A-Z Survey

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

A – Age: 39

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

C – Current Time: 11:23

D – Drink You Had Last: A cup of tea

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

Sutton Park

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

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

H – Hometown: Four Oaks, Birmingham

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

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

Knee ebib

K – Kindest Person You Know: My brother

L – Longest Relationship: Seven years

M – Middle Name: Alice

N – Number of Siblings: Two

O – One Wish: To remain fit and healthy

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

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

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

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

T – Time You Woke Up: 07:00

U – Underwear Colour: black with white spots

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

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

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

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

Z – Zodiac Sign: Taurus

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

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Christmas Gifts for Runners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A weekend of food, fun, friends and running

Good morning, Happy Monday etc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OmegaBrite premium Omega-3 supplement review

I think it’s safe to say, I’m a pretty injury-prone runner. My most recent injury – a painful right knee – made an unexpected and unwelcome appearance when I was walking to work. Not ideal, as I was about to start training for my next half marathon in March.

When OmegaBrite approached me to review their Omega-3 gelcaps, I did some research, liked what I read, and agreed to try out OmegaBrite and write a review.omegabrite-gelcapsNormally, I’m not a huge fan of taking supplements, and will try to source the vitamins and nutrients I need from food. However, since the start of the year I’ve been living in a shared house, and have struggled to access the kitchen. As a result, my diet hasn’t been as varied as it could have been.

My box of OmegaBrite gelcaps arrived, I read through the information provided, and decided to start the trial after the Royal Parks Half Marathon. Now that I’ve reached the end of the box and the trial, I feel that I’m in a position to produce what I hope will be an informative review.

What is OmegaBrite?

OmegaBrite is described as a physician formulated, pharmaceutical quality supplement. Each box comes with 60 x 500mg easy to swallow gelcaps. Each gelcap is scientifically formulated with high purity EPA for maximum benefit.

The extremely pure 90% Omega-3 supplement has been scientifically formulated to promote a number of benefits:

  • Cardiac health
  • Emotional well-being
  • Joint health
  • Cognitive clarity
  • Positive mood
  • Eye health

According to the manufacturer, OmegaBrite customers take the supplement for a range of reasons including cardiac and joint health. As OmegaBrite is an Omega-3 supplement, it is a natural anti-inflammatory and is, therefore, great for muscle recovery after exercise.back-of-boxAs a keen but injured runner, I was curious to see if OmegaBrite would help to reduce the pain and inflammation in my right knee. Although I must admit I was a little sceptical when I started taking the gelcaps, I was also interested to see if OmegaBrite would improve my mood. Recently, a complete lack of decent sleep combined with some stressful life events have combined to leave me feeling a little gloomy and irritable. I’m pretty sure I’ve been a bit of a nightmare to work with!

The review process

In theory, the review process was straightforward. All I had to do was take three easy-to-swallow OmegaBrite gelcaps per day with a meal. Each box contains 60 capsules so my trial should have lasted approximately three weeks.

It took me a few days to get into the habit of taking the OmegaBrite capsules. I think it’s safe to say I’m not great at remembering to take tablets. I didn’t want to take the gelcaps at lunchtime – I’m concerned my colleagues already think I have slightly unusual eating habits – so I decided to wait until my evening meal. Looking back, this was a bit of a mistake as I don’t always eat in the evening.

The gelcaps are described as easy-to-swallow, however, by the time I got to my third gelcap, I was reminded that I’ve never been very good at swallowing tablets. omega-3-capsI managed to overcome this minor hurdle by taking one gelcap before, one during and one immediately after my evening meal. I also found taking the gelcaps with a lot of water quite beneficial. My water intake increased a lot during this trial, definitely a positive.

The Verdict

After completing the three week trial of OmegaBrite Omega-3 gelcaps, I can confirm that this supplement is gentle on the digestive system. My somewhat temperamental digestive system tolerated the OmegaBrite gelcaps, a good job as five days a week, I live in a shared house with only one working toilet.

