Decathlon Sports Series 2017 running events

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I’m not a huge fan of expensive races. £25 for a 5.5k fun run? No thanks. Over £250 for a marathon? I’d need to start saving and find myself a better job…

Fortunately, not all races are expensive, an increasing number of races are now free to enter. As my 15 tips for running and racing on a budget blog has rapidly become one of my most read posts, I’ve decided to share some information on a series of free to enter running events organised by Decathlon.

Following on from last year’s success, the Decathlon Sports Series is returning this month. This year it’s set to be even bigger and better featuring several sports including running, cycling, horse riding and hiking. I can’t wait to get involved.


The Decathlon Sports Series will be staging a series of 5k (and one 10k) running events across the UK. I’ve summarised the dates and locations below:

  • 26th March – Stevenage
  • 1st April – Oxford
  • 2nd April – Reading
  • 9th April – Farnborough
  • 7th May – Southampton
  • 13th May – Glasgow Braehead
  • 14th May – Edinburgh
  • 4th June – Harlow
  • 10th June – Warrington
  • 11th June – Stockport
  • 17th June – Tamworth
  • 2nd July – Poole Redlands
  • 9th July – Huyton
  • 9th August – Bolton
  • 13th August – Wandsworth
  • 19th August – Croydon
  • 20th August – Surrey Quays
  • 3rd September – Sheffield
  • 10th September – Nottingham Giltbrook
  • 1st October – Newcastle Gateshead
  • 7th October – Wednesbury
  • 5th November – Belfast 10k*

*For the 10k event in Belfast participants must be aged 15 and over. For more detailed information on each event please visit the dedicated running event page.

Although participants should be able to complete the route without assistance, marshals will be available to maintain the safety of all participants at all times. Updates will be released regularly in the lead up to each event. Race numbers will be distributed to your selected store, and will be available to collect prior to the event, or on the day of the race.

Decathlon Gateshead 2016


All entrants will receive a free t-shirt to run in on the day, and as an added bonus each participant will receive a Sports Series goody bag and medal at the end of the race. Very impressive for a free event!

These events are free and exclusive for Decathlon Card holders. If you are not a Decathlon Card Member you need to sign up here.

Places are limited to a maximum of 500 participants per race so don’t forget to sign up!

I’m hoping that my right heel will recover in time for me to participate in my local event in Tamworth.

Rants and raves #10

**Disclaimer: this post was written while the author was experiencing heel pain and race envy. As always, all rants, raves and opinions represent my own views. Other (far superior) less opinionated and negative running blogs are available**

It’s been a few weeks since I wrote my last Rants and raves post. Now that it’s nearly the end of February, I feel the need to have a good old rant. However, before I start my Moaning Myrtle impression – yes I’m a huge fan of Harry Potter – I’ll start with rave.

Rave: Marathon Talk podcast

I have a bit of a confession to make…. Although I’ve been an active member of a range of online running communities since about 2005, I only discovered the Marathon Talk weekly podcasts last month. In my defence I’ve never listened to music or podcasts when I’m out running.marathon-talk

The two main presenters Martin Yelling and Tom Williams both talk a huge amount of sense about running. I’ve started to listen to the weekly podcasts while I’m doing tasks that don’t require me to concentrate. Listening while filling in a job application form wasn’t my most sensible move. There are currently 372 episodes so I’ve got some serious catching up to do. If I was able to run at the moment, I’d probably break the habit of a lifetime and listen to Marathon Talk during my long runs.

Rant: My right heel

Guess what? I’ve got another injury. Training for the Cambridge Half was going really well until a month ago when I got out of bed and found that I could hardly walk. My right heel felt really sore, and the pain was almost unbearable (yes I am a wimp!). After suffering in silence complaining about my heel for a couple of weeks, a trip to the sports physio confirmed that I’ve probably got the injury all runners dread, Plantar fasciitis. I’m blaming the heavy safety boots I had to wear for 11 weeks.

I’ve been avoiding walking barefoot as much as possible, making sure I only wear supportive shoes, icing my heel, stretching several times a day, wearing a sexy night splint (it’s a good job I’m single) taking supplements and sulking. I spent a bit of time researching Plantar fasciitis, and overloading my brain with information.

While being injured and unable to run sucks, I feel extremely lucky that I’m not living in constant pain and that my heel only really hurts first thing in the morning.

