Race Report: Royal Parks Half Marathon

Good morning. I hope you are all having a great week. Apologies in advance, I have a feeling this race report will be rather lengthy.

RPHM Logo

Before I start my review, I need to provide a bit of context. The Royal Parks Half Marathon was on my races bucket list for a long, long time. At the beginning of February, after six consecutive ‘failures’ in the ballot, I was thrilled when I discovered I’d finally been successful in the ballot. It meant that I could raise money for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity without any pressure.

I paid my £60.95 entry fee, let Rachel from The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity know I’d got a place in the ballot, drafted out a training plan and then put the race to the back of my mind. The original plan was for my PhD supervisor and good friend Geoff to travel to London for the weekend of the race. Unfortunately, Geoff passed away peacefully at The Royal Marsden in London in August so never got to see me run.

I started training for the Royal Parks Half approximately three months ago, and documented my training on here. I also started fundraising, and as I’m writing this race report, have raised £756.62. Training for the Royal Parks Half went reasonably well. I had a couple of injury scares but nothing too serious. I had a bit of a sniffle the week before the race, and also missed a couple of longer training runs.

I travelled down to London the day before the race, treated myself to pie and mash in The Barley Mow pub in Marylebone, and then checked into my hotel in Southwark. On Saturday evening, I headed to Casa Becci for one last time and quite possibly overdid the carbo-loading. I returned to Southwark, laid out my kit and went to bed feeling very well fuelled.Kit flat layI was woken by the rain at 06:00. I looked out the window and discovered it was absolutely chucking it down. As a hydrologist working in an area in prolonged dry weather, the rain made me smile. After spending months moaning about the lack of rain, I couldn’t really complain! I had a shower, a couple of productive loo visits, got changed into my running gear, and then as my stomach felt a bit iffy, took a couple of Imodium tablets.

By the time I walked to Southwark tube station it had stopped raining and actually felt quite humid. I successfully navigated myself from Southwark to Hyde Park Corner tube station – I followed dozens of other runners – and walked the short distance across Hyde Park to the race village. As I didn’t have to use the secure bag storage, I got straight into the queue for the portaloos. Final loo stop completed, I started to explore the race village. I spotted a VIP tent and a media tent; I guess official bloggers got to use the one of these tents. After spending 10 minutes saying no to all the free food and drink that was offered me – I wasn’t brave enough to try the healthy(?) energy drink – I tracked down a copy of the race route.Route MapI was a little disappointed as the route sent runners down The Strand rather than making the most of Victoria Embankment. I guess I should have checked out the route before the morning of the race.

And then it started to rain again and I found myself sheltering with a load of other runners under a tree. The tree didn’t make the best shelter; I should have used a bit of common sense and sheltered inside the charity marquee. If I find myself in a pre-race monsoon again, I know what to do! By the time I squeezed inside the Royal Marsden area of the charity marquee I was soaking wet and quite cold. Luckily, the rain stopped just because we were asked to make our way to the start area.

I’ve no idea why, but I’d been allocated a green number which meant I was in the second wave of runners to start. I entered the green start pen and immediately walked to the back of the pen. I didn’t want to be caught up in a mad rush at the start! The green pen was quite empty to start with. There was more than enough room for more serious sensible runners to work through their pre-race routines.Waiting to startFrom what I could see, a lot of runners were stuck in portaloo and bag storage queues. I took this selfie – how nervous do I look? – and spent a bit of time talking to a lady who was injured and was planning on run-walking the half. The loo and bag queues cleared and more runners joined the back of the green pen. This meant that one minute we were at the back of the green pen, the next we were up near the front.Pre race selfieThe race started at 09:00, and after a short delay – the different waves started at different times – I found myself running towards Green Park. I quickly noticed that the course was incredibly crowded, and my trainers were useless at gripping on the wet surfaces. Basic race etiquette was unfortunately also a little lacking at times, I lost count of the number of times I was clipped by other runners.Start of RPHMThis set the scene for the first few miles. Most runners were making the most of the stunning surroundings; I was too busy trying to avoid slipping over and getting in the way of other runners. Despite this, I felt great and found myself running at a far too ambitious pace. A familiar mistake which would come back to haunt me later on. The route took us along Birdcage Walk, past Horse Guards, underneath Admiralty Arch and then along an out and back section along Whitehall. The rain had stopped, the humidity had unfortunately increased, but the support was amazing.

The route then sent us on an out and back along what felt like the most slippery road in England, the Strand, back underneath Admiralty Arch, along The Mall in the ‘wrong’ direction, back through the middle of Green Park and then just before the 10k mark, into Hyde Park.

After years of trying and failing to get a place in the Royal Parks Half through the ballot, I really wanted to have a positive race experience. I’m a little ashamed to admit I found the final half of the route in Hyde Park a little frustrating. The support was amazing and in certain sections a little overwhelming, and the water stations well organised and stocked. The mile markers were easy to spot and had some rather unusual motivational quotes including ‘no swanning around’ and ‘tree-ly well done’.

I found myself struggling after my far too ambitious first half and had to slow my pace. As I’m useless at drinking and running, I allowed myself to walk and drink after every drinks station. Just before the 10 mile marker, I was involved in a bit of an unfortunate incident. I was running along minding my own business when suddenly a couple of pedestrians decided to walk directly in front of me. I didn’t have time to react and to stop running, so had to push my way past the pedestrians while apologising. Sorry but you shouldn’t really just walk in front of a load of runners!

I think my personal highlight of the final section of the course was the Lululemon cheer station. Thanks guys, now if you could restock my favourite running shorts

The route took us past the Royal Albert Hall and back towards the finish. I overtook a lady being pushed in a wheelchair, spotted some photographers, smiled grimaced, and ‘sprinted’ across the finish line.Finish 1Finish 2Finish 3I remembered to stop my watch and collected a medal, a couple of cartons of water, a banana and an empty canvas bag. Five minutes after I finished it started to rain again. I pretty much instantly went from feeling a little too warm to feeling cold.MedalLeaving the finish area was tricky as the route back to the race village was incredibly congested. There were loads of supporters with massive umbrellas looking out for their runners. I felt a little sad when I saw runners and their family and friends being reunited. Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to travel to races on my own. Enough self-pitying, as I knew I had to get back to my hotel and out of my wet clothes ASAP, I navigated my way out of this area as quickly as I could.

