London Landmarks Half Marathon training Week 10

Happy Monday! I hope that everyone who reads my waffle had an amazing weekend. I had an enjoyable but perhaps slightly chaotic weekend. I’m feeling tired this morning, getting out of bed this morning was difficult.Collage 24Week 10 of my half marathon training plan – the ‘peak’ week – recommended that I completed a 30 minute easy run on Monday, a 60 minute easy run on Thursday, a 5k run or parkrun on Saturday, and a longer 120-130 minute run on Sunday. After missing far too many longer runs, I was determined to run for a couple of hours on Sunday.

So how did I cope during the tenth week of my London Landmarks Half training? Did my niggly right knee behave itself? Did I remain injury free? Did I allow the pub to get in the way of running?

Monday – 30 mins easy Rest

After a celebratory wine and beer on Sunday evening, I started the week with a slightly fuzzy head. Fortunately for everyone, I felt a lot better after the walk into the office. Thanks to some computer related issues – I’m pretty certain computers shouldn’t take 30 minutes to load – I didn’t have the most productive morning ever. The afternoon didn’t improve and I wasn’t in the best of moods when I left work.

The walk back to my room and a sneaky powernap helped me to shift my slightly grumpy mood. I decided to postpone my 30 minute run by a day as my right knee felt quite niggly after my long run on Sunday and I felt too tired to run. Not the most positive start to the week, perhaps I need to avoid working on Mondays.

Tuesday – Rest 30 mins easy

Thanks to some decent sleep, I woke up feeling reasonably refreshed, even my archaic work computer failed to wind me up. I spent the day preparing flow and groundwater data for a hydrology report and felt like I’d had a productive day when I left the office with a colleague. I’m not sure what happened, but we ended up back in The Old Post Office enjoying a beer and some healthy snacks crisps. Fortunately, my colleague could only stay for a couple; otherwise there is no way I would have headed out for a run.Collage 25I escaped from The Old Post Office, picked up some bits and pieces in Waitrose, got back to my room and then spent an hour writing a product review and watching Casualty. Once I felt confident the beer had settled, I got changed into some running gear and headed out of the door before I could change my mind. The half hour run felt reasonably easy, the beer just about stayed put and I avoided having an unfortunate incident in the centre of Wallingford. It felt good to make a start on ‘peak’ week.

Wednesday – Rest

My computer finally ‘died’ and I spent quite a lot of time on the ‘phone talking to someone on the computer helpdesk. I’m not sure why I was told changing my password would solve my computer related woes; it didn’t. In the end, I abandoned my computer, tracked down a spare desktop and managed to finish collating a technical report that had to be completed by Friday. My colleague very kindly saved me from a wet walk, gave me a lift back to her house in Wallingford and cooked us an awesome meal.

The rest of the evening was incredibly chilled out, just what this doctor ordered. I set my alarm for 05:30 as I wanted to run before work. Sensible people would have gone to bed at a reasonable time, I somehow ended up watching violin master classes on YouTube and completely lost track of the time. Who needs sleep..?

Thursday – 60 mins easy

Getting out of bed at 05:30 was a bit of a struggle. Once I got outside, it took me quite a long time to wake up and to get into my stride, to be honest, the run felt anything but easy. I was reminded that Wallingford is quite a small town and that the bridge over the River Thames is just like Mount Everest when your legs are feeling tired. Although the run was challenging, it felt incredibly satisfying to complete a midweek training run before 07:00. It’s just a shame my lack of fitness meant that the post-run walk into the office seemed to take forever.

Computer issues meant that work was a little frustrating at times. Anyone who has ever used ArcGIS will know you need a decent computer to actually use it; my temporary computer didn’t seem to cope with the map I was trying to produce. My early start meant that by lunchtime I was feeling pretty tired, I’ve got so much respect for people who run before work, I couldn’t do it on a regular basis.

The rest of Thursday was a little predictable. One minute I was in the office, the next I was enjoying a couple of pints in The Old Post Office. I think it’s safe to say that I slept well on Thursday night.

Friday – Rest

I had a productive Friday as I was quite literally the only person in the office from my team. Walking to lunch on my own felt a little strange, but I found myself a different team to sit with. After a short but productive afternoon, I escaped from the office at 15:00 and arrived back home in Four Oaks after a reasonably stress free journey, three hours later. The evening was dull but incredibly productive as I made a great start on my weekend ‘things to do’ list. I’ve no idea how I used to go out every Friday evening, these days I’m in bed well before midnight.