Rave: parkrun tracking

I recently joined the ‘parkrun analogue trackers’ group on Facebook, made a donation to my local parkrun, downloaded a copy of the blank analogue tracker created by Hannah and started colouring.  While I’ve only managed to complete 15 runs, all at my home parkrun, the slightly more dedicated members of the parkrun community have created some impressive looking designs. If you enjoy colouring and are a regular parkrunner and parkrun volunteer then this group is probably for you.

Rant: the Royal Parks Half Marathon ballot

The Royal Parks Half Marathon has been on my ‘races bucket list’ for several years. While the race is somewhat over-priced, the course looks amazing, and I’d love the opportunity to run through four of London’s eight Royal Parks. I’d been unsuccessful in the ballot for the 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 and really felt that it would be a case of sixth time lucky.


The successful/congratulations you’ve got a ballot place emails were sent out before the ‘sorry’ emails. Once again I received a ‘sorry’ email and was then bombarded on twitter by charities offering me places. I’m sorry but there is no way I could raise the amount of money charities are asking for. I’ve now accepted that I’ll probably never get the opportunity to complete the Royal Parks Half Marathon and have moved on. Hopefully I’ll manage to get a place in a new event: the London Landmarks Half Marathon.

Rave: Fitness Blender

While I can’t run at the moment I can still swim (I’ll discuss Swimathon in a future blog) and work up a sweat by attempting to complete online workout videos. I read about Fitness Blender on another blog, took a look at the website, and was seriously impressed with what I found.


Fitness Blender – for some reason I keep accidentally typing Fitness Bender – offers hundreds of free workout videos with new workouts released each week. Workouts range from 10 minutes to over an hour long (not a chance!) and from beginner to elite. As I can’t afford gym membership at the moment, I’m a huge fan of their bodyweight-only low impact workouts that can be done at home.

Rant: my fear of failure

A slightly random subject to end on, but I want to talk about my complete lack of self-esteem and fear of failure. When I was trying to find my GCSE certificates I found my school report from when I was 14. Although I’ve always been a boffin and that particular school report was full of A-grades, my form tutor wrote:

“Emma has shown a rather negative attitude over the last few months – she seems to lack self-confidence and a belief in herself. She has ability – it would be a great pity not to achieve her potential. Show us what you can do next year, Emma”.

Those comments are still relevant today. I’ve got a PhD and more than enough relevant work experience, but for some reason I’m too scared to apply for my dream job as a hydrology technical specialist. I know that I need to ‘woman up’ and to hit submit on the online application, but something is stopping me. I guess I should stop procrastinating and send in my application.

If you’ve reached the end of my latest random selection of rants, raves and moans then I’m impressed.

Apologies for the really, really random blog, hopefully my next post will be more positive.

My running goals for 2017

Firstly, I’d like to wish you all a Happy New Year! I hope that you all had a great Christmas and New Year. Here’s to an awesome and hopefully injury-free 2017.

As – like loads of other runners – I’ve already reviewed 2016 in far too much detail  – I think it’s time for me to look ahead to the New Year and to set some goals for 2017.

Although I managed to achieve most of my 2016 running goals, I still eat far too much crap food and tend to ignore the strength and conditioning ‘personal action plan’ I was given 12 months ago. Therefore, if I had to award myself an overall grade for 2016 it would be a ‘B-‘.

I’ve decided to set myself some challenging but hopefully achievable running goals for 2017. Although I love writing out resolutions and goals, I wasn’t originally going to share them. However, as previously putting my running goals into writing appeared to motivate me to get off my arse, I decided to publish this post.

training-journalsPerhaps one of my goals should have been to take better photos…

Enough waffling, here are my running goals for the year ahead…

Run 700 miles – When I first drafted out my running goals I wanted to run 1000 miles this year. However, last year I only ran 700 kilometres or approximately 435 miles. As a result I’ve been sensible and have adjusted my annual mileage target, so that this year I’d like to run 700 miles, still quite an increase on my 2016 mileage. I’ve worked out that I will need to run approximately 58 miles a month or 2 miles a day.

Complete 10 parkruns and 10 races – I set myself the same goal last year and failed miserably. Last week I worked out that due to several ‘DNS’ and a ‘DNF’ I only managed to complete three parkruns and a handful of local races. As I currently have to rely on unreliable friends and public transport to travel to races, I suspect that I’ll find this goal more challenging than it probably should be.