Once I’d made my way back to the race village, I spotted a huge queue of runners. I asked another runner what the queues were for, and discovered that they were for the post-race goodies. I joined the back of one of the queues and less than ten minutes later found myself in a conveyor belt of runners – it was really efficient – being handed a mixture of healthy snacks, drinks and rather randomly, a bottle of tomato ketchup!Goody bagAs, by this stage I was feeling very cold, wet and hungry, I left the race village and power-walked to Hyde Park Corner tube station. Less than 30 minutes after leaving Hyde Park, I was back in my hotel room having the most amazing hot shower. The £10 late checkout fee was definitely worth every penny.

I shared a photo of my medal and pre-race selfies on my Facebook page and thanked all my sponsors. I made my way back to Paddington station, treated myself to a McDonald’s, and then headed back to Wallingford and reality.

I spent Sunday evening feeling incredibly frustrated with myself. Once again, my pacing was all over the place and I let myself down. Although I got a 5 minute PB, I feel that I definitely could have done better. After vowing to never run in London again, I remembered I’d already paid to enter two half marathons; the London Landmarks Marathon and the the Vitality Big Half. Both events are in March.

Finally, if you’ve taken the time to read and to comment on my training updates; ‘thank-you’. My family don’t really understand why I run so your support has been invaluable. If you sponsored me ‘thank-you’. As soon as people spotted my Royal Marsden vest, the support I received on during the run was incredible, quite a few other runners came up to me with their own personal stories.

Would I enter the Royal Parks Half Marathon again? Yes! It’s expensive, yes it’s crowded, but the support along the route was incredible.

Race ratings:

  • Cost: 2/10 – (£57 + £3.95 postage and packaging)
  • Course: 7/10
  • Medal: 9/10
  • Race t-shirt: 8/10
  • Goody bag: 8/10
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Royal Parks Half Marathon training week 7

I need to start this training update with another public service announcement. I’ve had a couple more mystery sponsors. I’ve genuinely got no idea who you are. If you happen to read this then “thank-you” I really appreciate your support.

Good morning. I hope that everyone had an awesome weekend. I’m not in the office today as I’m preparing a presentation for a conference later this week. I think the highlight of my weekend was having a lie-in on Saturday and completing the Lichfield 10k yesterday.Collage 23The seventh week of my half marathon training plan originally suggested that I completed an easy 20-25 minute run on Monday, a steady 40 minute run on Tuesday, a 50-60 minute steady run on Thursday and a longer 100 minute run at a comfortable pace on Sunday. I entered the Lichfield 10k before I even started my half marathon training, so decided to test my speed over the 10k distance. I’ve still got another three longer runs in my training plan, so I’m not too concerned about missing one.

So how did I cope during the seventh week of my half marathon training? Did I manage to avoid picking up an injury? Did my foot behave itself?

Monday – Rest

Week seven of my half marathon didn’t exactly get off to the best start. I was meant to complete a 20-25 minute steady run, but my legs felt so niggly first thing in the morning following the Little Aston 5, I decided to treat myself to an additional rest day. Although the majority of my Monday was so mundane I won’t bore you all with the details, I was thrilled to discover that someone I’ve known since birth had sponsored me.

Tuesday – 40 mins steady

Unfortunately, thanks to some issues with some random runtime errors, work was a little stressful. Fortunately, my colleagues are incredibly supportive and I eventually managed to complete what should have been a reasonably straightforward task. I think it’s safe to say that the highlight of my day was leaving the office at 17:00.

I got back to my shared house, headed up to my room, lay down and spent ages thinking about recent events. I must have nodded off as one minute it was light, the next it was dark. I very briefly considered not running, but decided that the exercise and fresh air would do me good. I got changed and tried and failed to find my Garmin. In the end I headed out without my Garmin and completed three laps around Wallingford. Each lap usually takes me 15 minutes so I definitely ran for 40 minutes. It’s a shame my run wasn’t exactly steady. After having to wait until 23:00 to have a shower, I headed to bed feeling shattered.

Wednesday – Rest

Once again, one of my housemates woke me far too early and I struggled to get back to sleep. When my alarm woke me at 07:00 I felt incredibly tired. I stopped off at the River Thames on the way into the office, and spent what felt like ages sitting on a bench, watching the river flow past me. I was incredibly reluctant to leave my peaceful spot next to the river.Collage 24I’m a little ashamed to admit that after a terrible start to the morning where I felt totally useless at my job, I broke down in tears at my desk. My line manager told me to head outside for a walk and joined me. I’ve already said far, far too much, but sometimes it’s just good to talk. I’m going to really miss my line manager when my temporary contract ends in March.

Thursday – 60 mins steady

I had a meeting in Reading so although I had an early start, I enjoyed the change of scenery. I’m not sure how I managed to board the ‘slow’ bus, but the journey to Reading took ages. Henley-in-Thames looked seriously posh; I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people walking Labradors. I managed to catch the slightly faster bus back to Wallingford, walked back to my shared house and got changed into some running gear.

My Garmin was unfortunately still on the missing list, so I decided to time myself running for 60 minutes using my watch. I figured I could work out how far I’d run using GIS or GB Mapometer. I found running for an hour quite hard, and I finished the run feeling completely unprepared for the half marathon in October. At least my niggles behaved themselves.

Friday – Rest

After what had been an average week, Friday was a lot better. Following a productive morning, I met up with the rest of my team at a local pub for lunch. My BLT tasted amazing but was so crispy; I genuinely feared my fragile teeth would fall out. I escaped the office and an hour later found next to a lady who was heading up to Newcastle to run the Great North Run. Emily, I hope you had an awesome run.

