d recommend that you close the page. Here are the links to my reviews of 2017 and 2016.

January

While most sensible people were out and about having fun, I quite literally ran into 2018. If I’m injury-free, I’m planning to do the same again this year. I started 2018 feeling positive and shared my running goals and entered a slightly ambitious number of races.Sutton ParkTraining for the Cambridge Half Marathon was going well, and I felt reasonably niggle free. I relocated to Wallingford to start a new job and joined up with the local running group; Run Wallingford, for some challenging training sessions. I completed my first Walsall Arboretum parkrun of the year in 29:15 and had some incredibly enjoyable runs in Sutton Park.

February

I was thrilled when I discovered I’d finally got a ballot place in the Royal Parks Half, and paid the £57+£3.95 postage and packaging entry fee without hesitating. A top tip, always check out the route and read the small print before entering expensive races. Although my Cambridge Half Marathon training continued, a frustrating knee niggle meant that I missed quite a few key training runs. I think it’s safe to say I didn’t feel very confident as the half marathon approached. I completed one parkrun in a slightly faster time of 28:44 and set myself the target of running the 5k distance in less than 25 minutes in 2018.

March

I unfortunately missed my target race the Cambridge Half Marathon due to illness; a touch embarrassing when I’d raised £500 for The Butterfly Thyroid Cancer Trust. Once I’d recovered, I completed the inaugural and very exclusive, Four Oaks Half with Ellen and spent the rest of the day in bed feeling terrible.Post run selfieI also found myself running laps around Walsall Arboretum three times in March in times of 28:03, 29:05 and 29:51.Walsall parkrun 24_03_18 1

[Photo: Ron Reynolds]

So much for getting faster with each parkrun, I’m definitely getting slower with age. A highlight of one of my trips to Walsall Arboretum was getting to meet blogging and running superstar; Anna the Apple.

April

At the beginning of April, I realised that I wasn’t really enjoying running, heading out the door had become a chore. After following training plans for what felt like months, I decided to run for fun for a while. It was time to keep it simple with no time or distance pressures. This approach seemed to work, and I completed what turned out to be my most enjoyable race of the year; the Cathedral to Castle 10 mile run in a respectable time.Hopwas Woods

[Photo: Mick Hall Photos]

It’s just a shame in typical Emma style I managed to injure my right knee during the race. I ended up missing a 10k race I don’t think I’ll get the opportunity to enter again; the Treehouse 10k in Cholsey near Wallingford.

May

The start of May saw me reach the grand old age of 39! I can’t believe I’m nearly 40, I don’t feel like I’ve achieved very much. The highlight of what was a really low-key birthday was my right knee coping with a five-mile run after work. The following Bank Holiday weekend I celebrated my birthday with a trip to Walsall Arboretum parkrun – I was quite pleased to finish in 28:18 – and far, far too much food and drink.

The following weekend I completed Walsall Arboretum parkrun in 27:10, my fastest parkrun of 2018. I met up with Ellen for a couple of training runs in Sutton Park, experienced a not so relaxing post-work run with Run Wallingford, and at the end of the month, jogged around the hottest race ever; the Wallingford Thames Run.Group photo

[Photo: Run Wallingford]

The pint of cold and refreshing beer tasted amazing, all races should provide bars and BBQs. Looking back, May was a pretty awesome month.

June

The first weekend in June saw me complete a not very enjoyable Walsall Arboretum parkrun in 28:14, and the even less enjoyable Great Midlands Fun Run the following day. The highlight of the weekend was definitely the BBQ and beer afterward. I’ve said it before, but don’t think I’ll enter the Great Midlands Fun Run again, each year I either end up injured or have a shit time. I shared a really personal blog and received a shed load of support from people I’ll probably never meet. I completed another boiling hot race; the Aldridge 10k and failed to achieve a sub-60 minute 10k.

