Royal Parks Half Marathon training week 11

Good morning, I hope that you had an amazing weekend. I can’t believe that this time next week it will *touch wood* all be over. The last 11 weeks have flown by. I think the highlights of my weekend were catching up on some sleep and safely completing my final longish run.Collage 34Week 11 of my half marathon training plan – the ‘start of the taper’ – suggested that I completed a 20 minute jog on Monday, a steady 40 minute run on Wednesday, a steady 40-45 minute run on Friday, and finally, an hour long run at a comfortable pace on Sunday. After a confidence-boosting long run, I felt positive I’d be able to complete all of the training runs.

So how did I get on during the penultimate week of my half marathon training? Did I manage to avoid picking up the lurgy? Did I manage to avoid picking up a random injury?

Monday – 20 mins jog

Once again, it was incredibly chilly on Monday morning. As I’m a hydrology geek and find rivers incredibly relaxing, I spent a couple of minutes watching the River Thames flow past me. I could have spent all day next to the river but my online shopping addiction won’t fund itself and I had to go to work. Work was quite hectic and the day flew by. I left the office at 16:30, and headed to the Boathouse pub and enjoyed a peaceful pint of beer.Collage 35I rather reluctantly left the pub and headed back to my shared house for a quick nap. Like last week, I woke up several hours later feeling a little disorientated and not really in the mood for running. I gave myself another talking to, got changed into some running gear, did some stretches and then headed out into the cold. Although I suspect my pace was a little on the speedy side, I enjoyed every minute of the run. A positive start to the penultimate week of my half marathon training.

Tuesday – Rest

I had a great day at work as I got to spend most of the day out and about on a site visit. It’s always good to get out of the office occasionally. I actually got to see three gauging stations and a real chalk river.Collage 36The highlight of my day was discovering that another runner had taken the time to read and to comment on my last training update, and also to sponsor me.

Wednesday – 40 mins steady

I’m a little ashamed to admit that following a long day of meetings in the Reading office, my 40 minute training run almost didn’t happen. After weighing up the pros and cons of running, I eventually got changed into some running gear, worked my way through my pre-run stretches and then headed out into the dark. I was so tired, I managed to get my pacing spot on and the 40 minutes felt relatively easy. I had a brief scare when my dodgy right knee randomly decided to hurt for about 30 seconds. Fortunately, it didn’t’ hurt when I stopped running and hasn’t *touch wood* niggled since.

Thursday – Rest

My rest day was a little stressful because during the course of the day, I developed a really tickly nose, usually the first warning sign I’m about to get a cold. I guess it’s better to get a cold now rather than this time next week. I escaped from the office at 16:00 – such a part-timer – headed back to my shared house and packed my bags for the weekend. Once I felt that I’d got myself reasonably organised, I spent an hour watching The Apprentice. What a load of plonkers! Where on earth do they manage to find these people? I checked I could actually squeeze into the outfit I wanted to wear for Geoff’s memorial service, checked the local bus timetable, checked I had all my train tickets, and watched some more rubbish. Definitely a restful rest day!

Friday – Rest

I woke up feeling exhausted after spending most of the night lying awake worrying about potential public transport related disasters. I’m such an idiot. Apologies for slightly too much information, but my tickly nose had turned into a slightly runny nose. I must have sneezed a bazillion times. Anyway, I’m pleased to report that the bus between Wallingford and Didcot Parkway station actually ran and was on time, and the train from Didcot Parkway to London Paddington got me into London with plenty of time to drop my bag off at Euston station. I had so much time I ended up walking to the location of Geoff’s Service of Thanksgiving.

I found the service incredibly moving, I know that Geoff would have appreciated every single hymn and reading. The retiring collection was for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, I hope that people were generous. I just about managed to avoid crying during the service and at the reception after the service. I spent a bit more time catching up with people I’d met during my PhD and some of Geoff’s family and his wife, and then reluctantly said my goodbyes and headed back to Euston station via the pub. I didn’t get home until almost 20:00 and felt too tired (and hungry) to even contemplate running for 45 minutes.

Saturday – Rest

I must have been quite tired because I slept through and completely missed International parkrun day. I guess there’s always next year. My Saturday was incredibly chilled out, just what I needed after a quite tiring week. Although I still had a really runny nose and must have sneezed about 100 times during the day, I didn’t actually feel that unwell.