A sub 8 minute mile – my current mile PB of 9:09 is from 2012 when I hobbled around an indoor athletics track with tight bends with a leg injury. I’d like to lower this time at some point this year, hopefully at the Westminster Mile in May.

A Sub 25 minute 5k – I set my current 5k PB of 26:49 last February. If I fail to run a sub 25 minute 5k at some point during 2017 I will retire from running. That is a promise.

parkrun-pbI want to receive a few more ‘Congratulations on setting a new Personal Best’ emails this year

A Sub 55 minute 10k – After it took me several attempts to run a sub 60 minute 10k last year, I suspect that I will find this particular goal the most challenging. I’ve already entered the hopefully flat and fast London 10,000, and will do my best to set out at a sensible pace at the end of May.

A Sub 2:20 half marathon – now that I’ve finally rediscovered my running mojo, training for the Cambridge Half in March is going well. The mistakes I made during the Great Birmingham Run taught me how not to pace a half marathon. I’d love to achieve this particular running goal in March.

Listen to my niggles – I’ve reached the conclusion that I’m quite an injury-prone runner… Some runners hardly even seem to pick up injuries; I’m definitely not one of those runners. As I don’t want to spend another extended period sulking on the injury bench, I’m going to listen to my niggles this year.

Join a new running club – This is quite a tricky one as there is nothing wrong with my current running club, I’m just far too slow to attend the training sessions at the moment. I also have no idea where I’ll be living and working in six months time. Although I’ve researched alternative local running clubs, I’ll probably become an ‘unattached’ runner for the first time in a decade at the end of March.

Be slightly more sociable – At the moment I tend to run on my own and I’ve turned into a bit of a running recluse. This year I’m determined to overcome my anxiety and to attend more social runs. I’m also planning on pushing myself out of my comfort zone by volunteering at a range of local events.

Don’t buy any unessential running gear – I set myself the same goal 12 months ago and failed spectacularly! Last month I sorted through all of my running gear, worked out exactly what bits and pieces of essential running gear I needed to replace and then bought what I needed in the sales. While I’m still on the hunt for a couple of sports bras, I don’t need to buy anything else.  


Have you set yourself any running goals for 2017? While some of these goals are quite challenging, I hope that they are all achievable…

Are you a member of a running club? If you are, how often do you attend club training sessions? There are now so many different social running groups, I’m starting to question if I actually need to join another running club.

February review

This year I’ve decided to produce a short summary of my training at the end of each month. I want to look at the positives and negatives of my training. My review of January is available here.

What worked well? What were my running related achievements? What would I do differently given the opportunity? I’ll then draw a line under each month and look ahead to the next month.

Winter miles, summer smiles

In February a combination of the lurgy and a random foot niggle meant that I managed to run the not very impressive total of 20 miles. I completed six runs and spent just over three hours running around the streets of Four Oaks, the local athletics track, and Walsall Arboretum. Once again I’ve created a summary of my training runs using the Sisu website.

February 2016

The highlight of February was finally achieving a parkrun personal best time of 27:49 at Walsall Arboretum. Consistent and structured training really does work!

Another highlight was raising 25 per cent of my £500 London Marathon fundraising target for Samaritans. Only another £375 to go. A huge thanks to everyone who has sponsored me. You know who you are!

Although there weren’t any real low points, not attending the Leadership in Running Fitness course was disappointing.

Running costs

February was a relatively cheap month. I bought some Boots ibuprofen gel (£5.99) for my foot. The gel made no difference. I won’t waste my money again. I also purchased a personalised Walsall Arboretum parkrun t-shirt (£27.50) and some Bridgedale running socks (£18.97).

So much for not buying any more running gear!

Looking forward to March

The first week of March will see me complete my first official race of 2016. I’m really looking forward to pulling on my Club vest and to running around the Cannock Chase trails on Saturday morning.

I’m also looking forward to finally making the transition from running in Brooks Transcends to Brooks Adrenaline GTS 16 trainers. March will see me complete two contrasting 10K races; the Mash March Madness in Cannock Chase and the 7 Pools Run in Sutton Park. I can’t wait to test out my trail shoes in the Sutton Park mud!

Finally, there is also the small challenge of me swimming 1.5K for Swimathon.

Here’s to a successful (and hopefully injury free) March!