When I started the OmegaBrite trial, I had a painful right knee. I had no idea what I’d done to my knee, but it would get increasingly painful during each walk to and from the office. Walking down the stairs in the office was a challenge, and running was unfortunately completely out of the question.  OmegaBrite-omega-3I’m pleased to report that the Inflammation gradually decreased while I was taking the OmegaBrite gelcaps. Unfortunately, the pain in my right knee didn’t appear to improve much. Although I have a feeling that only complete rest will help my right knee recover, it will be interesting to see how my knee reacts now that I’ve stopped taking OmegaBrite.

One of the main benefits of OmegaBrite is described as ‘mood elevation’. Since the weekend of the Royal Parks Half Marathon, I’ve been feeling increasingly fatigued and quite irritable. Although the OmegaBrite didn’t completely eliminate my irritability, I do think my mood improved during the trial. My stress levels also seemed to decrease, pretty impressive when you consider I didn’t run once during the trial. Once again, it will be interesting to see what happens now I’ve stopped taking OmegaBrite. I’m actually a little concerned I’ll turn back into a ‘mardy Mary’.

Would I recommend OmegaBrite? Yes, I genuinely believe that OmegaBrite helped to reduce the inflammation in my right knee. I also found that the supplement helped to improve my mood. Perhaps both were some sort of placebo effect, I genuinely don’t know.

OmegaBrite are available from OmegaBrite and other online retailers and have a RRP of £29.99 for 60 gelcaps.

**Full disclosure: I was sent a packet of OmegaBrite gelcaps for free in return for a review. I did not receive any payment for this review. As I somehow managed to delete all the photos I took, all images are taken from the OmegaBrite website. As always, all opinions are my own**

How I’m rediscovering my running mojo

I’ve lost my running mojo.

It disappeared immediately after the Royal Parks Half Marathon, and I’m struggling to find it again. After a decent performance in the Royal Parks combined with some epic fundraising, I’ve struggled to run on a regular basis. Some weeks, my trainers have remained unworn and my Garmin battery has gone flat.A well placed benchMy right knee and left foot have been a little niggly. I’ve no idea what I’ve done to my right knee, it started to hurt one morning when I was walking to work, it’s all a bit of a mystery. I suspect the ‘niggle’ in my left foot is related to the stress fracture, it only hurts when it’s cold.

I’m not using this as an excuse, but I’ve also been feeling both mentally and physically exhausted a lot of the time. I think the lack of sleep combined with what has happened this year have finally caught up with me.

I’ve rather foolishly entered two half marathons in London in March, so I need to get my running mojo back ASAP.

Here’s my advice for rediscovering your running mojo. As usual, I’m struggling to follow my own advice.

Enter races – Although I enjoy running on my own, this year I’ve rediscovered my love of taking part in organised races.London Landmarks HalfNothing beats running somewhere new with likeminded people. The medal at the end is just an added bonus. I’ve got everything crossed I make it to the start line of my next 10k race on Sunday. If I don’t, I’ve got the Wheaton Aston 10k to look forward to next month. My sister-in-law has also entered, so I’ve got even more of an incentive to take part.

Set some goals – I’ve always struggled to keep myself motivated without goals. At school I’d set myself attainment goals, slightly geeky but it worked for me. I like to set myself running and fitness goals and share them on here to make myself slightly more accountable. While I’ve accepted I won’t be grabbing myself are more PBs this year, injury permitting, I’d like to run 50 miles in December.

Start again – If you haven’t fun for some time, it may well be worth going back to basics, and starting again. I’ve completed the Couch to 5k twice after recovering from running injuries. More recently, I returned to running with a slow parkrun. It was perfect, just what this doctor ordered.