July

At the start of the month I shared a halfway(ish) through the year running goals progress report and adjusted some of my goals. Thanks to some major rail engineering works, I spent the weekend in Wallingford and finally popped my parkrun tourism cherry at a boiling hot Didcot parkrun.Didcot pakrun group 2

[Photo: Lewis Cousins]

A couple of weeks later, I returned to Walsall Arboretum and completed my tenth parkrun of the year in 27:52. I accepted that my sub 25-minute goal would have to wait until 2019, I just wasn’t fast enough. The following morning, I found myself running in Sutton Park with Ellen.Sutton Park ice cream

I was reminded that running with others is really, really good fun. I also discovered that I can run a couple of miles immediately after eating an ice cream without any repercussions. The end of July saw me complete the incredibly challenging and soggy Abbott Trail 10k and start my Royal Parks Half Marathon training.

August

Unfortunately, August wasn’t the most positive of months as my PhD supervisor, mentor and close friend Geoff Petts passed away. I’ll never forget opening the email with the heading ‘Geoff’ and realising that I’d missed my opportunity chance to say goodbye. Running and the Boat House pub next to the River Thames became my escape mechanisms. Although I *may* on occasion have had a few too many beers, I managed to complete the majority of my training runs.Sutton Park parkrun finish

[Photo: Richard Hill]

I also attended and wrote a brief review of the inaugural Sutton Park parkrun. After several failed attempts to get a Sutton Park parkrun up and running, it felt amazing to finally have a parkrun in my local park.

September

September was a far more positive month. I completed another four weeks of half marathon training and just about managed to avoid picking up any injuries. I really enjoyed a spot of volunteering at Sutton Park parkrun and managed to bag myself a sneaky PB at the Little Aston 5 mileparkrun volunteering

[Photo: Peter Heafield]

The following weekend I completed the Lichfield 10k in a disappointing 61:17. I made my usual mistake of setting out at a far too ambitious pace and paid the price. So much for finishing in under 60 minutes.Lichfield 10k

[Photo: Mick Hall Photos]

While my own performance was pretty shit, my sister-in-law Julie completed the 10k distance in an absolutely amazing time.Lichfield 10k 2018

My slightly disappointing 28:23 parkrun summed up September. At the end of September, I returned to my old university to present some of my research at a hydrology conference. The conference was emotionally draining as it was originally going to be a large part of Geoff’s retirement celebrations.

October

The first Friday in October saw me travel into London for Geoff’s memorial service. The congregation was a who’s who of academia and hydrology. This quote will stay with me forever:

“The candle that burns twice as bright, burns half as long”

I stepped up my fundraising efforts and got closer to my £1000 target. Thanks again to everyone who sponsored me. I completed the final few sessions of half marathon training and felt quite confident I’d be able to achieve my sub 2:15 goal. I travelled to London the day before the half marathon and spent a slightly emotional day walking around parts of Marylebone and Southwark.

I wouldn’t recommend eating three large meals the day before a half marathon. I went to bed feeling like a giant slug. The weather on the morning of the Royal Parks Half was incredibly ‘hydrological’, I don’t think I’ve ever run in such wet conditions. The course was more than a little disappointing, I don’t think I’ll enter the ballot again.Royal Parks Half

I’m a little ashamed to admit that immediately after the Royal Parks half I completely lost my running mojo; I just didn’t feel like running. I wasn’t injured, I just couldn’t be bothered to pull on my trainers.

November

I’ve just checked my training log and discovered that I ran seven miles in November. The combination of a persistent knee niggle combined with a complete loss of running mojo meant that I just didn’t feel like running. Even buying new running gear in the Black Friday sales and reading my favourite running blogs didn’t seem to help.

I ran Sutton Park parkrun with Fetchie Rachel, realised that my knee still didn’t feel 100 per cent, and decided to DNS both the Birmingham MoRun and the Birmingham Christmas BII 10k. In an attempt to rediscover my running mojo, I treated myself to some running magazines. My loss of mojo had one slightly unexpected advantage, all the extra free time meant that I managed to get most of my Christmas presents purchased and wrapped and Christmas cards written. I also managed to complete some slightly overdue product reviews. Every cloud and all of that shebang.