My running and fitness goals for 2016

I was going to write a ‘review of 2015’ type blog post but decided not to. 2015 has happened. 2015 is history. I completed my PhD and can now call myself Dr Emma (I won’t because I’m not a real doctor). I laughed, I cried and I said farewell to too many loved ones. I travelled, I ate too much food and I drank too much wine.

Due to various injuries I ran the grand total of 150 miles in 2015. Although 2015 was a bit of a write-off from a running perspective, it’s time to look forward and to think of some running and fitness goals for 2016.

The more observant readers of my blog *waves to my friendly stalker* will notice that some of these goals are identical to the goals I set this time last year.

No purchases of running gear – Perhaps a slightly unusual goal, but in 2016 I have set myself the challenge of not purchasing any running gear. I have enough pairs of trainers to supply a centipede and enough running clothes to last a lifetime. Both Sweaty Betty and Lululemon are located less than 5 minutes walk from my friends flat in Marylebone. Wish me luck!

A sub 30 minute 5k – Last year I managed a 30:04 parkrun, those 4 seconds irritated me for days. This year I will retire from running if I fail to run a sub 30 minute 5k. That is correct. I will retire from running! The slightly long-term goal is to achieve a sub 25 minute 5k.

Complete a Half Marathon – I am still yet to complete a half marathon this decade. I’m aware that going from zero to 13.1 miles in a matter of months is a massive challenge but I’ve already entered the inaugural Cannock Chase Half Marathon. As an experienced runner I really should be more sensible.

Complete 10 parkruns and 10 races – I love my local parkrun; Walsall Arboretum.Walsall Parkrun 15_08_15 2I love the challenge of racing against other runners and pushing myself. I don’t, however, love the limited public transport in Sutton Coldfield during the weekend. Although completing more races than I did in 2015 will be easy, the lack of transport options means that I can only really enter local races. The goal for 2016 is, therefore, to complete 10 parkruns and 10 races.

Run more consistently – My running has been consistently inconsistent for a number of years. Although in 2014 and 2015 this was due to a series of injuries, previously it was due to laziness. In 2016 I plan to run more consistently. Injury permitting the goal is to run 3-4 times every week.

Make friends with strength and conditioning – In December I spent over an hour with an amazing sports physiotherapist. Rather than simply treating the injury, Rowena took the time to find the reason for all of my running injuries. I discovered that I had a slightly rotated right hip and was provided with a personal exercise program. As a result I will be following a strength and conditioning program for the first time.

Improve my diet – Not a running goal, but if I am to improve as a runner, I need to improve my diet. I was given a copy of ‘Training Food’ written by Renee McGregor as a Christmas present. Once I’ve finished my temporary Christmas job at M&S I will have plenty of time to read my pile of Christmas books.

Swim more – In a moment of madness towards the end of 2015 I entered Swimathon 2016. As a really, really weak swimmer going from zero to 60 lengths by March will be a huge personal challenge.

Wish me luck!

What are your running and fitness goals for 2016?


My Swimathon 2016 challenge

Last week’s appointment with the Trauma and Orthopaedics consultant at my local hospital was not very positive. I’ve finally accepted that I won’t be running again for quite some time. Although x-rays confirmed that structurally my right knee is fine, the continual pain limits what I can do.

After sulking for a couple of days I realised that although I can’t run, there are plenty of other sports out there. Last week I discovered that a close friend will have to deal with a painful, debilitating illness for the rest of her life. I’m healthy and incredibly lucky. My injury is minor and fixable, after talking to my friend I felt like a fraud.

Yesterday an email from the organisers of Swimathon grabbed my attention. For one day only, registration into Swimathon 2016 was half price. Although the consultant was negative about my short-term running prospects, swimming had been recommended as a low impact alternative.

But I’m a runner not a swimmer!

In typical Emma style I had some doubts about my ability to swim the minimum 1.5 km distance. I even shared my concerns on social media.

Although I learnt to swim at junior school and became an obsessive ASA badge collector, as soon as I reached senior school I switched my attention to athletics and cross country. Between the ages of 11 and 16 I was far too self conscious to be seen in public in a swimming costume. Avoiding swimming meant that I was avoiding the bullies. After demonstrating to the PE teacher that I could swim 100m, I managed to avoid every single swimming lesson.