Sunday – 60 mins comfortable

Rather predictably, I woke up feeling terrible; running for an hour was completely out of the question. I headed back to bed for a few more hours. Much as missing my final longish run was a pain in the arse, I’d rather be unwell a week before the half marathon than on the day of the race. I spent my Sunday making sure that I’d got everything I need for the half marathon, watching the Cardiff Half and the Chicago Marathon, and generally doing as little as possible. The lack of coverage of the female elite athletes was a little strange.

ChicagoAfter what felt like the shortest weekend ever, I rather reluctantly started the journey back down to Wallingford at 17:00.

So that’s the penultimate week of my half marathon training not really completed. I’m definitely very good at tapering; I just hope that this cold clears up during the week!

The final week *major panic* of my half marathon training plan is described as the taper and race week. I’ve got to complete an easy 20 minute run after work today, a 40 minute comfortable run on Wednesday and a 30 minute steady run on Thursday. On Sunday morning, unless something terrible happens, I’ll be lining up with several thousand other runners waiting to start the Royal Parks Half.

Training totals

  • Runs: 34
  • Time: 25 hours 52 mins
  • Distance: 150.91 miles

Fundraising total

  • £600 (£68 increase from last week)

Niggleometer

  • Right knee: 2/10
  • Left foot: 2/10
  • Left groin: 1/10

Do you have any tips for getting rid of a cold ASAP!? At this stage, I’m prepared to try virtually anything.

Do you have any last minute fundraising hints and tips? As it stands, the Royal Parks is going to be an expensive race!

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Royal Parks Half Marathon training week 10

Good morning. I can’t believe it’s October already. Anyway, as always I hope that you all had a great weekend. I think the highlights of my weekend were the fact I finally managed to complete a long run, and the awesome roast dinner mum cooked for me yesterday. In my opinion, nothing beats a home cooked roast dinner.Collage 31Week 10 of my half marathon training plan – the ‘peak week’ *panic* – recommended that I complete a 30 minute long easy run on Monday, an hour long easy run on Thursday, parkrun or a 5k run on Saturday, and a longer 120-130 minute run on Sunday. After the previous week was a bit of a disaster area, I was determined to complete every run.

So how did I get on during the tenth week of my half marathon training? Did my dodgy head stop me from running? Did I remain injury free? Did I manage to run at all?

Monday – 30 mins easy

Did everyone else have an unexpectedly chilly start to the week? I wasn’t expecting to see patches of frost. It was sunny but cold. The River Thames was quite literally steaming. As I’m a river geek, I stopped to take some photos. Work was a little difficult at times but I survived and managed to get quite a lot done. I left the office at 16:30, resisted the temptation to stop off for a pint, and headed back to my room for a quick nap.Collage 32I must have been tired because my so-called “quick nap” lasted almost three hours. Another epic Emma fail! I woke up feeling quite disorientated and not really in the mood for running. I reminded myself why I was running, got changed, did some stretches and then headed outside into the dark. I enjoyed every minute of the run. After spending the summer struggling to run in warm conditions, the cooler conditions made a refreshing change.

Tuesday – Rest

After a slightly tricky meeting at work, I think it’s safe to say the highlight of my day was a relaxing walk along a section of the River Thames. Sometimes it’s good just to get outside.

Wednesday – Rest

Another rest day! The office was so empty; I started to wonder if something had happened. My midyear review went really, really well. I’ve got to stop being so tough on myself and to focus more on my positives. My line manager actually asked me to list some of my positives. I struggled quite a lot! I left the office just before 17:00 and started the long journey back to Four Oaks. The journey between Oxford and Birmingham was a bit of a runner’s nightmare. I was sat next to a lady who spent the whole journey coughing and sniffing. I spent over an hour trying not to breathe. I was very happy when the train reached Birmingham, and I could escape the germs.

Thursday – 60 mins easy

As you can imagine, I was thrilled when I woke up at 05:00 feeling as normal as I ever do. I wasn’t so pleased when I discovered that my Garmin had gone flat. I had two options; to run ‘naked’ without my Garmin or to charge my Garmin and run later. Although, as a stats geek, I knew I’d find not having detailed running stats frustrating, I decided to run using my phone as a stopwatch.

For once, I think I managed to get my pacing spot on and the hour long run felt relatively easy. I got home, made sure that I had something to drink and then headed back to bed for a couple of hours. A little lazy but I wanted to grab some more sleep before my hospital appointment. I’m not going to go into too much detail in this blog, but spending just a short time in hospital gave me a tiny indication of what Geoff went through in the lead up to his cancer diagnosis.