Run with others – This summer, I discovered that running with others not only takes some of the pressure off, it also means that the miles fly (sort of) by. My Sunday morning runs in Sutton Park with Ellen were definitely my running highlight of 2018. We ran at a sensible pace, and stopped to take selfies and to eat ice cream. Perfect! I really hope your injury clears up quickly Ellen.Sutton Park ice creamI also enjoyed a few runs after work with my line manager. I’m gutted that these runs probably won’t happen again. A couple of weeks ago, I arranged to meet someone whose blog I’d enjoyed reading for years at Sutton Park parkrun. I hope that your hand is feeling a lot better Rachel, and you are back running again really soon. I’m sorry your first experience of Sutton Park parkrun didn’t go to plan.

Try something new – I suspect my running mojo disappeared because my training runs got too predictable. I estimate that in the lead up to the Royal Parks Half Marathon, 95% of my training runs were completed in the dark, on the pavements of Four Oaks and Wallingford. My running routine got too predictable and almost boring. Don’t make the same mistake; hit the trails, try a track session or embrace the mud. Mix it up.

Be a parkrun tourist – I finally popped my parkrun tourism cherry this summer when I travelled to Didcot parkrun.Didcot pakrun group 2

[Photo: Lewis Cousins]

Although the course was a little uninspiring, I met loads of other parkrun tourists and enjoyed running somewhere completely different. Not knowing the route was quite exciting. When I get a car, I’m determined to explore more of my local parkruns. Finally, check out Anna’s running blog. Anna has recently completed the parkrun alphabet challenge, such an amazing achievement!

Volunteer – If you don’t feel like running consider volunteering. I can pretty much guarantee that marshalling at your local parkrun will help you rediscover your running mojo. I’m looking forward to a spot of volunteering this weekend.

Listen to podcasts – I started to find my long Sunday morning training runs quite monotonous. Quite a few runners suggested downloading and listening to podcasts, so here are a few of my favourites.Running PodcastsI must admit I was a little sceptical, but listening to a podcast really did seem to make the time go faster during my final long run. I’ve now started to listen to podcasts while I’m blogging and also when I vacuum.

I Run On – I can pretty much guarantee that watching this short film will help you rediscover your running mojo.I Run On

Otherwise try watching a running-themed film, there are plenty to choose from, my favourite is Without Limits.

New kit – treat yourself. I’m going to sound really fickle, but new kit is pretty much guaranteed to get me running again. Buy that running top you’ve been secretly admiring for months, if it works for me, it may well work for you too.

Don’t stress – Finally, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t feel like running. At the end of the day, running is meant to be fun. Stick your trainers and running gear on and head outside for a walk. You never know, you might find yourself running again.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading my hints and tips. What are your tips for rediscovering your running mojo when it goes AWOL? Have I missed any?

Rants and Raves #30

**Disclaimer: I’m writing this post while waiting for my Just Eat order to arrive. I’m feeling quite hungry so may be slightly more ranty than usual.  As always, all rants and raves and moans and groans represent my own views. Other, less negative and far, far superior running and fitness blogs are available**

Rave: The Running Community

I definitely need to start by thanking the online running community. Most of you will know I’ve been raising money for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. Thanks to the generosity of other runners, my fundraising total currently stands at £826. Absolutely amazing! At one stage, I was scared I’d be left donating in excess of £500 to reach my £1000 target!

720359-1004-0020sSo a huge thanks to everyone who read and commented on my training update blogs, who sponsored me, who took part in the ‘guess my time’ competition I organised. Although I’m a little gutted I no longer own a pair of Trekz Air headphones, they made a great prize and helped me raise over £250.

And let’s face it, Christmas is rapidly approaching. A runner can always dream drop a load of unsubtle hints.

Rant: eBay

A couple of weeks ago I listed a load of unwanted bits and pieces on eBay. Some items sold, others didn’t, not a problem. I didn’t relist the unsold items because I knew I wouldn’t be around to post them the following week.

I was a little surprised when I received a ‘bid received’ email on Wednesday. I opened eBay and discovered that everything that didn’t sell had been relisted. As I know I didn’t relist the unsold items myself, I did a bit of research and discovered that a lot of sellers have been having issues with eBay automatically relisting unsold items. eBay also has a trick of lowering prices until an item sells.