Following a horrendous train journey between Birmingham and Four Oaks – the British Transport Police were called – I arrived back home a little later than usual. I was emailing a friend when I realised my vision wasn’t quite right; I’d got the start of a migraine. I headed straight to bed and prayed that I’d wake up feeling better.

Saturday – Rest

Unfortunately, I woke feeling as rough as a badger’s bum; luckily I hadn’t offered to help out at parkrun and was able to have a lie-in. I had originally planned to spend most of the day working on a couple of job applications and my conference presentation. I felt dizzy and my head unfortunately felt so fuzzy, I wasn’t able to do anything productive. Even collecting a couple of presents for my nephew and having my hair cut left me feeling exhausted. I went to bed feeling doubtful I’d be able to complete the Lichfield 10k.

Sunday – Lichfield 10k

I should have completed a comfortable 100 minute run but decided to run the Lichfield 10k. Fortunately, I woke up feeling much better and definitely well enough to run six and a bit miles. I travelled the short distance to Lichfield and navigated my way to an incredibly chaotic race HQ. Although I completely failed to track down Ellen, my sister-in-law Julie spotted me near the start. As Julie wanted a sub 60 minute time we positioned ourselves between the 55 minute and 60 minute pacers. A couple of minutes later Ness tracked me down and joined us. Well done on an awesome time, I hope your foot wasn’t too painful Ness.

Lichfield 10k 2018

As I’ve reviewed the Lichfield 10k a couple of times before, I’ve decided not to write a lengthy race review. You all know my racing routine now… I set out at a far too speedy pace, walked up the hill that crosses the A38, ran again, walked a couple more times and then finished feeling a little disappointed in 61:17. Actually, given how unwell I felt the day before, I was quite pleased I’d managed to knock more than five minutes off my 2017 Lichfield 10k time. I was ever more thrilled when I discovered that Julie had got her sub 60 minute time.

So that’s my own interpretation of week seven of my half marathon training more or less completed. I’m starting to feel a little concerned about my lack of preparation. Hopefully I’ll feel more positive once I’ve got some longer runs under my belt.

Week eight of my training plan looks achievable. The schedule recommends I complete an easy 30 minute run today, a 45 minute steady run on Wednesday, parkrun on Saturday and a longer 110 minute run on Sunday. After missing a couple of longer runs, I’m determined to enjoy every minute of my 110 minute run on Sunday.

Training totals

  • Runs: 22
  • Time: 15 hours 59 mins
  • Distance: 94.51 miles

Fundraising total

  • £477 (£57 increase from last week)

Niggleometer

  • Right knee: 3/10
  • Left foot: 2/10
  • Left groin: 2/10

Do you prefer to enter the same races or do you prefer to try out new races each year? After completing the Lichfield 10k in 2016, 2017 and 2018 I think it’s time I explored alternative 10k events. Although I like to check out my progress year-on-year, I find knowing courses too well quite challenging.

Do any of your relatives run? Although I only managed to keep up with Julie for a couple of miles, I enjoyed running with her.

Race Report: Little Aston 5

Good morning and I hope that you are all having an amazing Wednesday. I’m already counting down the hours until the weekend.

Enough waffle. Most of you are aware that I set myself the challenge of finishing 10 races this year. On Sunday morning I completed my sixth race; the Little Aston 5, an event organised by Royal Sutton Coldfield AC.

LA5 2018

[Photo: Marc Kirsten]

What did I think of the Little Aston 5 mile run? What was the course like? Would I enter it again? Would I recommend the Little Aston 5 to other runners?

I’m pleased to report that I managed to avoid obsessing over the weather in the lead up to the race. I guess being busy both at work and at home does have some advantages.

The race didn’t start until 11:00 so I was able to treat myself to a bit of a Sunday morning lie-in. It was bliss. I rolled out of bed at 08:00 feeling great. I made myself eat my usual pre-race breakfast of three Weetabix followed by a banana, made sure I was hydrated, had a shower and got dressed. Unfortunately, my stomach felt a little off, and after my third visit to the toilet, I seriously considered not running. I decided to see how I felt during the short walk to Little Aston. I hadn’t even closed the front door when I had to visit the toilet for a fourth time. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but visit number four seemed to do the trick.

Feeling a lot lighter and reasonably confident my stomach had settled, I walked the short distance to race HQ; Little Aston Primary School. In typical Emma style, I completely overestimated how long it would take me to walk just over a mile. At least I had plenty of time to warm-up. I collected my race number, caught up with some of my ex running club friends and tried to get myself into race mode.

Just before 11:00, we were asked to make our way to the start area. Now the Little Aston 5 is what I’d describe as a small, but very fast (not me) event. I made sure that I positioned myself towards the back of the field as I didn’t want to get in the way of the faster runners.

LA5 start

I moved myself away from a runner who was complaining about having to wait too long at the start, and positioned myself next to a group of runners from SE Fitness. I found out that one of the group, a runner called Hazel I’d met volunteering on Saturday was aiming for a sub 50 minute time, so decided to run with her. The race started and it took me approximately 10 seconds to cross the start line.

The majority of the junior runners in the two mile event flew past us, and after a couple of minutes, we settled into what was a slightly overly ambitious pace for me. Although the majority of the first mile was what I’d describe as either flat or downhill, running mile one in 8:52 was quite frankly, ridiculous.

The second mile was a bit of a blur. I’ve never been very good at pushing myself over shorter distances; I much prefer running at a steady pace for longer. Our little group managed to maintain a speedy (for me) pace, and I was amazed to discover I completed the second mile in a respectable 9:13.

I found the third mile mentally and physically challenging. The hills started to make an unwelcome appearance and my breathing was all over the place. Had I been running on my own, I would have definitely taken a sneaky walking break. I’ve genuinely got no idea how I ran mile three in 9:19.