Friday – Rest

I had an incredibly productive but not very blogworthy rest day. I popped into Lichfield to collect some clothes from Dorothy Perkins and to break the coin deposit machine. I spent a couple of hours listing some unwanted running gear on FleaBay, and got a couple of slightly overdue product review posts completed. I treated myself to a takeaway and as I had a long run to complete the following morning, laid out my running gear, and headed to bed at a sensible time.

Saturday – 120-130 mins easy

I’ve no idea why but I found it really hard to get to sleep. Perhaps it was pre-long run nerves. Perhaps it was paranoia about sleeping through my 05:00 alarm. I think I got the not so grand total of four hours sleep in the end. Not ideal.

Enough of my moaning and groaning. My long run was absolutely bloody amazing. Quite possibly my most enjoyable long run ever and a real confidence boost going into the Royal Parks Half. The weather was perfect, I got my pacing spot on, and everything felt easy. I reached 130 minutes feeling like I could have carried on running. Although my feet felt a little sore afterwards, with the exception of a couple of random right knee twinges, everything else felt niggle-free.Collage 33I felt so tired after my longish run; the rest of Saturday wasn’t quite as productive as I’d originally planned. Even walking the short distance to the local shops felt pretty challenging. I think I need to improve my pre- and post-run fuelling, at the moment I don’t think I’m eating enough.

Sunday – 30 mins easy

I should have completed a parkrun or equivalent but my calf muscles felt so tight when I got up, I decided to head out for a 30 minute recovery run. Although, it took a while for my legs to warm up, running was definitely the right decision as my legs felt much better afterwards.

The rest of Sunday felt a little rushed. I had to pack my bags to take back down to Wallingford. This is usually a relatively simple task, but I had to make sure I had something suitable to wear for the memorial service on Friday. Friday has the potential to go horribly wrong, hopefully the trains are behaving themselves. The Sunday roast dinner mum cooked for me tasted awesome and made me feel much better. I definitely didn’t want to travel back down to Wallingford.

So that’s the tenth week of my half marathon training more or less successfully completed. I can’t believe there are only a couple more weeks to go.

The penultimate week of my half marathon training plan is described as the ‘start of the taper’. Happy days, although I don’t feel like I’ve done enough training to justify a taper. I’ve got to complete a 20 minute jog later today, a steady 40 minute run on Wednesday, a steady 40-45 minute run on Friday and an hour long run at a comfortable pace on Sunday. Trains permitting, I’m attending the memorial service for Geoff in London on Friday, so suspect I’ll end up moving a couple of training runs. Please don’t let me pick up a random last minute injury.

Training totals

  • Runs: 32
  • Time: 24 hours 52 mins
  • Distance: 145.04 miles

Fundraising total

  • £532 (£30 Increase from last week)

Niggleometer

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

A slightly random question, but how soon after a longish run do you eat? Also what do you eat? I have a feeling that not eating for a couple of hours after my longish run on Saturday was the cause of my tiredness.

Do you have any tips for getting rid of a cold? I have a horrible feeling that I’m going to end up with a cold between now and the Royal Parks Half.

Royal Parks Half Marathon training week 8

Good morning. As always, I hope that everyone had an amazing weekend. I think the highlight of my weekend was managing to run continuously almost two hours. Thanks to an epic headache, I didn’t travel down to Wallingford last night so I’m not in the office this morning.Collage 25The eighth week of my half marathon training plan recommended that I completed an easy 30 minute run on Monday, a steady 45 minute run on Wednesday, parkrun on Saturday and a longer 110 minute run at a comfortable pace on Sunday. After missing a couple of long runs I was determined to complete my longer run.

So how did i get on during the eighth week of my half marathon training? Did I remain injury free? Did i manage to squeeze in a midweek training run?

Monday – 30 mins steady

Week eight didn’t get off to the best of starts when I managed to sleep through my 05:00 alarm. The Lichfield 10k had clearly been more tiring than I realised. I had a productive day because I was working from home. I spent the morning working on my conference presentation and the afternoon on a job application for a permanent role. I completely forgot to run.

I left Four Oaks at 17:00 and arrived back in Wallingford almost four hours later. Although I was feeling tired, I decided to head out on my 30 minute run as soon as I got to Wallingford. I really enjoyed my short run, and felt a lot less anxious and stressed afterwards.