On the final day of November, I entered the Run up to Christmas virtual running challenge and set myself the target of completing 50 km before Christmas Day.

December

December got off to a far, far more positive start. My right knee finally decided to stop randomly hurting, and for the first time in a month, I actually wanted to run. I got up stupidly early one Saturday morning and entered my target race for the second half of 2019. I met up with Ellen for a series of weekend runs in Sutton Park, these saw us running in some slightly tricky conditions. I also managed to fit in a few runs around Wallingford after work.Rainy Selfie

A lack of transport meant that I unfortunately didn’t make it to the Wheaton Aston 10k yesterday. I can’t wait to get my own car in 2019. After really enjoying quite literally running into this year, I’m planning on running into 2019.

In standard Emma style, I’ve already set myself some running and fitness goals for 2019. Some are quite challenging, and some scare me a little. I just need my left foot to behave itself as I want to start running regularly again. I’ve got two half marathons in London in March.

I think it’s safe to say that on both a personal level and as a runner, 2018 had its ups and downs. Probably more ups than downs. Although my monthly mileage was reasonably consistent throughout most of the year, you can see where I completely lost my running mojo. This combined with a couple of niggles, meant that I got nowhere near my target of running 1000 km in 2018.

2018 milesI’m hoping that 2019 is slightly less turbulent.

What was the running highlight of 2018 for you? Although the weather was far from ideal, my running highlight was completing the Royal Parks Half Marathon.

What are your running and fitness goals for 2019? I’ve set myself the challenge of not buying any unessential running related purchases. I failed in 2018 but will succeed in 2019!

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Rants and Raves #31

**Disclaimer: I’m writing this post while trying to shut out the noise one of my housemates is making in the kitchen. I’ve no idea what he’s cooking, but it’s taking him a long time. As a result, this blog may be slightly more ranty than usual. As always, all rants and raves and moans and groans represent my own views. Other, less negative running and fitness blogs are available**

Rave: Christmas

After I spent last Christmas feeling quite stressed out, this year I’m doing more to embrace Christmas. I’ve been organised and have bought and wrapped most of my Christmas presents. I’m trying not to worry about the presents I still need to buy. I’ve written and posted my Christmas cards, and helped mum decorate the Christmas tree in the conservatory. I organised the team Christmas meal and definitely won the ‘most pints consumed’ competition.

I think it’s safe to say I’m making a lot more effort this year. I’m still, however, occasionally struggling to deal with what I call Christmas madness. And don’t get me started on the wonky Christmas tree at work.

Rant: Christmas madness

As soon as December started, the local shops got ridiculously busy, traffic on the roads increased, and people (me included) went into Christmas madness mode. I spend my morning walks through the centre of Wallingford playing dodge the vomit and was heckled on my most recent run by a drunken Santa.

Christmas party

[Source]

I won’t mention hangovers. After somehow managing to drink six pints of beer on Tuesday evening, Wednesday was a struggle. At one stage on Wednesday morning I was told I looked green. At the grand old age of 39, I really should know my limits. Then again, it’d only Christmas once a year and I won’t be working in the same place next Christmas. I’m looking forward to finishing work on Friday and escaping the madness.

Rave: European Cross Country Championships

Thanks to the BBC Sport website I was able to watch the recent European Cross Country Championships. I love watching elite athletes run cross country races, they make it look relatively effortless. I, unfortunately, felt that the commentators were a little negative about the overall performance of the British athletes. Like many others, my highlights of the championships were the amazing and seemingly unstoppable Ingebrigtsen brothers – have you watched Team Ingebrigtsen on YouTube, they are hilarious – and French U23 winner; Jimmy Gressier. Jimmy Gressier

[Source]

Jimmy most definitely defended his title in style. I can’t help but think that the clip of Jimmy’s epic finish will end up on ‘What Happened Next’ on A Question of Sport.