Saturday – parkrun Rest

I looked at the weather forecast, saw it was going to be a tad soggy, and decided not to head to my local parkrun. I spent the morning replying to emails, reading Tokyo Marathon race recaps – one day, I’d love to go to Tokyo, and generally faffing around. At lunchtime I met up with a friend in Bistrot Pierre in Mere Green for an early lunch. I decided to be brave and opted for a new to me starter; the Goats’ cheese bruschetta. I’m not a huge fan of beetroot but quite enjoyed the bruschetta. The steak with my steak-frites was a little chewy, and the Crème brûlée quite small compared to last time. I guess you can’t win them all.Collage 26After lunch, I had the enjoyable experience of Sutton Coldfield on a Saturday afternoon. I had to collect an order from TK Maxx and needed to buy a couple of birthday cards. TK Maxx was incredibly busy but people didn’t seem to be actually buying anything. I was in and out of the store in less than five minutes, definitely a personal best. I grabbed a couple of birthday cards and escaped from the crowds. The rest of my Saturday was so mundane – think sleep and lots of carbs – I won’t bore you all to tears with the details.

Sunday – 120-130 mins easy 80 mins easy

I felt shattered when my alarm woke me at 05:00, not the best way to feel before a long training run. I lay in bed and mentally debated the pros and cons of getting my run done first thing in the morning, the pros just about outweighed the cons so I reluctantly got out of bed. The weather wasn’t ideal; cold, wet and quite windy, and it took me a long time to find my rhythm. My stomach unfortunately didn’t feel ‘right’ from the start, and after an hour of running, I reluctantly headed back home. I’m hoping that running for 80 minutes is better than running for zero minutes.LLHM MapI just about made it back home and headed straight to the loo. Loo stop completed, I headed to the kitchen made myself drink a pint of strawberry milkshake, stretched and then headed back to bed for a couple of hours. I treated myself to a bit of a lie-in and watched the Big Half in bed – watching all the runners made me feel a tad lazy – next year I will hopefully at least start the race.

So that’s the tenth week of my half marathon training not really completed. I can’t believe there are now only a couple of weeks to go. I most definitely don’t feel at all prepared at the moment.

The penultimate week of the training plan I’ve been following is described as the ‘start of the taper’. To be honest, I haven’t done enough training to justify or to need 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 a 60 minute run at a comfortable pace on Sunday. If my knee feels okay, I may try to run for 90 minutes on Sunday.

Training totals

  • Runs: 22
  • Time: 18 hours 2 mins
  • Distance: 99.59 miles

 Niggleometer

  • Right knee: 4/10
  • Left foot: 2/10
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The true cost of running

Good morning and happy Tuesday. This year, I’m aiming to save at least £500 a month. A lot of money, but it should be achievable if I’m sensible. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink (very often) and I rarely go out out. I’m trying to cut down the number of takeaways I treat myself to. I can’t remember the last time I had a ‘proper’ holiday.

In theory, I don’t even have an expensive hobby. People keep reminding me that running is one of the cheapest sports out there. Running can be a cheap hobby, but in my experience can become quite expensive.

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[Source]

Is running really that cheap? I spent an uncomfortable 30 minutes or so going through my 2018 running-related expenditure to see how much my cheap(?) hobby cost.

I really, really hope that my family don’t read this post…

Running clothes and trainers

  • Brooks Adrenaline GTS 16 trainers – £55
  • Lululemon Train Times shorts – £48
  • Brooks Adrenaline GTS 16 trainers – £50
  • Feetures socks – £10
  • Lululemon Swiftly Tech racerback top – £24
  • Feetures socks – £12
  • Lululemon Train Times shorts – £48
  • Tribe Sports running leggings – £14.99
  • Karrimor reflective running tights – £15.99
  • Lululemon Swiftly Tech short sleeve top – £29
  • 2XU reflective running leggings – £19.99
  • Nike running shorts – £10
  • Nike running jacket – £15.80
  • Brooks Adrenaline GTS 18 trainers – £84
  • Nike Pro capris – £14.50

TOTAL: £451.27

Running accessories

  • Salomon running cap – £15.90
  • parkrun smoothband – £13.98
  • Sweaty Betty Anna headband – £11.50
  • Lululemon Run Fast gloves – £32
  • Lululemon Run All Day backpack – £65
  • Nathan Intensity hydration backpack – £69.92

TOTAL: £208.30

all-the-kit

Race entries

TOTAL: £350.20

Virtual races

  • Virtual Reading Half (replacement for Cambridge) – £12
  • Run Around the World Virtual Event – £13
  • Virtual Run Miles for Mind – £13.95
  • Run up to Christmas – £13
  • Virtual Runner 1000k – £13.50

TOTAL: £65.45

Travel and accommodation

  • Train to Cambridge Half – £10 (was originally £61.40 but got refund)
  • Train to Royal Parks Half – £28.30
  • Hotel in London before the Royal Parks Half – £159

TOTAL: £197.30

Running club

  • Fetch Everyone fees – £25

TOTAL: £25

Blogging

  • WordPress fees – £22
  • Plus a lot of my time writing for nothing!