Tuesday – Rest

For one the office was reasonably quiet and I managed to complete my presentation for Wednesday. I also remembered to book my train tickets. One day I won’t leave everything until the last minute. I left the office at a sensible time and headed back to my shared house. I’m not sure what happened but I lay on my bed and rested my eyes. One minute it was light outside, the next it was dark and I’d wasted most of the evening.

Wednesday – Rest

One of my housemates very thoughtfully woke me and probably half of Wallingford up at 05:30. Not what I needed after a somewhat restless night. The lack of sleep meant that I was quite stressed when the bus from Wallingford to Didcot Parkway train station broke down. Fortunately, I was allowed to travel to Didcot on a school bus and the rest of the journey to London was incident-free. Following a slightly emotional morning, I think my presentation went reasonably well. I was asked and managed to answer a couple of tricky questions. I had planned to fit in a run before the formal meal, but I was so busy talking, I ran out of time.Collage 26The formal meal was ok but most definitely not worth £50 a head. London prices are ridiculous. Sorry, rant over. We’d been provided with accommodation in the halls of residence on Marylebone Road. The views were amazing and the rooms surprisingly luxurious. Things have definitely changed from when I was a student in halls back in *cough* 1997.

Thursday – 45 mins steady

Following a quite emotionally draining day, I decided to spend some time away from the conference. I spent a couple of hours wandering around Marylebone thinking about all the drinks and meals I’d had with Geoff. London changes so quickly, loads of places had closed down. It was all a little depressing. I walked back to the university and joined up with the conference. After an afternoon of complicated hydrology talks, my head felt a little fried and I made my getaway.

I got back to Wallingford at about 18:00, had a shower, got changed into my running gear and met up with my colleague. It was so dark towards the end of our run; I think the Thames Path runs are going to have to come to an end quite soon. I had a quick drink of water, said goodbye to my colleague and then headed out on my 45 minute run. My Garmin was playing up – have I mentioned how much I dislike my Garmin? – so I decided to run three laps around Wallingford.

Friday – Rest

As I needed to complete a job application, I booked the day off as annual leave and headed back home in the morning. Most people would have cracked on with their job application; I managed to spend three hours replying to emails, cleaning and generally avoiding working on my job application. I completed and submitted my application at 21:30. Although I was reasonably satisfied with what I’d written, I need to stop putting things off until the last minute.

Saturday – parkrun

The sun very kindly woke me up before my 07:00 alarm. I decided to be productive and got all of my ironing done before heading to Walsall Arboretum parkrun. The journey to the Arboretum was as stressful as usual and I arrived at the start feeling a little flustered. I had to start a little further back than usual, and found the first lap really congested. My pace increased throughout the 5k, and following a failed attempt at a sprint finish, I crossed the finish in 28:23. Once the half marathon is done and dusted, I’m going to have a go at improving my parkrun time.Collage 27The rest of Saturday was unfortunately so dull; I’m not going to bore you all to tears with the details. I’m looking forward to my drinking buddies returning from their various holidays. Staying in on a Saturday night isn’t much fun.

Sunday – 110 mins comfortable

When my alarm went off at 05:00, I looked outside, saw how dark it was and instantly thought “sod it”. I woke up again an hour later, saw it was a lot lighter outside, gave myself a major talking to and got ready to run. I managed a successful loo visit and although my stomach felt a little bit what I’d describe as suspect, decided it wasn’t bad enough to stop me running.

It was incredibly windy. I’d forgotten how exposed certain roads in Four Oaks are. The first three miles were run into a headwind. Although I found running into the wind quite demoralising, I didn’t make my usual mistake of running at an unsustainable pace. I can’t remember exactly when I started to really need the toilet. One minute I felt amazing, the next minute I felt a bit dodgy.

I walked for a minute and started to assess my toilet options. Unfortunately, on a Sunday morning in the middle of Four Oaks there weren’t any. I was left with no choice but to carry on running. The final 50 minutes of my run were a struggle. I ran as much as I could but had to take a couple of walking breaks. I’ve no idea how, but my splits for miles six to 10 were respectable (10:46, 10:53, 11:10, 10:12 and 10:53) and I managed to carry on running. Fortunately, my long run finished near my house and I just about made it to the toilet. The rest of Sunday was quite steady.

So that’s the eighth week of my half marathon successfully completed. I can’t believe that injuries permitting, in four weeks time it will all be over.