Rant: My left foot

Apologies, but I want to quickly complain about my left foot again. I need to start training for my half marathon(s) in March. I’m hoping that the current soreness at the site of my previous stress fracture is related to the cold weather. I don’t want another stress fracture. If my foot continues to feel sore, I’ll be heading to the minor injuries unit of my local hospital.

Rave: Increased awareness of RED-S

I’ve briefly blogged about this in the past, but I recently discovered that my dubious eating habits when I was a teenager are likely to have left me with fragile bones. I wish that awareness of what was termed the female athlete triad had been more widely available when I was a teenager. The internet didn’t really exist – yes, I am that old – so accessing information was difficult.

Fast forward to 2018, and the female athlete triad now has a far more appropriate name; Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S) syndrome.

“RED-S can affect male and female athletes and became a recognised condition in 2014 – replacing another condition called female athlete triad, which recognised the effect of too few calories among sportswomen only.”

Recently, high profile athletes including Anna Boniface and Bobby Clay have shared their stories. The increased awareness of RED-S and the development of the FitrWoman App are both really positive developments.

Rant: Fixed-term contracts

A rather random rant, but being the only person on a fixed-term contract in a team of permanent staff can be difficult. It’s hard to explain, but although my colleagues are amazing and have been incredibly supportive, I’ve never really felt part of the team. Having to attend meetings about projects with deadlines after I finish can be a little awkward and dare I say a little pointless.

Fixed term contract

[Source]

My contract comes to an end in March and I’m searching for and applying for jobs. I’m slightly concerned that I’m going to spend the rest of my working life moving from one fixed-term contract to another. I’ve realised that I need to invest more time in my long-term future, the fixed-term job can some second. Perhaps not the right attitude, but I need to get better at putting my career first.

Rave: Sweaty Betty Anna headband

I decided to treat myself to the Anna headband in the recent Sweaty Betty sale. I’m not going to write 100+ words about a headband. To summarise, it’s amazing, possibly the best £10 I’ve spent this year. It keeps my hair under control and also keeps my slightly sticky outy ears warm when it’s cold. I’m hoping that wearing a hairband rather than a running cap will be less damaging to my hair.

Rant: My bargainous coat

Unfortunately, not all of my recent purchases have been as successful. Last week, I spotted a coat in the red sticker section of my local TK Maxx. The coat fitted me perfectly – always a pleasant surprise – so my step-father bought it for me, and then let me keep hold of it. The first time I wore the coat I noticed a few feathers poking out of the seams. My North Face coat moulted a little when it was new so I thought nothing of it.

My bargainous coat seems to be determined to shed all of its feathers. Each time I remove it, I discover feathers stuck to whatever I’m wearing underneath. I’m a little concerned that the coat will shed so many feathers, it will lose most of its padding and insulation. I guess I found it in the reduced section of TK Maxx for a reason!

Rave: Sainsbury’s running mugs

I was pleasantly surprised when I spotted a range of fitness-related gifts in the slightly scary seasonal aisle of my local Sainsbury’s. The mugs only cost £3 each, so I treated myself to six. I’m so clumsy it’s safer for me to buy breakable items in bulk.Sainsburys mugFitness gifts

I also spotted reasonably priced gifts for cyclists, gym goers, and golfers. I think I need to point out that I most definitely don’t work for Sainsbury’s! I once applied for a seasonal job and didn’t progress past the first stage. This failure meant that I applied for a job at M&S, had a brilliant time, and made some friends for life. Thanks, Sainsbury’s.

If you’ve reached the end and have read all of my completely random rants and raves, then a huge ‘thank-you’. I’m not sure I would have made it to the end. I hope that you think that my rants were reasonable. I do feel a lot better now that I’ve put pen to paper so to speak.

Are you ready for Christmas?

Did you have to go into the office the morning after your work Christmas party?

What is your best running purchase of 2018?

A-Z Survey

As I’m aware my blogs can be too long, here’s something a little different; an A-Z survey. I spotted this survey a few months ago on another running blog. Apologies, I can’t remember exactly which blog. If it was your blog, please let me know 🙂

A – Age: 39

B – Biggest Fear: Canals, slightly unfortunate for a hydrologist.