The water station was located just before the start of mile four. As I wasn’t feeling particularly thirsty and didn’t want to walk, I ignored the bottles of water on offer and carried on plodding along. One second I was running in a group of runners, the next I was running on my own and struggling. Usually I love running in the countryside, at this stage of the race I wished I was taking part in a crowded city race.

I carried on running on my own until I came to a hill. I think you can guess what happened next; I slowed to a walk and waited for Hazel and the other runners from SE Fitness to catch up. I formulated a ‘plan of attack’ for the final mile or so with Hazel. We decided to power walk any steep hills and to run everything else. Virtually all of the final mile would see us running up the hills we had enjoyed running down at the start. Mile four took a slightly embarrassing 10:25, so much for consistent splits.

I actually enjoyed most of the final mile. I have a terrible feeling that Rocket Ron captured me pulling a terrible face when we ran past him. It will be interesting to see what his photos are like when they appear online. They may or may not be added to this post. We ran over the Footherley Brook, turned right and jogged back towards where we started. The finish line was located approximately 100m after the start, in the grounds of the local primary school.

I thought I’d put on an impressive sprint finish. The reality captured in the photo below shows that I was so busy chatting to Hazel, I completely forgot to increase my pace. I’ve no idea how we completed the final mile in 9:59.

LA5 finish

[Photo: Marc Kirsten]

I completed the five miles in a second running career 5 mile PB of 48:02. This was only good enough for 104th place out of 126 finishers. Most definitely a speedy field and a bit of a reality check!

LA5 medal

When I completed the Little Aston 5 over ten years ago, we were handed horse brasses rather than medals. I think it’s safe to say I was pleased to be presented with a 25th anniversary medal on Sunday. Although the goody bag only contained a bottle of water and a healthy snack bar, we were told we could take a reusable plastic sports bottle if we wanted to. I already used my sports bottle; full marks to Royal Sutton Coldfield AC for such a useful running accessory.

I hung around chatting to some other runners for a few minutes, posed for a couple of not very flattering photos, and treated myself to a Little Aston 5 woolly hat. Now that I’ve bought some winter running gear, we’ll have a freakishly mild winter.

LA5 post run pose 2

LA5 hat

As this race report has now taken me longer to write than the actual race did, I think it’s time for me to stop waffling and to share some Strava stats. I think it’s pretty clear I set out at a far too ambitious pace and paid the price later on. Another pacing fail.

So would I recommend the Little Aston 5 mile run? Thanks to Royal Sutton Coldfield AC I would definitely recommend the Little Aston 5. However, I’m not one hundred percent certain the event is going to take place next year.

Race ratings:

  • Cost: 10/10 – £10 (affiliated entry) entries were also available on the day
  • Course: 8/10
  • Medal: 8/10
  • Race t-shirt: n/a
  • Goody bag: 8/10

Do you prefer smaller, local races or do you prefer larger, more corporate races? Taking part in the Little Aston 5 reminded me why I prefer small, local races. I may have finished near the back of the field but I had a great time.

Would you rather be handed a decent medal or a reusable sports bottle at the end of a race?

Royal Parks Half Marathon training week 6

I’d like to start this blog with a public service announcement. A couple of people who sponsored me said they enjoy reading my blog. I’ve genuinely got no idea who you are, but if you read this then “thank-you”. If you want to guess my finish time, please get in touch.

Good morning. I hope that everyone had an awesome weekend. I’m feeling far too chirpy for a Monday morning as I’m on flexi leave. I think the highlights of my weekend were volunteering at Sutton Park parkrun and completing the Little Aston 5 race yesterday.Collage 20The sixth week and halfway stage of my half marathon training plan originally recommended I completed a steady 30 minute run on Monday – I replaced this with a 90 minute run – a fast 25 minute run on Tuesday, a steady 45 minute run on Thursday, a slow 15 minute run on Saturday and a 10k race or time trial on Sunday. As I’d already entered the Little Aston 5, I decided that a five mile time trial was sort of equivalent to a six and a bit mile time trial.

So how did I find the sixth week of my half marathon training? Did starting the week with a long run cause any issues? Did I manage to complete all my training runs? Did my right knee niggle turn into something more serious?

Monday – 90 mins comfortable

When my alarm woke me at 05:00 on Bank Holiday Monday, I didn’t feel like leaving my warm bed and heading out into the dark. I weighed up the pros and cons of running, reminded myself I’d already missed two longer training runs, got up, went to the loo, got changed into some running gear, and then made myself drink a pint of water. I then did something incredibly sensible and almost unheard of; some stretches.

It was cool and still outside, perfect running conditions. My new Garmin unfortunately completely refused to function as a GPS so I took it off and set the timer on my mobile to 90 minutes. Once I got going and had warmed-up my old joints, I enjoyed my long run a lot more than I thought I would. I’ve no idea what I thought about while I was running, but the time seemed to pass quite quickly. Once the 90 minutes was up, I walked the short distance back home, made myself drink a couple of glasses of chocolate milkshake, did some more stretches and then headed back to bed for a couple of hours.

Tuesday – Rest

My Tuesday morning got off to quite an entertaining start. One of the gates I usually open on my walk to the office was padlocked shut. I was left with the option of either retracing my steps and walking the long way into the office, or climbing over the gate. I wouldn’t recommend climbing over a gate in slightly too tight smart work trousers. Luckily, my trousers remained intact. Following a somewhat noisy but productive day in the office, I walked back to my shared house (via the pub) and had a power nap. I was meant to complete a 25 minute speed session, but decided to give my slightly niggly right knee time to recover from my long run the previous day. Sometimes I can be sensible.

Wednesday – 25 mins speed session

The sound of some much-needed rain woke me up at 05:30. We need the rain… I very briefly considered getting my 25 minute speed session done and dusted before work. I saw sense, stayed in bed and managed to get some more sleep. Work was productive, but not very blogworthy. I managed to avoid having an Excel related breakdown. I think the highlight of the day was a colleague who is currently on maternity leave meeting us for lunch; her 8 week old was tiny.