I’ve just had a look at week nine of my half marathon training plan. I think all of the training runs are achievable. I’ve got to complete a steady 40 minute run later today, a 45-50 minute steady run on Wednesday, a 20 minute easy jog on Saturday and a longer two hour run on Sunday. After a slightly dodgy long run, I’m starting to feel a little scared about the actual half marathon now. Time really does seem to be flying by at a rapid rate.

Training totals

  • Runs: 26
  • Time: 19 hours 32 mins
  • Distance: 115.03 miles

Fundraising total

  •  £477 (£0 increase from last week)

Niggleometer

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

Would you rather run in wet or in windy conditions? After finding running into the wind for most of my long run quite demoralising, I think I’d rather run in the rain.

Did you watch the Berlin Marathon? I can’t believe I fell asleep after my run and missed Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record run.

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.

Mile Four

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?

The inaugural Sutton Park parkrun

Good morning. I can’t believe its Thursday already, I can almost smell the long weekend. Time flies when I’m in Wallingford.

Regular readers of this blog will be aware I participated in the inaugural Sutton Park parkrun last weekend. Before I share my thoughts on my new ‘home’ parkrun, I thought I’d start with a bit of history.Sutton Park parkrun start

[Photo: Richard Hill]

Way back at the start of 2010, I was a member of a group of local runners who were keen to get a parkrun up and running – apologies for the terrible pun – in Sutton Park. We failed. I think another group of runners tried and failed a few years later. At one stage it felt like parkrun would never come to Sutton Park. A shame when you consider the lack of parkruns in Birmingham and the fact that Sutton Park is so popular with runners.

Earlier this year I heard rumours that a parkrun in Sutton Park was looking more likely. When I bumped into my old running coach at the start of August, I discovered that a test event was taking place. He also described the course to me and said it would be quite challenging; definitely not one for setting a personal best. Hills are unavoidable in Sutton Park, but for every up there is nearly always a down!

On Saturday, I woke up well before my alarm and was dressed and ready to go by 07:30. It actually took longer to drive to Sutton Park parkrun than to Walsall Arboretum parkrun. Although I live next to Sutton Park, the parkrun course starts and finishes near Banners Gate at the opposite end of the park. I suspect it may be easier to run or cycle through the park.

Course

Car parking at Banners Gate is always at a premium, so the event organisers encouraged people to access the park via Boldmere Gate and to park in the large car park near the model aircraft flying field. The start was a short walk or run from this car park, I think it’s safe to say I’d warmed-up by the time I reached the start.

It was interesting to play ‘spot the inaugural parkrun collector’ (I’m not sure what the official title is) at the start. I overheard one runner saying he’d travelled for more than five hours to get to Sutton Park. I’m not sure if that’s dedication or something else.

The Event Director had asked for people to stay away from the inaugural event as he didn’t want to overwhelm the volunteers, other park users or the course. In the end I think there were a manageable 239 finishers. It will be interesting to see how quickly this number increases. I don’t think it will take long.

The event briefing was emotional and outlined some of the challenges Gary and his team had overcome to get Sutton Park parkrun started. A lot of people were thanked and we were reminded that we weren’t the sole users of the park. We were then set on our way; it took me about five seconds to cross the start line.

Although the first kilometre and a bit were reasonably flat, the surface (and my general lack of fitness) made it quite hard to run fast. It took me a long time to get going.

Most other runners were taking in the scenery, I was busy watching my footing; the last thing I wanted was another injury. The majority of the first section is along quite a narrow path; if you are a fast runner, I would strongly recommend you start as near the front as you can as overtaking is virtually impossible. I’ve included a still from a video a runner called Andis has shared on YouTube. Andis captured the whole course, I think it’s definitely worth watching if you are considering a trip to Sutton Park.

First section

[Source: Andis Ozols]

I must admit that I find watching myself running a little strange. I discovered that I still run like a wonky donkey and look like I’m constantly limping. So much for improving my running technique. I thought I was running at quite a decent pace, the reality was a little different. The course then split into two and runners had the option of running across a wooden bridge – warning this bridge does get quite slippery when it’s wet – or through what in normal, wet conditions is a small water feature.

Sutton Park parkrun kilometer 1

[Photo: Richard Hill]

I think it’s safe to describe the path along Lord Donegal’s Ride towards the Jamboree Memorial stone as the most challenging section of the course. Think gravel, energy sapping sand, and a short but steep hill which is really hard to run up. Thanks to the recent dry weather, the path was incredibly uneven in places. I’m ashamed to admit I got half way up the hill and slowed to a walk. Next time I’m determined to run up it all.