C – Current Time: 11:23

D – Drink You Had Last: A cup of tea

E – Easiest Person to talk To: I used to find Geoff really easy to talk to. Since he died in August, I haven’t really talked to anyone and prefer to spend time on my own…

Sutton Park

F – Favourite Song: This changes all the time but at the moment I listen to Hold on to the Vision from No Retreat, No Surrender at least once a day.

G – Grossest Memory: There have been quite a few, but my most recent gross memory was discovering that I had an infected big toenail.

H – Hometown: Four Oaks, Birmingham

I – In Love With: I’m currently single so unless I count the family cat, I’m not in love with anyone at the moment.

J – Jealous Of: Runners who never seem to get injured.

Knee ebib

K – Kindest Person You Know: My brother

L – Longest Relationship: Seven years

M – Middle Name: Alice

N – Number of Siblings: Two

O – One Wish: To remain fit and healthy

P – Person You Spoke to on the Phone Last: My Mum

Q – Question You’re Always Asked: Is it cold up there?

R – Reason to Smile: I am fit, healthy and have a roof over my head.

S – Song You Last Sang: I Know Him So Well  from Chess. I was reminded that I’m a terrible singer.

T – Time You Woke Up: 07:00

U – Underwear Colour: black with white spots

V – Vacation Destination: After visiting Beijing, I really want to spend a couple of weeks in ShanghaiGreat Wall of China

W – Worst Habit: Drinking far, far too much Diet Coke

 X – X-Rays You’ve Had: The usual dental x-rays and x-rays on my left leg and left foot.

Y – Your Favourite Food: Roast beef with all the trimmings

Z – Zodiac Sign: Taurus

Are there any other questions you’d like me to answer?

A weekend of muddy running and too much festive cheer

Good morning and Happy Monday! I can’t believe that in two weeks time it will be Christmas Eve.

When this post is published, thanks to some train issues I’ll be heading back to Wallingford slightly later than originally planned.

I’ll rewind a few days to what was a reasonably productive but tiring weekend. I need to remind myself that I’m 39 not 19, and can’t drink as much alcohol as I could in my prime!What you Had Meme

[Source]

As per usual, Friday evening wasn’t very exciting. I’ve no idea how people find the energy to go out on a Friday, by the time I get home from Wallingford I’m usually completely shattered. After a slightly stressful journey which saw me do an impression of Anneka Rice in the centre of Oxford, it felt good to be home. As I didn’t have any food in the house, I treated myself to a takeaway from the Hungry Sparrow, made a start on the washing mountain, and caught up on The Apprentice. I still can’t work out who is actually going to win this year. Could it be the first year there are no winners

On Saturday morning I woke well before my alarm. As I didn’t have any marathons to enter and wasn’t heading to parkrun, I stuck on another load of washing and headed back to bed for a snooze. At 8:30 I woke up feeling completely disorientated, dragged myself out of bed, pulled on some running gear and ran the short distance to meet up with Ellen.

After a quick discussion we decided to run in Sutton Park. Last week we ran six miles and paid the price. On Saturday we decided to have fun and to aim for a slightly shorter distance. The weather was more or less perfect for running; cool, sunny but quite windy in places. We decided to head towards the Jamboree Stone and then past Keepers Pool. After what felt like a speedy run across Arena Field, we reached the Jamboree Stone, and found ourselves briefly joining in with Sutton Park parkrun.

We ran through some woods and decided to stop for a rest and to get our breath back.Sutton ParkSlightly challenging hill tackled at a sensible pace, we started to run again and found ourselves heading back towards the Jamboree Stone. As we were feeling good, we decided not to stop at the ice cream van, but to head straight back towards where we started our run.

We ran back down the slightly challenging to run on stony path – my fragile left foot doesn’t seem to appreciate running on stones – and back towards Little Bracebridge Pool. We were sensible and walked across the somewhat slippery wooden bridge and then carried on running again.Wild poniesAs we were running past the pool, Ellen unfortunately twisted her ankle on the uneven surface, so we paused our Garmins and stopped for a couple of minutes. I think the so-called wild ponies wondered what on earth we were doing. Fortunately, Ellen’s ankle seemed to be okay and we were able to walk the half a mile or so back to her house.

