Rants and raves #21

**Disclaimer: I’m writing this blog post after spending the majority of the day surrounded by students with coughs and colds. I predict that by the time this is published I’ll have a cold. As always all rants and raves and moans and groans represent my own views. Other far, far superior and less opinionated running blogs are available.

If you check out the relevant section of The Running Awards site you’ll find loads of awesome running blogs listed. Please take the time to vote and support your favourite running blogger**

Rave: Autumn

I’m incredibly fickle. Some days I hate autumn – usually when I nearly step in a cunningly concealed pile of dog mess or an acorn lands on my head – other days I love autumn.AutumnMaking the most of the autumn sunshine. It’s hard to believe it’s almost November.

After an amazing walk in the sunshine earlier today, I’ve decided that I currently love autumn. I just wish we didn’t have to mess with the clocks.

Rant: Christmas in October

While I love autumn, I’m not so keen on seeing Christmas food and decorations in the shops in late September/early October. I think that Christmas should be ‘banned’ until we’ve got Halloween and Bonfire Night out of the way.Christmas SeptemberI took this photo in my local M&S at the end of September.

I personally quite enjoy Christmas, however, I’m aware that a lot of people really struggle during the festive period. I’ve already witnessed people arguing about how much to spend on Christmas presents. I think my brother probably has the right idea. He is going to be spending Christmas abroad again.

Rave: Blogging

This is a slightly strange one so please bear with me. I guess most bloggers love blogging because of the freebies. Actually, I’m only joking and I’m sure that the majority of bloggers enjoy blogging for other reasons. While I’m aware my series of weekly half marathon training updates weren’t very interesting, writing them has had a slightly unexpected benefit; photographs and memories.

London memoriesSo many amazing memories.

Thanks to my weekly updates I took loads of photos during my most recent trips down to London. Without this blog I wouldn’t have taken so many photos. Without this blog I wouldn’t have so many reminders of spending quality time with someone who is now seriously ill. So take shit loads of photos and irritate your non-blogger friends and family and ignore the slightly strange looks in pubs and restaurants. I’m pleased that I did!

Rant: Insomnia

A rather random rant but I’ve included it here as it’s having a huge impact on my life and the moment. I’ve never been very good at dealing with uncertainty and not knowing how long my friend has got left and not knowing when I’m going to start my new job – the latest estimate is sometime in January, is beginning to stress me out.Insomnia

[Source]

I go to bed at a sensible time; wakeup at 3/4am and then lie awake for what feels like hours over-thinking everything. I’ve been functioning on limited sleep for almost a month now and it’s not ideal.

Rave: Running

I may be struggling to sleep but I’m really enjoying my running at the moment. My right heel and left foot *touch wood* have been behaving themselves since the Great Birmingham Run, and I’m enjoying not following a rigid(ish) training plan. Hopefully my love affair with running will continue during the festive period. Although I don’t believe in counting calories and working out how many miles I need to run to burn off a mince pie, it will be good to keep reasonably active during the festive period.

I’ve entered the Run up to Christmas challenge and have set myself the target of running 50km in December.

Rant: Great Run events

I’ve already had a bit of a moan about the not so secure baggage buses at the recent Great Birmingham Run so I won’t repeat myself. Unfortunately, I’ve got a few other issues with Great Run events so if you love Great Run events, I’d skip this particular rant.GBR Goody BagI think the small bag of Fruit Pastilles was the highlight of this goody bag.

Given the high cost of entering events such as the Great North Run and the Great South Run, I think that runners should be able to officially transfer their entry to another runner or get a refund. Yes there should be a deadline for this, but I’m sure that offering official transfers and refunds would vastly reduce the amount of ‘illegal’ number swapping that takes place.

Finally, I’m not a fan of having to search for my medal in the bottom of a goody bag. Please take note Great Run!

Rave: Getting my work published in an academic journal

As I’ve done rather a lot of ranting in this post I’ve decided to finish with a bonus rave. After a lot of stress and tears, one of the papers I started writing when I was a research student has now been published.Baxter paper

Just another three papers to finish.

Let’s just ignore the fact that my masterpiece was published online on Friday 13th. I’m also ignoring the fact that another paper I’ve written needs to be formatted before I can submit it.

I was going to rant about trains and delays but I think I’ve written enough waffle for one blog. I also need to crack on with some work.

Once again, if you’ve reached the end of my latest selection of rants and raves then thank you!

Have you made a start on your Christmas shopping? My friend Kate has just informed me she’s done all of her Christmas shopping.

Do you have any tips for dealing with insomnia? I’m getting to the stage I’ll try almost anything. 