Rave: Sturdy by Design

The chilly weather got me researching full length running tights. I’ve mentioned the difficulty I have had finding running tights that are long enough before. I own a lot of ankle skimmers. I asked for help on Facebook, and was told to check out a brand I hadn’t heard of before; Sturdy by Design.

When I checked out their website, I discovered they have a whole section of running tights for tall runners. Amazing! I’ve pre-ordered a pair of pups leggings and have signed up to the Sturdy by Design newsletter so I can hopefully buy some paint swirl leggings. 

PS, I did a bit of googling and discovered that ‘RUN15’ gives 15% off all orders.

Rant: The Royal Parks Half Marathon

The Royal Parks Half Marathon cost a slightly eye-watering £57 (plus £3.95 postage and packaging) to enter. Yes I know it was my choice to pay that much to actually enter the race, yes I know it’s all about supply and demand etc etc

I could have just about lived with the cost had the race been better organised on the day. No runner should ever be ‘taken out’ by pedestrians walking across the course. It just shouldn’t happen, except in a real emergency. The lack of places to get changed into dry clothes after running was another letdown.

What really irritated me was the discovery the race wasn’t registered with UK Athletics. When I queried this with the organisers I eventually received the following response:

Hi Emma. We have explored the option of the event becoming a UKA race but as the race is for the benefit of charities it has been decided that the cost of achieving this licence is not in keeping with the ethos of the event. Thanks!

So is the Royal Parks Half Marathon a race or a charity fun run? Don’t the organisers care about the runners? My friend who ran a sub 1:25 time thought she’d qualified for a Championship Entry into London. It turns out she probably hasn’t because the race wasn’t registered with UK Athletics.

Rave: This Works Choose Sleep Gift Set

Don’t worry; I don’t think there’s any danger of me turning into a beauty blogger. Having said that, now I’m nearing 40, I’m starting to get concerned about my complete lack of a skincare routine. Last week, I spent a scary and quite confusing five minutes in the beauty section of my local M&S.

I recently had to spend £35 in M&S to qualify for the Beauty Advent Calendar for £35. I decided to treat myself to this Choose Sleep Gift Set and I must say I’m impressed. Although nothing will ever drown out the noise my housemates make, I have been waking up feeling a little more relaxed.

Rant: Irritating Adverts

Ok, I completely understand that WordPress are a business and therefore need to make money. I also get that the majority of websites are now plastered in adverts. However, what I don’t understand is why WordPress have added an advert to the top of my blog.

UntitledNow as soon as I scroll down, the name of my blog is completely covered up. Not ideal. So thanks WordPress, you’ve finally got me researching alternatives.

Rave: Twitter

There has been so much negatively on social media recently, I’ve cut down how time I spend on twitter et al. However, just occasionally, I see a tweet or a thread of tweets that remind me how amazing social media can be. I’m sure most of you will have read about Florence Ilott becoming the first person to run across Westminster Bridge in 1934, but just in case you missed it, here’s (hopefully) the link to the thread on twitter.  

Next time I’m in London, I’m going to see how long it takes me to run across Westminster Bridge. OK,

Rant: Asics #IMoveMe

And on the same day I read the story about the amazing Florence Ilott, I watched a video Asics shared on twitter. I don’t want to share the link to the tweet, but here’s a screenshot from the video.

IMG_2254While the use of slender young models irritated me, I’ve no idea why Asics thought filming part of the #IMoveMe video on a railway track was acceptable. I mean what a dangerous message to send out to children. What were they thinking? And no, I’m not bitter because I wasn’t selected as an Asics Frontrunner two years ago.

Once again, if you’ve managed to reach the end of my latest random selection of rants and raves, a massive thank-you. After not ranting and raving since July, I hope you think my rants and my raves were reasonable.

Do you buy and sell on eBay? The site is so complicated now, I may just stick to buying!

Do you think all large races should be registered with UK Athletics? I can understand small events not wanting to pay for a UKA licence but I think that events over a certain size should have to be registered.

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