Ellen made me a cup of tea and some toast, and after an enjoyable chat, I put my muddy trainers back on and started to run back home. As I approached a busy crossroads I told myself that if it was busy and I couldn’t cross without stopping, I would have to run up to the local Boots to collect my prescription. There was a lot of traffic, so I ended up running up what felt like Mount Everest towards Boots. At least the run back from Boots was downhill.

I got back home, had some lunch and then spent several hours completing the most complicated job application I’ve ever seen. Not much fun, but I need to start applying for more jobs as my temporary contract ends in March. Job application successfully completed and submitted, I treated myself to a large glass of Malibu and Coke, had a quick shower and then got ready to go to mums.

Colin collected me and four large bags of Christmas presents and we headed to mums. I was treated to some homemade chicken pie and mash, watched Dad’s Army for the millionth time and then made a start on decorating the smaller Christmas tree that will be spending the festive period inside the conservatory. It was so cold in there – I could actually see my breath and felt like I was outside – I didn’t spend long decorating the tree.Christmas treeI wasn’t too worried about my complete lack of Christmas tree related creativity because I can pretty much guarantee that the cats will destroy the tree within a week. I watched the end of Six Days, Seven Nights, said my goodbyes and started to walk the three miles or so back home.

While I was walking, one of my drinking partners in crime Anna sent me a text; she was in the Butlers Arms with a couple of other old school mates. This left me with a dilemma. I wasn’t exactly dressed for the occasion but didn’t really have time to walk home, get changed and then head back to the pub. I reached the pub and decided to sneak in looking a little scruffy. Everyone was so drunk; I doubt they would have cared what I was wearing.

I had a great evening, and after knocking back far too many pints knew that I would wake up feeling terrible.

Guess what? I woke up feeling terrible. I didn’t get out of bed until 10:30 and then felt guilty because I’d wasted most of the morning. I spent the morning struggling to write Christmas cards while watching the European Cross Country Championships.European CrossWatching other people running somehow managed to make me feel worse, so I headed out for a walk. I think the fresh air did some good as I felt much better when I returned back from my lap around Four Oaks.

I made some soup for lunch and then treated myself to a lengthy nap. When I woke up it was starting to get dark, and I realised I didn’t have much time to get myself organised for the week ahead. I’d completely forgotten that the Newcastle v Wolves match was on TV, luckily my friend reminded me. When I realised I’d only be able to watch the first half, I felt even less enthusiastic about the prospect of a four hour journey back to Wallingford.

I checked the trains, saw that my train to Oxford had been cancelled, and decided to delay my journey until this morning. Once again I was reminded that I’m incredibly fortunate that I have supportive colleagues and the option of working from home.

And then this happened, thank-you Wolves 🙂
Wolves

I can already tell that I’m going to really miss my job in Wallingford when my temporary contract comes to an end in March. The Christmas meal I’ve organised for my team takes place on Tuesday. I hope that I got our food order correct and that most people enjoy their choices.

Did you have a good weekend?

How often do you really let your hair down?

Do you enjoy work parties?

Christmas Gifts for Runners

The last couple of years, my completely unsubtle Christmas Gifts for Runners (named Emma) posts have been reasonably successful. Last year, I found myself unwrapping parcels containing Lululemon shorts, a sports bra, and some running tights.

It’s now December, and the annual festive office Bake Off has started. Christmas Day is rapidly approaching. Unlike last year, I’m feeling quite well prepared, and have purchased and wrapped most of my Christmas presents. My family have been asking me what I’d like for Christmas; apparently a donation to The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity isn’t enough. As a result, I’ve decided to put together an updated Christmas gifts for runners guide.