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Race Report: Great Birmingham Run

I’ll start this post with a bit of a disclaimer. This race report is likely to turn into a bit of an essay. I’ve now had a week to reflect on what happened so will hopefully avoid writing a load of negative waffle. Like last year, the race was reasonably well organised and very well supported – almost too well supported near the finish – I just had a bad day at the office.

Last Sunday I ran completed the Great Birmingham Run. Unfortunately, my race didn’t go to plan.

The night before the race was stress free. I made myself eat a huge portion of Spag Bol and ensured that I drank loads of water. I laid out my running gear and went to bed (alone) at a sensible time.

Running gear

The Great Birmingham Run didn’t start until 13:30 so I didn’t roll out of bed until 08:00. I ate a huge portion of Weetabix and a couple of bananas, drank several cups of tea and spent the next hour faffing around. I felt relaxed – almost too relaxed – and only started to feel my stress levels increase when I discovered that the race number magnets I’d bought were useless. After a couple of failed attempts, I used my ‘lucky’ safety pins and decided that I could live with a wonky race number. I had a shit, shower and (leg) shave, got dressed and packed my bag.

At 10:00 I ate another portion of Spag Bol, drank a large glass of orange nuun, went to the toilet again and was ready to go. I walked to the train station, boarded an extremely busy train, the 400 per cent increase in passenger numbers and lycra seemed to confuse the regular Sunday shoppers, and arrived in Birmingham with plenty of time to spare. I met up with Matt and his friend and after a quick ‘real toilet’ stop, we headed towards the race village.

To the start

Race Village[Source]

Apologies, this is already getting slightly lengthy. We watched a few marathon runners approach the finish, navigated our way through crowds of runners and their supporters to the baggage buses, dropped our gear and found and joined the queue for the portaloos. Fortunately, I timed my final portaloo visit to perfection this year and didn’t start the race needing a wee.

The start area wasn’t very well policed and was slightly chaotic. Like last year, the warm-up was a little farcical and the sun made an unwelcome appearance five minutes before the race started. Thanks to the late start time, I felt far too relaxed and not in what I call ‘race mode’. Judging by some of the conversations other runners were having, I wasn’t the only person feeling far too relaxed.

The race started and I spent the first 10 minutes telling myself I was about to run a half marathon while making a real effort to slow down. Last year I set out at an unsustainable pace and my race was over before it started. Guess what? This year, although my pace was far more sensible, I quickly realised there was no way I could sustain it for 13.1 miles. The first few miles of the Great race are not exactly what I would describe as scenic. Let’s just say, even in broad daylight, I’d avoid walking along some of the streets we ran along.

Although the route improved when we entered Cannon Hill Park, I was already struggling and decided to resort to running for four minutes and walking for a minute. I must have been sleep-running or slightly delirious as I failed to notice two different official race photographers. At least they didn’t capture me during one of my walking intervals!Cannon Hill ParkWe left Cannon Hill Park and completed a lap of Edgbaston Cricket Ground. As a cricket fan this sounded amazing, however, the reality was a little disappointing. We left Edgbaston and headed onto Pershore Road. The half marathon became more challenging here as the course was extremely crowded and we were running directly into the wind. By this stage I accepted that I was having a really bad day at the office, seriously considered dropping out, but decided to carry on. At least I’d get value for money…

At times I felt I was making very little progress. Last year the faster runners heading along Pershore Road in the opposite direction inspired me. This year, they just irritated me and I felt jealous that they’d completed the most of the 13.1 miles and were heading back towards the finish. Sorry faster runners.

The lowest point came when the route took me through an energy gel stop. For some reason, just thinking about consuming an energy gel made me feel incredibly nauseous. I’d just about recovered when the route took us away from Pershore Road and onto Mary Vale Road. The road was like a miniature Mount Everest and I found myself taking an extended walking break. The train waiting at the nearby station looked very enticing.

Mary Vale Road[Source]

Once I’d finished walking up Mary Vale Road I realised we were finally heading back towards the centre of Birmingham and the finish. Happy days. I increased my pace from ‘power walk’ to ‘slow shuffle’ and let gravity carry me past Cadbury Park (I don’t recall seeing Cadbury World) and back onto the main Pershore Road.

The next few miles were uneventful so I won’t go into too much detail. There was a slightly hazardous water station, another energy sapping hill, several collapsed runners receiving treatment at the side of the road – I heard a lot of sirens – and a lot of run walking. Definitely not an experience I want to repeat again.

The hills of Birmingham were alive with the sound of ambulance sirens.