I’ve reached the conclusion that I’m not very good at speed sessions. I completed a five minute warm-up and then tried to increase my pace. The first mile of my attempt at a speed session was completed in 09:06, the second in 09:19. Not very speedy and a reminder I’m a long way off my sub 25 minute parkrun target. I was a little concerned because the bottom of my left foot felt a little weird. I’ve got everything crossed that I’m not about to head down Stress Fracture Street again.

Thursday – 45 mins steady

After waking up at the slightly unreasonable time of 04:00, I somehow had another productive day in the office. The highlights of my Thursday were a couple of people supporting the ‘Guess my finish time’ sweepstake I’m organising and lunch. The somewhat unhealthy combination of lasagne and curly fries I opted for at lunchtime tasted great. I also discovered that an amazing job opportunity had been posted on the internal jobs site. I’ve got a couple of weeks to get my application submitted. I escaped the office at 17:00 and headed to the Boathouse pub with a colleague for a quick pint. Much as I enjoy drinking on my own, it was nice to have a bit of company.Collage 21The only downside to my post-work drink was not being able to head out on my run until quite late. I struggled to run for 45 minutes less than two hours after drinking a pint of Punk IPA, and eating two packets of crisps. At least the combination of feeling nauseous and the terrible streetlights in Wallingford meant that I had to run at a steady pace. I actually finished the run feeling better than when I started. Unfortunately, my left foot felt slightly strange again. Hopefully it’s an imaginary niggle rather than a ‘proper’ injury.

Friday – Rest

Work was quite entertaining as the Christmas and New Year leave discussions started. I’m trying not to think about Christmas just yet. Anyway, you all know my Friday routine; I left the office at 15:00 and after a slightly stressful journey, arrived back in Four Oaks three hours later. Although I felt so tired I struggled to make the most of my Friday evening, I did manage to add a fundraising page to this blog. Please have a quick look and let me know what you think.

Saturday – Sutton Park parkrun volunteering

After walking at least five miles around Sutton Park, I decided to give myself an extra rest day. I really enjoyed my somewhat slightly overdue first stint at parkrun volunteering. I was allocated a position quite a long walk from the start, right next to the ice cream van. I only heard one person complaining about the course. I guess a lot of parkruns aren’t actually held in parks and people have probably got used to running on nice smooth paths.Collage 22The rest of my Saturday felt a little mundane after the excitement of parkrun and ice cream. I spent a couple of hours working on my presentation for a hydrology conference, caught up on some boring ‘adulting’ tasks and generally faffed around. I rather reluctantly headed across Birmingham for a music lesson. I hate Saturday evening trains as with the exception of the driver and the guard, I feel like I’m the only sober person on the train. Fortunately no one was ‘unwell’ on the train this week.

Sunday – Little Aston 5

As the Little Aston 5 didn’t start until 11:00, I treated myself to a much-needed lie in. My legs felt quite fatigued when I eventually got up, luckily they appeared to be reasonably niggle free. After quite a few toilet visits – let’s just say returning home for one last visit was the correct decision – I walked the short distance to Little Aston Primary School. As at some stage I’m planning on writing a proper race review I’ll keep it short. I last ran the Little Aston 5 mile almost 10 years ago, I’d forgotten about the hills. I think I got a 5 mile PB; I’m just waiting for the official results.

So that’s the sixth week of my half marathon training more or less completed. I can’t believe I’ve reached the half-way stage and only have another six weeks to go. The year is flying by at a ridiculous rate.

Quite frankly, I think that week seven looks a little challenging. The schedule recommends completing a 20-25 steady run today, a 40 minute steady run on Tuesday, a 50-60 minute steady run on Thursday and a longer 100 minute comfortable run on Sunday. I’m taking part in the Lichfield 10k on Sunday so the 100 minute run will have to wait a week. Hopefully this won’t have any impact on the day of the Royal Parks Half.

I’m actually really looking forward to the Lichfield 10k as my sister-in-law has entered and will hopefully be running. She’s so much faster than I am I think it will be a case of see you at the finish!

Training totals

  • Runs: 19
  • Time: 13 hours 18 mins
  • Distance: 78.62 miles

Fundraising total

  • £420 (£120 increase from last week)

Niggleometer

  • Right knee: 2/10
  • Left foot: 4/10
  • Left groin: 2/10

Race Report: Abbott Trail 10k run

I hope that everyone is having an awesome week. I can’t believe it’s already Wednesday. As someone once said to me; time flies, whether you’re wasting it or not.

Anyway. Some of you know that I set myself the challenge of finishing 10 races in 2018. On Sunday I completed my fifth race; the Abbott Trail 10k run.Event flyerSo what did I think of the Abbott Trail 10k run? Would I enter it again? What was the course like? Would I recommend the race to other runners?

As always, I wasted quite a lot of time worrying about the weather. Would the heatwave of 2018 break before the race? Were the weather forecasts getting my hopes up? Happily when I opened my bedroom window on Sunday morning, I discovered that it was cool, wet and windy. A real contrast to the previous weekend.

I went through my usual pre-race routine and my friend collected me and drove me the short distance to Hopwas. The temperature was a cool 15°c, ideal for running in, not so great for the marshals and supporters. Race HQ was located in a marquee behind the social club. I was so early, number and race chip collection was quick and easy. I was then left with the task of keeping myself entertained (and out of the rain) for almost an hour. I managed to find loads of runners to talk to but failed to keep dry. Some you win, some you lose.

Following a brief warm-up and a short speech, I walked the short distance to the start area and watched the 5k runners begin their race at 10:00. I don’t think the photo I took quite captured the rain, by this stage it was pretty epic pissing it down.Start of 5kThe 10k should have started 15 minutes after the 5k. Fortunately, the race organisers used a bit of common sense and didn’t make us wait around in the rain. I positioned myself near the back of the 10k runners, checked my GPS was working and was so busy talking to another runner completely missed the start of the race.