Gravel hill

[Source: Andis Ozols]

Thankfully, a steep uphill in Sutton Park is generally followed by either a flat or a downhill section; the next section of the course took runners towards the Jamboree Memorial stone (and my favourite ice cream van) and away from the gravel onto some welcome tarmac. Although the tarmac was easy to run on, I found the short out and back section quite mentally challenging and a little demoralising. Probably because it brought back memories of evil hill training sessions with my running club. There is nothing worse than running down a hill knowing you’ve got to run straight back up it.

Out and back

[Source: Andis Ozols]

I *may* have walked part of the hill back towards the Jamboree Memorial stone. I clearly need to work on my endurance. Fortunately, the remainder of the course is generally back downhill towards the finish next to Longmoor Pool. Judging by the photo my friend took, I’m not convinced I enjoyed running across a slightly uneven field covered in cow shit.  At least the cows (which incidentally belong to my family; the shame) kept their distance.

Sutton Park pakrun field

The parkrun organisers had very kindly provided a series of signs which gave an indication of how far we had left to run. I think it’s safe to say I enjoyed the downhill section towards the finish.

Sutton Park parkrun finish

[Photo: Richard Hill]

I’m not sure how I managed to maintain my sub 30 minute parkrun streak, but I finished in 29:18. I crossed the finish, collected token 155 and then made sure I thanked all of the volunteers and the person that had made Sutton Park parkrun a reality; Gary the Event Director.

I’ll stop waffling now as this has turned into a bit of an essay. Once I’ve volunteered a few times, I’m aiming to complete Sutton Park parkrun without any walking breaks. I have a feeling that if I make the most of the numerous downhill sections, I’ll be able to run quite a respectable time. Although I found the course quite challenging in places, I really enjoyed not having to run multiple laps around a lake or playing field. I think a single lap course is great 🙂

How far would you travel to attend a parkrun? Travelling for five hours shows some serious dedication to parkrun.

Have you ever attended an inaugural parkrun? I hadn’t realised until Saturday that collecting inaugural parkruns is a ‘thing’.

Royal Parks Half Marathon training Week 4

I hope that everyone had an awesome weekend. I think the highlight of my weekend was attending the inaugural Sutton Park parkrun. I think it’s safe to say that the course is quite challenging.Collage 13Week four of my half marathon training plan recommended that I completed a steady 45 minute run on Tuesday, an hour long easy run on Wednesday, a steady 45 minute run on Friday and a longer 80 minute run on Sunday. Although Saturday was meant to be a rest day; I suspected that the opportunity of attending a new parkrun in Sutton Park would be too good to miss.

So how did I cope during week four of my half marathon training? Did I manage to get my training back on track? Did I manage to avoid picking up an injury?

Monday – Rest

To say that Monday wasn’t the most positive of days would be a huge understatement. I received an email at 08:30 with the subject “Geoff”. I was devastated to read that my PhD supervisor, mentor and friend Geoff Petts had passed away on Saturday evening. I’d had the opportunity to visit him last week, but didn’t due to work. I’d missed my chance to say goodbye. Looking back, I’ve got no idea how I got through the day. I had to leave my desk a couple of times because I was crying; not ideal in an open plan office. Geoff was an amazing PhD supervisor, mentor and above all, friend. He was always there for me and I can’t believe I’m never going to see him again.

I left the office with a colleague at 17:00, and we headed to a local pub for a couple of drinks and something to eat. It was good to sit down and relax for an hour or so. It’s a shame it was a rest day as I know a run would have helped me process everything that had happened.

Tuesday – 45 mins steady

Tuesday was a little difficult. Work was a nightmare and I kept thinking about missing my chance to say goodbye to Geoff. I was putting on a brave face until I read a London Higher blog; The Geoff Years, then the tears really started. It’s a good job I have an incredible line manager.

I got back to my shared house at 17:30 and then spent a couple of hours lying on my bed watching Holby City. After a lot of procrastination, I headed out the door for my 45 minute run. I had to remind myself that one of the very last things Geoff said to me was to “keep on jogging”. Not starting my run until after 21:00 was good because it was so dark in Wallingford, I had to run at a steady pace to avoid twisting my ankle on the uneven pavements. It was cool and still; perfect running conditions. The run definitely helped me process recent events, it also left me feeling so tired, I got a decent night’s sleep.