Elevation

After what felt like a lifetime, I found myself back in the centre of Birmingham. The race organisers clearly don’t like runners much as the final mile was challenging. I power walked up the hill near Moor Street station (the official race photographer captured me at my best) and played dodge the spectators and Sunday afternoon shoppers. A couple of minutes later I spotted the ‘400m to go’ sign and made myself run.

There was no way I was walking in the final 400m.

Finish line

I spotted the finish line, increased my pace and attempted what felt like a sprint finish but was probably more of a hobble. I must have looked a little unwell as I was led towards the medical tent by a marshal. It was carnage inside the medical tent and some of the runners I saw looked seriously unwell. Let’s just say I was pleased I was allowed to leave after only 30 minutes. I rejoined the finish area, collected a goody bag, checked the bag contained the correct medal and navigated my way through crowds of supporters back to the baggage buses. Like last year, security was non-existent and I was pleased to see my bag.

The journey home by train was a nightmare as London Midland hadn’t put on any extra trains to cope with the increased number of passengers. The train was ridiculously busy, boiling hot and less than 10 minutes into the journey a runner collapsed. In the end the train was delayed for almost an hour while we waited for an ambulance. I got home 95 minutes after leaving Birmingham, removed my trainers and assessed my feet, collapsed on top of my bed and fell asleep wearing my stinky running kit. I didn’t even have the energy to investigate the contents of my goody bag.

Medal and tshirt

I’ve now had over a week to reflect on what happened and have stopped sulking about my performance. While I definitely wouldn’t enter the Great Birmingham Run again, I’ve already entered the Cambridge Half in March.

Have you ever had a really disappointing race? Reading feedback on farcebook made me realise I wasn’t the only runner to have a bad day at the office last Sunday.

How do you cope with fuelling for races that start in the afternoon? I have a feeling that the late start caught out a lot of runners.

Great Birmingham Run training week 16

I hope that everyone had an amazing weekend. I think the highlight of my weekend was managing to complete the Great Birmingham Run yesterday. It wasn’t fast, it wasn’t pretty – I got to see the inside of the medical tent at the finish – but I completed the 13.1 miles.Collage 39The final week of my 16-week beginners’ half marathon training plan – the ‘taper week and race’ – contained three training runs and ended with the Great Birmingham Run. I completed a 20 minute recovery run on Monday, a comfortable 40 minute run on Wednesday and an easy 15 minute run on Saturday. As my head finally started to feel ‘normal’ again, I made sure that I completed every training run.

I also did my best to avoid people with coughs and colds. Being unemployed definitely does have some advantages.

Monday – 20 mins easy jog

Although I definitely set my alarm for 05:30, I must have somehow managed to turn it off in my sleep as I didn’t wake up until 08:30. Returning to full-time work and working 39 hours a week is going to be such a shock to my system! As I didn’t want to start the final week of my training with a stressful run, I decided to spend some time through the PF stretches and exercises I’d been neglecting.

Once I was confident the school rush had ended I headed out on my run. Unfortunately, Geoffrey the Garmin was still broken so I used him as a stop watch rather than a GPS. My 20 minute run was probably a little faster than an ‘easy jog’ as I’m completely useless at pacing myself. I also tend to run slightly faster when I’m feeling good and nothing hurts. My suspicions were confirmed when I got home and worked out that I’d covered over 2 miles.

The final week of training had got off to a positive start.

Tuesday – Rest

Tuesday was a productive but incredibly restful rest day. After four consecutive days of pavement pounding, my legs definitely felt like they needed a day off. I spent the morning sorting through several boxes of junk and shredding loads of old paperwork and the afternoon reviewing an unpublished academic manuscript.

Wednesday – 40 mins comfortable

When my alarm woke me at 05:30 I turned it off and went back to sleep. For once I wasn’t being lazy; I was waiting for my second-hand replacement for Geoffrey the Garmin to arrive. After spending the morning waiting for the post to be delivered, my replacement Garmin finally arrived at lunchtime. Unfortunately, the battery was completely flat so I had to put Geoffrey II on charge before I could delete all the previous owners’ speedy data.

I didn’t head out on my run until almost 20:30. The run had the potential to be crap as it was dark, humid and incredibly windy. I was, however, so pleased to have a fully functioning Garmin, I ignored the less than ideal weather conditions (and a slight creepy taxi driver) and enjoyed my evening run.

Thursday – Rest

I got up at a respectable time, got changed into some gym gear and spent half an hour working my way through some of Jasyoga’s new Athletes for Yoga video series featuring Olympian Alysia Montano.  Although I’ve been subscribing to Jasyoga for almost two years, I realised that I’m still not very good at relaxing. Perhaps some people just aren’t very good at chilling out?