The first section of the course ran alongside the Coventry Canal and was lovely and flat. We then turned left into Hopwas Wood and the fun and games started. I realised that we would be [running] scrambling up the hill that destroyed my right knee during the Cathedral to Castle Run earlier this year. If I thought running down Mount Hopwas was difficult, trying to run up it was even more challenging. I’m not ashamed to admit that I slowed to a walk when I realised walking was faster than ‘running’. The first mile took 11:21.

Mile two was far, far more enjoyable. The course was still challenging and I had to spend the whole time looking at the ground, but it was fun. Once I realised that this wasn’t a ‘fast’ course, I decided to slow down and to enjoy myself. I made sure that I thanked every marshal – even those taking potentially terrible photos – as far too many other runners were completely silent. It’s a shame the weather was so terrible; we would have had some amazing views across the Staffordshire countryside.

Abbott Trail 2 (2)

[Photo: Simon’s Heroes]

The third mile took us out of Hopwas Woods and around the edge of what felt like the largest field in history, back down towards the Coventry Canal, along the canal and then back towards where we started. I can’t recall exactly when I worked out I would have to navigate Mount Hopwas for a second time. i suspect I probably stopped smiling when I realised.

I think it’s safe to say that mile four was not very enjoyable. My legs did not appreciate having to negotiate Mount Hopwas a second time. Much to the horror of one of the race marshals, I actually stopped for a couple of seconds to take some slightly blurry photos of the halfway point of Mount Hopwas.

Nightmare hill 1

Nightmare hill 2

I was *very* pleased to reach the water station at the top of Mount Hopwas. The hardest part of the course was behind me, it was more or less downhill towards the finish.

The penultimate mile was quite eventful. I managed to get myself caught up in some brambles; fortunately my lucky Lululemon shorts survived. A male runner almost slipped over right in front of me. I checked to make sure he was OK, and then decided to run in front of him as he was clearly having some traction related issues. I’ve no idea what happened to him, but at one stage I couldn’t see any runners in front of me or behind me. A slightly surreal experience.

Abbott Trail 2

[Photo: Simon’s Heroes]

Mile six was great fun. I managed to safely navigate my way down a slightly tricky hill without landing on my arse, and onto the path that runs alongside the Coventry Canal. Have I mentioned how much I have an irrational phobia of canals before?

I used my canal phobia to my advantage, ignored my tired legs, increased my pace, and completed the final mile in a respectable for me 9:46.

I’m still waiting for the official results to be published, but I crossed the line in approximately 01:05:xx.

A friendly paramedic removed my timing chip from my ankle – a good job because I’d completely forgotten about it – and walked the short distance to the Race HQ to collect my medal and goody bag.

Medal

While the medal was quite impressive, I thought that the goody bag was pretty disappointing. To be completely honest, all I want after an organised race is a bottle of water and a banana or apple. I can live without flyers, healthy snacks and other bits of paper.

I hung around for a couple of minutes in the marquee trying to get my breath back, plucked up the courage to ask a random runner to take a photo of me posing with wearing my medal, and then headed back into the relative warmth of the social club.

Post run pose

Just as I was starting to get worried I’d been abandoned in Hopwas, my friend phoned asking where I was. Opps. I arranged to meet him in the car park of the Tame Otter pub and ran along the canal path to meet him.

Coventry Canal

As this race report has turned into a bit of an essay, I’ll stop waffling and will leave you with some Strava stats. I think it’s safe to say I found Mount Hopwas challenging. 

So would I recommend the Abbott Trail 10k run? Definitely, but I’d also recommend wearing trail shoes if it’s wet. Some of the downhill sections were a little ‘hairy’ in places. Advice I’ll follow myself if I enter the race again next year.

Race ratings:

  • Cost: 8/10 – £20 (plus £1 service charge) – all profits went to charity
  • Course: 9/10
  • Medal: 8/10
  • Race t-shirt: n/a
  • Goody Bag: 2/10

Do you have any tips for tackling really steep hills? I tried taking shorter strides, focusing on something in the distance, slowing my pace etc but still found myself walking.

How long do you think it should take race organisers to publish official race results? Judging some of the comments on social media, runners now expect chip times and race results to be published more or less instantly.

Royal Parks Half Marathon training Week 1

As always, I hope that everyone had an awesome weekend. I think the highlight of my weekend was completing a challenging 10k trail race. As a few people said that they enjoyed reading my training and life updates before my disappointing Cambridge Half DNS, I’ve decided to share my training and fundraising progress in the lead up to the Royal Parks Half Marathon in October.Collage 1I suspect I’m going to find my fundraising more challenging than my training. Last year, Geoff, one of my closest friends and PhD supervisor was diagnosed with an inoperable form of thyroid cancer. Geoff had originally planned on travelling across to London for the weekend of the Royal Parks half marathon. Unfortunately, this is now looking extremely unlikely. I’m more determined than ever to run the half marathon in a respectable time and to reach my £1000 fundraising target.

The first week of my 12-week half marathon training plan recommended that I completed a steady 30 minute run on Monday, a steady 50 minute run on Tuesday, an easy 30 minute run on Thursday, a brisk 25 minute run on Friday and a steady 60 minute run on Sunday. So much running!

So how did I cope during the first week of my half marathon training? Did I manage to avoid breaking myself and picking up a niggle? Did I avoid the 2018 heatwave?

Monday – 30 mins steady

After waking up a little later than originally intended, I decided to run to and from my 08:10 doctor’s appointment. I figured that two runs of 15 minutes would be sort of equivalent to one 30 minute run. Unfortunately I hadn’t counted on it being incredibly hot and humid at 07:45. I arrived at the surgery pouring with sweat and doing an awesome impression of a beetroot. At least people sat away from me in the waiting room. I’ve no idea how my blood pressure was fine after running in the heat, but my doctor seemed happy. Perhaps she just wanted to get me out of her consulting room. The 15 minute run back home felt really difficult. I’m blaming one of my nemesis hills.Collage 2Following a much needed shower and lie down, I headed into Birmingham for a music exam. Once I’d got the exam out of the way I returned home on what felt like the hottest train ever. I think it’s safe to say that a combination of the heat, my post-run and exam tiredness and my lack of motivation prevented me from doing very much.