Once again, I’ve included photos and links to hopefully save people my family time when they are shopping online. While I’m aware I’ve included links to a few quite expensive items, most of my gifts are quite reasonably priced.Gift Guide 2018Brooks Adrenaline GTS 18 trainers UK9 I’m aware that I’ve included links to Brooks Adrenaline trainers in my last two guides, however, a runner can never have too many pairs of trainers. Although these trainers are currently quite expensive, I’ve spotted a couple of Brooks bloggers wearing Adrenaline GTS 19 trainers. This means the GTS 18’s will soon be a lot cheaper.

Subscription to Intrepid Magazine I’ve reached the stage where Runner’s World Magazine et al. no longer float my boat. I find the majority of articles predictable, and the pages and pages of adverts rather tedious.  I recently stumbled across Intrepid Magazine which is described as the first UK based female-first adventure and outdoors print magazine. I’ve read one issue, and believe that a subscription to the magazine would make a great Christmas gift.

HydrateM8 water bottle I still need to drink less Diet Coke and more water. I’m confident that a motivational HydrateM8 water bottle would help me increase my daily water intake.

TK Maxx Gift Card I’m a huge fan of TK Maxx, and tend to head straight to the Active Wear section whenever I pop into my local store. I love the fact you never know what is lurking on the clothes rails. A TK Maxx gift card would make a great Christmas present.

Sweaty Betty Anna Headband My hair has a slightly irritating habit of getting into my eyes. I’m getting a little fed up with always wearing a cap when I run!

Ultimate Direction Women’s Specific Race Vesta 4.0 M/L I need to learn how to drink water without stopping during my longer training runs. A lot of runners I know have told me that hydration vests are the way forward. I’ve read quite a few positive reviews of the Ultimate Direction Vesta 4 hydration vest. I don’t want to be picky, but if you could avoid the light pink option.

Entry into the Vitality London 10,000 I’ve included this rather random gift again, because an entry into one of my all-time favourite 10k races would make an awesome Christmas present. Entries into the Vitality London 10,000 are currently open.

AfterShokz Trekz Air wireless bone conduction headphones Earlier this year, I was incredibly fortunate and won a pair of these in a twitter competition. As I needed a decent ‘guess my finish time’ prize to increase my Royal Parks Half fundraising, I decided to give away my AfterShokz headphones. I don’t regret my decision as I raised almost £1000 for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. However, I would love some money towards a replacement pair of bone conductor headphones.

Lululemon Strength and Sweat Shorts US8 Unfortunately, Lululemon are yet to restock my favourite Sole Training shorts. The Strength and Sweat shorts have received positive reviews, and I’d love to give them a try. The shorts are longer, so I’m hopeful that they won’t ride up causing chub rub.

Shock Absorber Ultimate Run sports bra 36C I never did manage to solve the mystery of the disappearing Shock Absorber sports bra. Anyway, I’ve looked through my running gear, and although I own enough running tops and shorts to last the rest of my running career, I’m desperately short of supportive sports bras.

SOLE Women’s Active Medium footbeds UK9/EUR43 A couple of years ago, SOLE very kindly sent me a pair of Women’s Active Medium footbeds to test and review. The footbeds made such a difference, they have remained firmly wedged inside my trainers ever since. I have a feeling that the footbeds will need replacing soon; therefore, a second pair would be really useful.

Lululemon Run Fast Gloves M/L And finally, I desperately need a new pair of running gloves, and I love the look of Lululemon’s Run Fast gloves. Lululemon gear may be expensive, but it generally lasts a long time. If possible, I’d prefer a pair in black.

I hope that you enjoyed reading through my Christmas wish list. I have a feeling that the majority of my gift ideas are a little too ambitious!

Have you asked for any running or fitness related gifts for Christmas this year?

A weekend of food, fun, friends and running

Good morning, Happy Monday etc.

I hope that everyone who reads this had an awesome weekend. Mine didn’t get off to the best of starts when Wolves lost at Cardiff. I keep telling myself it’s only a game… At least I remembered to enter the Run up to Christmas virtual event.Run up to ChristmasI set my alarm for 06:30 on Saturday as I wanted to enter one of my target races for 2019. This race is known to sell out quickly, and I didn’t want to miss out due to my laziness. My approach worked and I managed to get a place. Places are transferable so if I can’t run, someone else will be able to take my place.