By the way, if you’d like to try Jasyoga, I was sent the promo code ‘AUTUMNRESET’ for one month’s free access.

The rest of Thursday was uneventful. I entered the Cambridge Half Marathon and spent a few more hours decluttering my PhD paperwork and text books. I spent the rest of the day writing an abstract for a paper and listing yet more junk on eBay. As I felt that I’d had a reasonably productive day, I treated myself to fish and chips and then spent an enjoyable couple of hours lying on my bed reading.

Friday – Rest

Friday was another reasonably restful but incredibly productive rest day. My paper on environmental flows was published in Progress in Physical Geography. Unfortunately, I can’t actually access the paper as I’m no longer affiliated to a university. After that bit of excitement my mentor phoned. Sometimes it’s just good to talk.

Saturday – Rest

I should have completed a 10-15 minute very easy paced jog, but I decided not to as I didn’t want to risk picking up a random, last minute injury. I spent the majority of the morning working on a couple of slightly overdue product reviews, stressing about the weather, getting my kit ready for the half marathon and answering a few blog-related emails.Collage 40After a reasonably productive morning, I headed across Birmingham to the university to return some slightly overdue library books. The trains to and from the university seemed to be full of people coughing and sneezing. I was paranoid I’d somehow manage to pick up a last minute bug. I got home, dumped my half marathon kit into a pile, made myself eat a huge plate of Spag Bol and went to bed at a reasonably sensible time.

Sunday – Great Birmingham Run

When I’ve had more time to reflect on what happened and what went wrong yesterday, I’ll write a separate race report. To summarise: running at 13:30 just felt ‘wrong’, it was warm and windy, my pacing was all over the place, I wanted to drop out after three miles, I had to run-walk from four miles, there were unexpected hills, my head started to really hurt, my vision went and I felt dizzy, I crossed the finish line and got escorted to the medical tent. Not my finest moment as a runner.

I’m pretty sure that I wrote something very similar 12 months ago, but I’d like to thank everyone who has taken the time to read and to comment on my weekly half marathon training updates. Your support really did help me probably more than you realised, especially when I started to doubt myself last month.

Training totals:

  • Runs: 46
  • Time: 23 hours 50 mins
  • Distance: 129.95 miles

Races/time trials:

  • 5 km: 32:49
  • 10 km: 66:52
  • Half Marathon: 02:43:32 (an epic fail but I’ll be back!)

Final niggleometer:

  • Right heel: 4/10
  • Right knee: 3/10
  • Left foot: 2/10

Race Report: Lichfield 10k

Thanks to my slightly temperamental head, I have to limit the amount of time I spend on my computer.  As I might not complete another race this year I decided to finish my somewhat belated review of the Lichfield 10k. Apologies if there are even more typos than normal. I’m having to type in a hurry.

I spent the evening before the race obsessively checking a selection of weather forecasts. Last year it was really warm and I made the mistake of not respecting the weather. Fortunately, this year the forecast was for cool and potentially wet conditions. As I knew that the majority of the course would be reasonably sheltered, I decided to ignore the wind.Lichfield weatherI woke early on the morning of the race and spent what felt like ages searching for four safety pins and attempting to pin my number to my t-shirt. As the race didn’t start until 10:30 I made myself eat two bowls of weetabix and a banana. I was reminded that I hate the feeling of ‘having’ to eat. I had a successful loo visit, a shower and got changed into my running gear, grabbed a bottle of energy drink and walked the short distance to the train station. So far so good.

A year ago, I got talking to a lovely lady called Ellen at the train station. This year, I bumped into Ellen and her family again. I quickly discovered that Ellen had been completely bitten by the running bug and was hoping to beat her 10k PB. I love it when people fall in love with running.

We walked the short distance from Lichfield City station to Race HQ and discovered we had enough time to collect our race t-shirts while the queues were reasonably short. I left my bag in the secure baggage area and went to find portaloos. The queue was massive and I estimate it took me 15-20 minutes to reach the front of the queue. Rather worryingly, one of the portaloos had been padlocked shut. I dread to think what had happened inside; luckily the portaloo I used was clean and pong-free.

Pre race faffingFeeling a lot lighter, I headed to the start area, positioned myself near the back of the crowd of runners and spotted Ellen. As we wanted similar times we decided to run together, and positioned ourselves a few metres behind the 65 minute pacer. We observed a minute’s applause for Bob Houghton, the starter sounded and we waited to start.