After checking out the weather forecast, I set my alarm for the rather unsociable time of 05:00 and headed to bed at a sensible time.

Tuesday – 50 mins steady

My alarm went off and I debated the pros and cons of running. I seriously considered delaying my run until the evening. I reminded myself why I was running, gave myself a talking to and got up. I got dressed, went to the loo, drank some slightly dubious tasting tap water, did some stretches, went to the loo again and headed outside. Although it wasn’t as hot as I thought it would be, it was incredibly humid.

My training plan said ’50 minutes steady’ so I decided to follow my favourite 5-mile route. My stomach unfortunately didn’t feel great, and I was a little concerned I’d have an unfortunate incident. Thanks to the humidity and my lack of fitness, I had to walk twice on my nemesis hill. Predictably, the final mile or so of the run felt easy and I felt I could have carried on running for longer than 50 minutes.

As I felt incredibly thirsty, as soon as I got home I made myself drink a pint of water. Can someone remind me to buy some nuun tabs? I headed into the garden, sat down and took a couple of terrible post-run selfies.

The rest of my Tuesday was not as productive as it should have been. I spent a bit of time researching medal options for virtual runs, generated a queue at the Post Office, spent a couple of hours gardening and ate far too much.

Wednesday – Rest

After running four times in four days, everything ached. I definitely needed a rest day. I’ve said it before, but there’s no way my injury-prone body would cope with a running streak. After a not very productive start to the week, I decided it was time to sort through the pile of unread research papers in my office. I also tried and failed to respond to the comments a reviewer had made on a manuscript I submitted to a journal. As my mentor is far too unwell to help, I suspect the manuscript will unfortunately remain unpublished.   Collage 4Following a reasonably productive morning and afternoon, I decided to make the most of my leave, and treated myself to a nap. I woke several hours later feeling somewhat disorientated and dehydrated. My deluxe nap meant that I had left myself with only 20 minutes to walk to the pub to meet a friend. I was a few minutes late. Sorry Anna! As the pub was hot and noisy, we decided to risk sitting outside with the flying, biting things. We spent an enjoyable couple of hours putting the world to rights before Anna had to head back home.

Thursday – 30 mins easy

My alarm woke me at 05:00 and I rather reluctantly got out of bed, dressed and ready to run. As the training plan said 30 mins easy, I made an effort to slow my pace down and to maintain what felt like an ‘easy’ pace. Although the run felt pretty effortless, a combination of the heat and humidity meant that I was still doing an awesome impression of a beetroot when I got home. As my house felt like a sauna, I drank a pint of water and lay down in the garden in an attempt to cool down. I then headed back to bed.

Later that morning, I headed across to Lichfield to meet up with my dad and his wife for lunch. Dad wanted to treat me so he had booked us a table at one of his favourite pubs; The Swan at Walton. I can honestly say that the menu was huge; there was almost too much choice. As I wasn’t feeling very hungry, I opted for the fish and chips and a side of onion rings, followed by the chocolate fondant brownie.Collage 3The fish was so huge when it arrived – see the pint glass for scale – I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to squeeze everything in. I managed to eat all of the fish and most of the chips, however, the onion rings were a bit of a struggle. Main meals complete, we headed outside to get some air and to escape from the boiling hot restaurant. Our puddings made an appearance and didn’t last long. I think it’s safe to say the rest of Thursday was quite chilled out.

Friday – Rest

I should have completed a 25 minute brisk run. After two failed running attempts, I decided to listen to my body and to treat myself to a rest day. It’s always good to record a training run ‘fail’ in the first week of a training plan.

Saturday – 25 mins brisk

When I woke up, I briefly considered asking my friend Vic to drive me to Walsall Arboretum parkrun.  In the end I was sensible and decided that I’d probably run too fast and injure myself. After a reasonably productive morning, I headed the short distance to the Four Oaks Estate and attempted to run at a brisk pace for 25 minutes.

I quickly discovered that although it was quite cool, it was also incredibly windy. Not the best conditions for trying to run at a faster than usual pace. I think it’s safe to say that my attempts to increase my pace failed. I made my usual mistake of setting out at a slightly ambitious pace. At least I finished the run without any new niggles.

Sunday – Abbott Trail 10k

Yesterday, I should have completed an hour long run at a ‘comfortable’ pace. As I’d already entered the Abbott Trail 10k, I decided not to waste the £21 entry fee, and risked breaking myself in Hopwas Woods.

I’m not going to go into loads of detail about the Abbott Trail 10k as I’m going to write a review of the race. It was wet, cold, windy, muddy and hilly. Most importantly, I had loads of fun and managed to avoid destroying my right knee.Collage 5So that’s the first week of what I suspect may well be a slightly too challenging for me training plan completed. I have a feeling I’m going to end up adapting the training plan to suit my needs and fragile body. I also need to make sure I squeeze in the occasional parkrun. Only another 11 weeks to go.

The second week of my half marathon training plan contains four training runs and three rest days. I’ve already completed a 30 minute easy run. I’ve got to squeeze in a 50 minute steady run tomorrow, a 45 minute steady run on Thursday and an hour long steady run on Sunday. Just thinking about running four times is making me feel quite tired. I’m such a granny.

Training totals

  • Runs: 5
  • Time: 3 hours 20 mins
  • Distance: 19.69 miles

Fundraising total

  • £275

Niggleometer

  • Right knee: 2/10
  • Left foot: 2/10

Do you prefer running in 30+ degree heat or in cold, wet and windy conditions? I personally prefer running in cold, wet and windy conditions.