I looked out the window, saw that it was quite ‘hydrological’ and decided to stay at home. My local parkrun will still be there next week. As the weather was vile, I popped round to my friend’s house, and spent the morning wrapping Christmas presents and writing Christmas cards.Christmas funI *think* I’ve only got a couple more presents to buy. A good job as my next payday isn’t until just before Christmas. After paying the deposit for the work Christmas meal – yes, in typical Emma style I left organising the work Christmas meal until the last possible minute – my credit card needs a bit of a break.

After a much-needed afternoon nap, I had a quick shower, got changed and then headed to the local pub to meet Anna. We had a couple of pints and then decided to walk to Sainsbury’s. Have you ever walked around a supermarket after a few pints? I bought some really random bits and pieces and apparently tried to sing along to “Walking in the Air” when it started to play. Opps, I’m sorry Anna.Sainsburys ChristmasI didn’t treat myself to a running mug because I knew I was unlikely to get it home in one piece. They only cost £3 so I may well end up treating myself next time I’m shopping. We walked to my favourite pub – The Butlers Arms – had a couple more pints and staggered home.

Rather frustratingly I woke well before my alarm. I think I was still a little drunk from the night before. Although it was still dark and I felt terrible, I decided to get up to make a start on some slightly overdue house work. At 08:30 I got ready for my first run since Sutton Park parkrun on November 10th. I was a little concerned when I found the mile or so run to Ellen’s house really difficult.

I met up with Ellen feeling like I’d just finished a 10 mile run. It’s amazing how quickly running fitness disappears. We had a quick discussion about our running options while I removed a layer, and decided to head into the park with the aim of taking it steady, walking when we needed to and having an enjoyable run.
Sutton ParkWe ran past Little Bracebridge Pool and after a short walking break, ran across Lower and Upper Arena Fields towards the Jamboree Stone. At this stage we found ourselves on the Sutton Park parkrun route so decided to follow the route down to Longmoor Pool. I’ve included this map of the park to show where we ran, if you ever end up in Birmingham, definitely head to Sutton Park.Sutton_Park_map-1We crossed the parkrun finish line in first and second place, ran towards Banners Gate and then stopped for a breather. I must admit that at this stage I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get back to where we started as I was shattered. I regretted not having breakfast. We started running again, found ourselves back on the parkrun route and headed towards Lord Donegal’s Ride and the Hill of Doom.

Hill of Doom navigated, we ran towards the Jamboree Stone and decided to stop at the ice cream van for a rest, something to drink and to take a selfie. I really need to work on my selfie posing skills 🙂
Sutton Park selfieAfter a quite lengthy rest – we remembered to pause our Garmins – we ran away from the Jamboree Stone down an incredibly steep hill towards Blackroot Pool. This was where the really energy-sapping muddy fun started. At one stage we had no idea where which was slightly concerning. Completely by chance, we found ourselves back on the path that leads to Little Bracebridge Pool. We reached the pool, realised we’d covered six miles and decided to walk the short distance back to Ellen’s.

We spent a bit of time drinking tea and coffee, eating the most amazing toast and talking about possible training plans for our next half marathons. I think it’s safe to say I didn’t really want to leave as I was enjoying the running chat so much. Thanks for a brilliant run Ellen!

The rest of my Sunday wasn’t as much fun, and the afternoon and early evening seemed to fly by far too quickly. One minute it was midday, the next it was 17:00 and I had to leave to start the long journey back to Wallingford.

I’m looking forward to more muddy running fun in Sutton Park next weekend.

Did you have a good weekend? I feel like weekends should last five days and the working week two days.

Have you entered any target races for 2019? The marathon I entered on Saturday scares me a little.

How are your Christmas preparations going? I haven’t decorated the house yet and need to buy a few more family Christmas cards but feel more organised than this time last year.