Although we had started near the back of the field, the first half mile or so mile was incredibly congested in places. The road surface was also incredibly uneven and I somehow managed to twist my temperamental right knee. Not the best start. The 65 minute pacer disappeared off into the distance and it seemed to take us a long time to get near her again. We made the most of the numerous downhill sections and maintained a sensible pace up the short inclines. Once I’d woken and warmed-up I found the first mile relatively easy and was quite impressed with myself for setting out at a sensible pace.

The second mile was a little more challenging. Once we’d finally escaped the main road and the rather irate drivers stuck in traffic in the opposite direction *toot toot*, we turned towards Whittington – an area of countryside that is going to be severely impacted by HS2. Last year I’d set out at such a ridiculously fast pace I was struggling after two miles. Fast forward twelve months and although I’d set out a much slower pace, I was still finding maintaining any sort of pace incredibly difficult.

When we reached the third mile – the start of Darnford Lane – I knew that one of the most challenging sections of the course was approaching and started to prepare myself mentally. I was aware I was working hard and the running related chat stopped temporarily. Last year, I walked most of this section of the course. This year I was determined to run up the most demanding part of the course without stopping. I completed mile three in 10:30, a definite improvement on last year!

Untitled6Mile four was a bit of a blur. We reached the water station and although Ellen was sensible and grabbed a bottle of water, for some reason I decided to carry on without taking on any water. We left the drinks station behind and started to approach the location of my mini-meltdown last year; the bridge over the A38. Although I managed to run over the bridge without slowing to a walk, by the time we reached the housing estate I was struggling and walked for five minutes in an attempt to stretch out my right knee and get my breathing under control. Sorry Ellen!

The fifth mile was challenging both mentally and physically. After I slowed to a walk the second time, I persuaded Ellen to carry on without me. I didn’t want to ruin both of our races and I was acutely aware that I tweaked my right knee. Ellen went on to smash her 10k PB so it was definitely the correct decision. I resorted to a slightly feeble run-walk-stretch-run routine until my knee started to feel a little better. The fifth mile was shockingly slow.

Official photos

The final mile and a bit was pretty uneventful and I hobbled the uphill sections and power walked the downhill sections. Thanks knee! I remember waving at the official on course photographer – why do photographers insist on taking photos near the end when I look terrible? – and running slowly back towards the start. Rather embarrassingly I to stop at the bottom of the approach to the final 100m to stretch out my right knee. Knee sort of sorted, I ‘powered’ my way up the grassy hill to the finish, stumbled over the finish line, collected my medal and a bottle of water and remembered to keep on moving.

Post run pose

The finish area was slightly chaotic and I couldn’t see Ellen so I decided to retrieve my bag and dry clothes from the baggage drop. Bag collected, I headed back out into the cold and more by luck than judgement found Ellen and her family. I got Ellen to take a photo of me with my medal – I’ve no idea why I decided to stand at such a quirky angle –we arranged to meet up for some training runs and then went our separate ways.

By the time I got on the train I realised that I was feeling really cold. So cold my lips had started to turn a lovely shade of blue.

Post Lichfield selfie

Although I was initially incredibly disappointed in my race, the back of the race t-shirt helped to put everything into perspective.

T shirt and medal

I’m not sure I’ll enter the Lichfield 10k again next year. Writing this review has made me realise that I don’t actually enjoy running along uneven road surfaces, over dual carriageways and through housing estates. I suspect I’m letting my own poor performance cloud my judgement.

Lichfield strava

I can’t fault the organisation in the lead up to the race, on the day of the race and after the race. I received my results by text the second I crossed the finish line and the official race photographs were available to purchase the morning after the race.

Finally, if you are reading this race report in 2018, please don’t let my negativity stop you entering the race!

Race Ratings:

  • Cost: 7/10 – £17 + £2 service fee as an unaffiliated runner
  • Course: 5/10 – challenging and not very scenic
  • Medal: 8/10
  • Race t-shirt: 10/10
  • Goody Bag: N/A

 

Getting my mojo back with MoRunning

I completed the Great Birmingham Run in the middle of October and then completely lost my running mojo. My trainers sat in the corner gathering dust, and my enjoyable early morning runs felt like a distant memory. I needed a new running goal to help me rediscover my mojo.

As a result I was thrilled when I was recently contacted by an amazing organisation, MoRunning. MoRunning asked if I would be interested in promoting awareness for the Movember Foundation by taking part in a MoRunning race. I immediately agreed, and with the help of MoRunning entered my local MoRunning event in Sutton Park, Birmingham

morunning-2

What is the Movember Foundation?