Wednesday – Rest

The weather on my walk into the office was so gorgeous; I actually stopped for a couple of minutes to watch the River Thames. I’ve always found rivers incredibly relaxing – okay, perhaps not when they are making my job a nightmare – and often spend time just watching the water flow past me. I had a reasonably productive day at work and left the office feeling I’d actually achieved something.Collage 14I’m not sure what happened, but for the second time in three days, I found myself enjoying a post work pint of beer with a work colleague. I did briefly contemplate heading out for my run. I then rather sensibly (for me) decided that running after drinking two pints of beer and eating a reasonably sized portion of fish and chips wasn’t a good idea.

Thursday – 60 mins easy

What a difference a day makes. Although we definitely needed the rain, I got absolutely drenched walking the couple of miles into the office. It was so wet; I decided to take a slightly grumpy selfie during my walk to work. At least my sogginess gave my colleagues something to smile about. Work was a little difficult again and I was pleased to escape the office at 17:00.

My unscheduled rest day left me with a bit of a dilemma. I’d already agreed to run with a colleague at 19:30, but also needed to fit in a 60 minute run. I didn’t want to start my run while it was warm and humid. I also didn’t want to play dodge the traffic, dog walkers and pedestrians. I decided to split my hour long run into two thirty minute runs either side of running with my colleague. A slightly unconventional approach, but it enabled me to run for an hour. Can someone please remind me how to run at an ‘easy’ pace. The first run felt so hard, I had to sit down outside the local garage for 10 minutes to recover.  You know you must look awful when people stop to check you’re okay.

Friday – Rest

I love Fridays. I also quite like the organisation I work for. Thanks to the awesomeness that is flexitime, I was able to leave the office at 15:00; this meant I arrived back in Four Oaks at 18:00. I should have completed a 45 minute run at a steady pace. After a bit of debate and a meal from the local Chinese takeaway, I decided to play it safe and to take a rest day. I also wanted to enjoy the inaugural Sutton Park parkrun.

Saturday – Sutton Park parkrun

I woke up an hour before my alarm went off – why does this always happen on a Saturday morning? – so I made a start on some household chores. I phoned my friend to check that he was still okay to drive me to Sutton Park. He did his best to talk me out of running, but I was determined to take part. I’m not going to go into too much detail as I’m going to share my thoughts in a separate post. Sutton Park parkrun is definitely quite tricky; totally different to the flat and fast Walsall Arboretum parkrun. I’m ashamed to admit I had to walk a couple of times.  I’ve no idea how I managed to maintain my sub 30 minute parkrun streak.Collage 15The rest of Saturday was unfortunately a bit of a write-off. I think the events of the week finally caught up with me. I felt so physically exhausted I had to head back to bed for a couple of hours. So much for being productive and getting loads done. I managed to watch a couple of hours of athletics before my eyesight started to go a bit strange, always a warning I’m heading towards migraine city. As I didn’t want a migraine, I abandoned the athletics and headed back to bed for an hour.

Although I wasn’t convinced I’d feel well enough to complete a longish run the following morning, I set my alarm and laid out my running gear before heading to bed.

Sunday – More Rest!

I woke up well before my alarm feeling terrible. A few years ago I would have attempted my 80 minute run; I’m now older and a little wiser and accepted that running was completely out of the question. I’d like to give a big shout out to my colleague who came into work last week when she should have stayed at home. I suspect that every office has a ‘hero’ who comes into work when they shouldn’t’. I don’t think she reads this blog.

Not the most positive end to the week.

So that’s week four of my Royal Parks Half training not very successfully completed; only another eight weeks to go. Week four was emotional, there were a lot of tears and at times I failed to see the point in continuing with my training and fundraising. Hopefully next week will be less emotionally draining.

Week five is a little bit confusing as it is described as the ‘mid schedule peak’ but doesn’t *touch wood* look too challenging. I’ve got to complete an easy 30 minute run after work – I’m feeling so shattered it will definitely be ‘easy’, some sort of speed session on Thursday, a 50 minute steady run when I get home from work on Friday and a longer 90 minute run on Sunday. I’m determined to run for the full 90 minutes so I must remember to slow down!

Training totals

  • Runs: 12
  • Time: 8 hours 25 mins
  • Distance: 49.77 miles

Fundraising total

  • £300 (same as last week)

Niggleometer

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