Do you have any slightly irrational phobias? I found yesterday’s race quite mentally challenging because I’m scared of canals. Not ideal given that I’m meant to be a hydrologist.   

Enter a 2018 MoRun and awaken your inner MoRunner

Early bird entries into a race I volunteered at in 2016 and 2017 – the 10k MoRun in Sutton Park, Birmingham – opened at the beginning of the month.  While I really enjoyed volunteering, I experienced some serious race and medal envy. I’m looking forward to running the 10k this November, and earning myself a unique MoRunning medal.

TeamMiltonKeynes

Taking part in the 10k MoRun in Sutton Park also means that I’ll be supporting and raising awareness of an amazing charity; the Movember Foundation.

What is the Movember Foundation?

MoRunning supports The Movember Foundation – the only charity tackling men’s health on a global scale, all year round. The Movember Foundation addresses some of the biggest health issues faced by men: prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health and suicide prevention.

The Movember Foundation knows what works for men, and how to find and to find the most innovative research to have an impact both globally and locally. The Foundation is independent of government funding, so it can challenge the status quo and invest faster in what works. In 13 years the Foundation has funded more than 1200 men’s health projects around the world.

The Movember Foundation has one goal; to stop men dying too young.

Take part in a MoRunning event this year

 2018 is going to be a massive year for MoRunning!

With 22 confirmed locations to date, Mini MoRuns for a second year and the addition of virtual MoRunning, there will be an incredible month of MoRuns across the UK and Ireland. There’s sure to be a race near you.

MORunVisual1-B

November 3rd

  • The Leeds 5k, 10k and kids 1.5k MoRun – Temple Newsam – 09:30am
  • The Aberdeen 5k, 10k and kids 1.5k MoRun – Hazlehead Park – 09:30am

November 4th

  • The Perth 5k, 10k and kids 1.5k MoRun – North Inch – 09:30am
  • The Newcastle 5k, 10k and kids 1.5k MoRun – Exhibition Park – 01:30pm

November 10th

  • The Brighton & Hove 5k, 10k and kids 1.5k MoRun – Western Lawns – 09:30am
  • The Edinburgh 5k, 10k and kids 1.5k MoRun – Holyrood Park – 09:30am
  • The Cardiff 5k, 10k and kids 1.5k MoRun – Bute Park – 09:30am

November 11th

  • The Bristol 5k, 10k and kids 1.5k MoRun – Ashton Court – 10:30am
  • The London Battersea Park 5k and kids 1.5k MoRun – Battersea Park – 10:30am
  • The Glasgow 5k, 10k and kids 1.5k MoRun – Glasgow Green – 10:30am

November 17th

  • The Liverpool 5k, 10k and kids 1.5k MoRun – Croxteth Park – 09:30am
  • The Exeter 5k, 10k and kids 1.5k MoRun – Exeter – 09:30am
  • The Birmingham 5k, 10k and kids 1.5k MoRun – Sutton Park – 09:30am

November 18th

  • The Southampton 5k, 10k and kids 1.5k MoRun – Southampton Common – 09:30am
  • The Manchester 5k, 10k and kids 1.5k MoRun – Heaton Park – 09:30am
  • The Nottingham 5k, 10k and kids 1.5k MoRun – Wollaton Park – 09:30am
  • The Milton Keynes 5k, 10k and kids 1.5k MoRun – Campbell Park – 09:30am

November 24th

  • The Dublin 5k, 10k and kids 1.5k MoRun – Phoenix Park- 09:30am
  • The Ipswich 5k, 10k and kids 1.5k MoRun – Chantry Park – 09:30am

November 25th

  • The Whitstable 5k, 10k and kids 1.5k MoRun – Whitstable – 09:30am
  • The London Greenwich Park 10k and 1.5k kids MoRun – Greenwich Park – 09:30am
  • The Belfast 5k, 10k and kids 1.5k MoRun – Stormont Park- 09:30am

Virtual Race November 1st to November 29th

This year there is also the option of taking part in a Virtual Race. Be part of MoRunning 2018 and take part in virtual 5k, 10k or kids 1.5k MoRun.

You can find out everything you need to know about the 2018 series of MoRuns here.

MoRunning 2018 Pricing

  • 5k (Early bird) – £16.00
  • 5k (Standard) – £18.00
  • 5k (On the Day) – £20.00
  • 10k (Early bird) – £19.00
  • 10k (Standard) – £22.00
  • 10k (On the Day) – £25.00
  • Mini MoRun (Standard) – £10.00*
  • Virtual MoRunning – £12 (runners receive a medal and headband on completion)

*Mini MoRun entry price includes Mini MoRunning technical t-shirt.

MoRunners Receive

  • Training plans and support from The Running Bug
  • Race chip timing and instant race results
  • MoRunning medal
  • Legend and Superhero medals for best fancy dress and legends of MoRunning
  • Discount for groups of four or more of 10% (Find out more about how to register a team)
  • MoRunning Headband
  • Yellow Winners Jersey for 1st male and female in the 5k and 10k events as well as a Champion medal and free entry to 2019
  • Professional photos to view and purchase
  • 15% discount voucher code for online purchases from Up and Running

 Mini MoRunners* Receive

  • Free super cool Mini Mo T-Shirt
  • MoRunning headband
  • Mo Medal
  • Yazoo Drink
  • Loads of high fives

* Please note that it is the responsibility of parents to ensure children are able to run the Mini MoRun unaccompanied. If required, one parent can run with Mini MoRunners free of charge.

So run hard, run fast, have fun and enjoy being part of something special.

2016-Leeds-Stormtrooper

I’m aware that I’m repeating myself, but I’m already looking forward to taking part in my local MoRun in November. I’ve already talked a couple of my running friends into entering; it would be awesome to meet some of you there.

Could you run a 5k or 10k for The Movember Foundation?

For loads more information and to sign up please click here.

For more information about the Movember Foundation please click here.

The Movember Foundation is a Registered Charity No.1137948 (England/Wales) SC041981 (Scotland)

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