From humble beginnings back in 2003 the Movember movement has grown to be a truly global one, inspiring support from over 5 million MoBros and MoSistas. The Movember Foundation is the only charity tackling men’s health on a global scale, and helps to fund projects that address some of the largest health issues faced by men including testicular cancer, prostate cancer, mental health and suicide prevention. The Movember Foundation is independent of government funding, so can challenge the status quo and invest faster in what works. In 13 years the Movember Foundation has funded more than 1,200 men’s health projects around the world.

Take part in a MoRunning event this month!

Due to the popularity of Movember it is now pretty common for MoBros to grow their moustaches in November. Although as a MoSista I’m unable to grow a moustache, I can still get directly involved by pulling on my trainers and by completing a MoRun.

morunning-3

This year there are 17 MoRunning events taking place between the 5th and 27th November so there’s sure to be a race near you:

Leeds Saturday – 5th November 10:00
Dublin – Saturday 5th November 10:00

Swinley Forest – Saturday 5th November 10:00
Belfast – Sunday 6th November 10:00
Newcastle – Sunday 6th November 14:00

Edinburgh – Saturday 12th November 10:00

Bristol – Saturday 12th November 10:00
Battersea Park – Sunday 13th November 10:00
Glasgow – Sunday 13th November 10:00

Cardiff – Sunday 13th November 11:10

Birmingham – Saturday 19th November 10:00
Liverpool – Saturday 19th November 10:00
Nottingham – Sunday 20th November 10:00
Manchester – Sunday 20th November 10:00
Milton Keynes – Sunday 20th November 10:00

Brighton – Saturday 26th November 10:00
Greenwich London – Sunday 27th November 10:00

You can find out everything you need to know about the series of MoRuns here and when you register you have the option to make a donation with your entry fee(£18 for the 5k or £22 for the 10k distance) or to set up a Just Giving page straight away.

morunning-1

All runners will receive a race pack and race number, chip timing, a medal and loads of other amazing goodies.

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

For more information and to sign up please click here

Race Report: Great Birmingham Run

It’s never a good sign when it takes me almost a week to write a race report. I could have written a ‘woe is me’ race review last Sunday, but I decided to spend a few days reflecting on what happened. The Great Birmingham Run itself was well organised and very well supported, and I didn’t want to write a biased and overly negative race review.

event-day

After managing to complete 16 weeks of training, I was confident that I’d enjoy the Great Birmingham Run. I also hoped that all of the early morning training runs would be rewarded with a respectable half marathon time. I was going for gold.

When I first looked out of my bedroom window at 6am on Sunday morning it was dry. A few minutes later it started to rain. The rain continued until approximately thirty minutes before the race started. I got out of bed at 6:30am, had a shower, got changed into some of my running gear and managed to eat four weetabix and a couple of bananas.

My friend reluctantly dropped me off in the centre of Sutton Coldfield and I spent ten cold and very wet minutes waiting for a bus. Fortunately the bus arrived and 30 minutes later I found myself walking across the centre of Birmingham playing dodge the huge puddles and hunt the race village.

start-areaI would have taken more pre-race photos but I decided against getting my camera soaked. I tracked down some portaloos and had a successful visit. I then located the baggage buses – for some reason I hadn’t expected the baggage buses to be double-decker buses – climbed onto bus number 5 and removed my soggy jeans and fleece and put on the rest of my race day outfit. I squeezed myself into the black bin bag I’d customised the previous evening, and left my bag sitting on the back seat of the baggage bus. I was actually quite jealous of my bag getting to sit inside a warm and dry bus.

I reluctantly headed back out into the rain, found some shelter and spent the next thirty or so minutes people watching and trying to keep warm. I managed to fit in a couple of portaloo visits and after a few attempts tied my laces so that they weren’t likely to get too tight as the race progressed. I was nervous and just wanted the race to start. After what felt like ages, runners wearing orange and white numbers were called to the start area. It was quite windy and I started to feel really cold. In usual Great Run style there was a short organised – and in such a confined space slightly hazardous – warm-up. My warm-up consisted of me removing my bin bag and hoodie and realising that I *really* needed another wee. Unfortunately, there were huge queues for the portaloos in the start area and queuing would have made me miss the start of the race. I tried to convince myself that I didn’t need the toilet. I tried to remember where the first set of portaloos would be located.

The race started, and the elite and faster runners disappeared off into the distance. After a short delay to avoid the course getting too congested, my wave started running and I headed out on my half marathon run. As soon as I started to run I realised that I still *really* needed a wee. I actually weighed up the pros and cons of weeing while I ran. The first miles and a half was pretty bleak and the course seemed to pass through some slightly dodgy backstreets. I didn’t spot any portaloos and was envious of the male runners who were able to go just about anywhere.