I avoided swimming pools throughout university. The last time I swam* was during a holiday in Port El Kantaoui, Tunisia


I find it hard to believe that it has been 10 years since I last jumped into a swimming pool. I’m 36; it’s time for me to forget about the school bullies. If I want to complete a triathlon in the future, I need to return to the swimming pool. Although I know that I’ll find Swimathon a challenge, I need challenges in my life.

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.” – Fred Devito

I’m incredibly lucky to live less than 15 minutes away from Wyndley swimming baths. Some people have to travel miles to get to their ‘local’ swimming pool. Wyndley organise adult swimming lessons, I’m going to see if I can afford a few individual lessons.

I then need to create a training plan so that I can complete the 1.5k (60 lengths) distance in March.

Hopefully it really is just like riding a bike…

The first stage of the Swimathon challenge will be buying myself a suitable swimming costume, hat and goggles. As I’m tall and have broad shoulders, I suspect that finding a swimming costume that fits may be one of the biggest challenges.

*more like floated around the pool trying to avoid getting my hair wet.

10 things I wish I had known when I started running

*Disclaimer* As I’ve finally taken the plunge and booked myself onto a Leadership in Running Fitness course, I decided to list the “things” that I wish I’d known before I started running. An hour later I had thought of more than 50 useful (?) hints and tips. Please note that all of the below are my personal hints and tips. Although I have been running for over 10 years I do not think that I’m an experienced runner*

1. Running can be inexpensive and simple. When I started running I bought a decent pair of trainers and a sports bra. I was kitted out for under £100. The obsession with having to own the latest GPS device came later. Luckily it didn’t take me long to realise that owning the latest gadgets and gear wouldn’t make me a better runner.

2. You don’t have to enjoy every run. As a runner it’s okay not to love every single run. I can guarantee that even the most experienced runners have the occasional crap run. It’s also okay to want to quit and to abandon a run after a mile. I promise that if you train consistently, running does eventually get slightly easier.

3. It’s acceptable to take walking breaks. The training sessions in the first weeks of the Couch to 5K training plan incorporate walking breaks. At the moment most of my training sessions incorporate walking breaks. If you feel you need to take a walking break during a training run, try slowing down slightly. If you still need to walk, then please take a walking break. Don’t feel like you have failed because you needed to walk.My Favourite Run

4. Stay away from the hard stuff. Avoid running on pavements and roads as much as possible. I used to spend hours pounding the local roads and pavements. I inevitably got injured (hello shin splints). Be adventurous and explore local parks and run on the trails. I now believe that roads are for racing and trails are for training.

5. Ignore niggles at your peril. Although I still struggle to differentiate between aches and real injuries, I have learnt that if my foot/groin/leg is consistently painful, then it’s time to take a break from running. I have also learnt the importance of warming up before, and cooling down after a run. I took me a while to realise that collapsing onto the sofa immediately after a run was not very smart.

6. Rest is important. If you feel tired then take a day or two off from running. Please don’t feel guilty if you miss the occasional training session. It took me ages to realise that quality is more important than quantity of training. There are no prizes for destroying yourself and ending up on the injury step. Junk miles are just that; junk.

7. Comparison is the thief of joy. It took me a long time to stop comparing my running achievements to the achievements of others at my running club. At times it felt as if everyone else was running further and faster. Ignore the Strava and twitter feeds and concentrate on your own achievements. You are doing fine.

8. You don’t have to complete a marathon. Like many new and enthusiastic runners I was obsessed with completing the London marathon ASAP. Some of the best runners I know have no intention of attempting to run the marathon distance. While on the subject of marathons London isn’t the only marathon. I have heard that Manchester, Brighton and numerous other towns and cities offer great ballot-free alternatives.720338-1011-0005s

9. Race photographs are generally expensive & unflattering. I paid £19.95 for the above extremely unflattering photo of me during a 10k in London. I have no idea what made me part with my cash. Race photos taken at larger events are generally overpriced and many, in my experience, are unflattering. Last October I shared some of my most unflattering race photos here. It took time, but I eventually reached the conclusion that it’s perfectly acceptable to look less than perfect in race photos.

10. Running is meant to be enjoyable. Although I sometimes struggle to leave the house when the weather is rubbish, I’ve rarely regretted heading out for a run. Running alone is great, running with other likeminded people is even better. So join a running club, I wish that I had joined my local running club sooner.

Have I missed out anything? What do you wish you had know when you started running?