After a couple of slightly over ambitiously paced miles – next time I’ll make sure my Garmin is set to miles and not kilometres – I slowed down and settled into a more sensible pace. I still needed a wee.

Unfortunately, even the more sensible pace felt a lot harder than it should have done so early on in the race. I realised that I felt very hungry. I’d eaten breakfast more than three hours before the race started and was now running on empty (sorry, I couldn’t resist!). Judging by the number of discarded gel wrappers I spotted on the floor – there were thousands of the bloody things, why can’t runners make more effort to carry their rcannon-hill-parkubbish? – I was clearly one of the few runners not using energy gels. I won’t make the same mistake next time.

At approximately 5 miles the course went directly past Bournville train station. I thought about the emergency £10 in my back pocket and almost stepped off the course and into the train station. The course then went past Cadbury’s World – another huge temptation and reminder of my hunger – and up a really short but steep hill. Shortly after the 6 mile marker there was a drinks station and more importantly a row of portaloos. I sprinted off the course and into a portaloo. After spending several hours on my feet, sitting down in the warm and escaping the wind and crowds felt like heaven. Unlike most runners I didn’t exactly rush out of the portaloo and back out onto the course. I guess that deep down I already knew that my race goals were out of reach.

I rejoined the race and spent a couple of minutes trying to get going again. My legs and knees were not happy. Between 7 and 8 miles I managed to distract myself by watching the runners from the later waves heading in the opposite direction. Without the wind cooling me down I started to feel warm and wasted more time getting into a tangle with my water bottle and cap. Trying to multitask didn’t work and next time I’ll stop running, remove my cap, tip water on my head, replace my cap and then run.

After what felt like forever, we turned off Pershore Road and headed towards Edgbaston Cricket Ground. We completed a circuit of the cricket ground and then crossed the road and entered Cannon Hill Park. While it was great to escape the roads, the paths in the park were covered in leaves – and the occasional gel wrapper – and I witnessed a couple of runners almost come a cropper. I grabbed a bottle of Lucozade Sport from the drinks station, had a couple of swigs and was almost sick. Yet another running fail!

We left Cannon Hill Park and headed back out onto the roads. Although this at this stage I felt terrible, the support between 9 and 10 miles was incredible and I was smiling as I hobbled along. At 10 miles the course took us onto the far from scenic Belgrave Middleway and it was at this point my right knee finally decided that enough was enough. Thanks knee.

Shortly after escaping the monotony of yet another Birmingham tourist attraction – the Lee Bank Middleway – the course took us onto Charlotte Road and the start of “The Hill”. When I originally heard the-hillabout “The Hill” I was determined to make it to the top without slowing to a walk. The course was very crowded, and after the third runner had slowed to a walk directly in front of me, I gave in and walked the final few meters of “The Hill”. Later on that day I found some photos that showed just how much I wanted the race to be over.

Just after 12 miles the course took me directly past my ex-boyfriends flat. At least thinking about my ex distracted me from the pain in my right knee and feet for a few minutes. We crossed Harbourne Road – more memories – and then turned onto Hagley Road.

After what felt like an eternity I hobbled through another underpass and eventually reached Broad Street and the approach to the finish.

broad-street-1

I gritted my teeth, powered my way towards the finish, posed for the cameras and stumbled across the finish line.

broad-street-finish

I stopped my Garmin and realised that I’d failed. It wasn’t a great feeling.

The finish area of the race wasgbr-medal chaos. We had to queue for our goody bags and medals. There were families and friends waiting for runners and blocking the way out. The baggage buses were parked on a side street at the bottom of a steep hill. After running(ish) a half marathon the steep downhill wasn’t appreciated by the runners. Security on the baggage buses was variable; let’s just say I could have walked away with someone else’s bag as numbers weren’t checked. I grabbed my bag, got off the bus and started to hobble back up the hill. At this stage I spotted Matt. We had a quick chat about the run, I mentioned that I was heading back towards the train station and Matt very kindly offered to drive me home.

Thanks Matt you really were a lifesaver and I definitely owe you a couple of pints!

We hobbled back to where Matt had parked his car, drove back to Four Oaks where Matt very kindly dropped me off at my local Tesco’s. I’m pretty sure that most runners don’t eat three packets of crisps after a half marathon. I must have really needed the salt. I hobbled back to my friend’s house – down yet another steep hill – located where I’d hidden the front door key, let myself in, removed my trainers and socks and assessed the damage. Although my trainers and socks had been soaked from the start, I’d escaped with just a couple of tiny blisters and a sore little toe. I’d been lucky and my new socks hadn’t shredded my feet to pieces.

Right, I’ll leave this post now as its already far, far too long. Thanks for reading my waffle over the last 16 weeks or so. At some stage I’ll reflect on what I did wrong during my training and on the day of the race and what I’d do differently next time. Although I felt like quitting immediately after the Great Birmingham Run, I’ve already entered the Cambridge Half in March.

Cambridge has to be less undulating than Birmingham…

Have you ever felt like stopping halfway through a race? Had I spotted any of my family out on the course I would have stopped.

I need to start taking gels on longer runs What are your favourite brands and flavours of gels?

Race Report: Great Midlands Fun Run

Some mornings I feel amazing when I wake up. The morning of this year’s Great Midlands Fun Run wasn’t one of those mornings. My stomach felt iffy, I had a headache and felt thirsty. I clearly hadn’t drunk enough water on Saturday.

I ate some breakfast, knocked back a couple of glasses of water and started to feel slightly more alive. I had a shower, applied some P20 sun protection, pinned my race bib onto my club vest, got dressed, had a successful session on the toilet and had another drink.

Runner number 0001 was finally ready to go. Sort of.

A short train journey later I found myself following dozens of runners towards the start area of the race. The sun hadn’t made an appearance and I actually felt quite cold waiting to start. As I waited in the start area I realised that I really, really needed a wee. This left me with a bit of a dilemma. In the end I decided that I could hang on until I reached the toilets in Sutton Park. I decided that I would pretend I didn’t need a wee, i also decided to avoid the first couple of water stations.

IMG_2273Pleased to discover that the Met Office had got the weather forecast wrong again! 

IMG_2277Walking away from the portaloos towards the start area. A decision I would later regret.

IMG_2279My “I really need a wee” face!

The race started and it took me a couple of minutes to cross the start line. The first mile was really congested, it was a game of dodge the walkers who had started right at the front. I had to keep reminding myself that this was a fun run and not a race.

Although the first couple of miles felt great, I still really needed a wee. When I reached Sutton Park I discovered that there were no toilets. I seriously contemplated peeing as I ran. These thoughts kept me distracted as I ran towards the Jamboree Stone and then the halfway point near Keepers Pool.

I ran past Keepers Pool and promised myself that I could stop for a wee if I made it to 5 miles without walking. I ran through yet another drinks station and spotted the 5 miles marker in the distance. Unfortunately, the sunny weather meant that this area of Sutton Park was heaving with spectators. There was nowhere to hide so I carried on running.course-mapCourse Map – nowhere to have a sneaky wee!

With less than a parkrun to go I walked for the first time. At this stage the sun had made an appearance and I was starting to feel quite warm. I regretted not drinking and I regretted wearing a t-shirt under my club vest. I told myself to “HTFU” and started to run again.

I passed the 6 mile marker in just over an hour and found myself at the bottom of my running nemesis; Cardiac Hill. I slowed to a walk; yet again I’d allowed Cardiac Hill to beat me. I “power” walked my way up the hill and started to run again when I spotted someone I knew. I took on water for the first time at the drinks station at Four Oaks Gate. I didn’t wet myself.

I reached 7 miles and spotted my friend with his camera. For some reason I decided that with less than 1.5 miles to go, I needed to ditch my t-shirt and running belt. I stripped off in the middle of Four Oaks. Sometimes I don’t understand how my mind works.

GMFR 1I was clearly really, really pleased to see a friendly face! 

T-shirt ditched and cap forgotten I told myself to enjoy the final mile or so of the race. No one was forcing me to run! I ran past my old primary school, the fire station and the police station. I ran past the crowds of people who were enjoying a pint in the sunshine. Sensible people!

As I approached the steep(ish) downhill into the finish area I was aware that my knee was getting painful, I slowed down.

I crossed the line in 85:32, almost 30 minutes faster than last year…

GMFR

I collected my medal, posed for a photograph and was handed a bottle of water. I must have looked warm as I was hosed down by one of the fire-fighters in the finish area. Thanks!

I had one of the most satisfying wees ever in a disgusting portaloo. The portaloos at the start area of the London Marathon were less fragrant.

Although (thanks to my weak bladder) my 14th Great Midlands Fun Run was uncomfortable at times, I’ll hopefully be back again next year. My 15th Great Midlands Fun Run, however, will definitely be my last. I’m getting too old for the hills.

Registration for the 2017 Great Midlands Fun Run opens on Saturday 28th January 2017.

Race Ratings:

  • Cost: 6/10
  • Course: 8/10
  • Medal: 8/10
  • Goody Bag: n/a