TOTAL: £22

Miscellaneous

  • Royal Parks Half photos – £29.99
  • Donation to Alzheimer’s Society – £42

TOTAL: £71.99

GRAND TOTAL: £1391.51

Working out roughly how much I spent on my hobby last year actually made me feel quite embarrassed! I haven’t even included fuel and food costs.

I’m aware that I bought quite a few one-off purchases; for example the hydration pack and running backpack, however, I still spent a lot more than I thought. I don’t even want to work out how much money I wasted on races I DNS. I don’t think I’ll be entering any virtual races this year.

A lot of my running gear was either bought on eBay or in the sales, perhaps I should work out how much money I saved…

Fingers crossed 2019 is a slightly less expensive year. I’m going to avoid the temptation to enter races because of my #FOMO and I don’t need to buy any more running gear! I don’t think I’ll be entering any more race ballots this year.

Have you ever worked out how much money you spend on running in a year? I’d love to know if it’s more or less than I managed to spend in 2018.

Do you set yourself a running budget? I think I’m going to have to set myself a budget and will be slightly more selective when it comes to entering races this year.

2018 Review: Running highlights & lessons learned

As 2018 is almost over – I swear January was only a month ago – I’ve decided to review my running highlights, lowest points and lessons learned throughout the year. As always, if you don’t enjoy reading lengthy posts I’d recommend that you close the page. Here are the links to my reviews of 2017 and 2016.

January

While most sensible people were out and about having fun, I quite literally ran into 2018. If I’m injury-free, I’m planning to do the same again this year. I started 2018 feeling positive and shared my running goals and entered a slightly ambitious number of races.Sutton ParkTraining for the Cambridge Half Marathon was going well, and I felt reasonably niggle free. I relocated to Wallingford to start a new job and joined up with the local running group; Run Wallingford, for some challenging training sessions. I completed my first Walsall Arboretum parkrun of the year in 29:15 and had some incredibly enjoyable runs in Sutton Park.

February

I was thrilled when I discovered I’d finally got a ballot place in the Royal Parks Half, and paid the £57+£3.95 postage and packaging entry fee without hesitating. A top tip, always check out the route and read the small print before entering expensive races. Although my Cambridge Half Marathon training continued, a frustrating knee niggle meant that I missed quite a few key training runs. I think it’s safe to say I didn’t feel very confident as the half marathon approached. I completed one parkrun in a slightly faster time of 28:44 and set myself the target of running the 5k distance in less than 25 minutes in 2018.

March

I unfortunately missed my target race the Cambridge Half Marathon due to illness; a touch embarrassing when I’d raised £500 for The Butterfly Thyroid Cancer Trust. Once I’d recovered, I completed the inaugural and very exclusive, Four Oaks Half with Ellen and spent the rest of the day in bed feeling terrible.Post run selfieI also found myself running laps around Walsall Arboretum three times in March in times of 28:03, 29:05 and 29:51.Walsall parkrun 24_03_18 1

[Photo: Ron Reynolds]

So much for getting faster with each parkrun, I’m definitely getting slower with age. A highlight of one of my trips to Walsall Arboretum was getting to meet blogging and running superstar; Anna the Apple.

April

At the beginning of April, I realised that I wasn’t really enjoying running, heading out the door had become a chore. After following training plans for what felt like months, I decided to run for fun for a while. It was time to keep it simple with no time or distance pressures. This approach seemed to work, and I completed what turned out to be my most enjoyable race of the year; the Cathedral to Castle 10 mile run in a respectable time.Hopwas Woods

[Photo: Mick Hall Photos]

It’s just a shame in typical Emma style I managed to injure my right knee during the race. I ended up missing a 10k race I don’t think I’ll get the opportunity to enter again; the Treehouse 10k in Cholsey near Wallingford.

May

The start of May saw me reach the grand old age of 39! I can’t believe I’m nearly 40, I don’t feel like I’ve achieved very much. The highlight of what was a really low-key birthday was my right knee coping with a five-mile run after work. The following Bank Holiday weekend I celebrated my birthday with a trip to Walsall Arboretum parkrun – I was quite pleased to finish in 28:18 – and far, far too much food and drink.

The following weekend I completed Walsall Arboretum parkrun in 27:10, my fastest parkrun of 2018. I met up with Ellen for a couple of training runs in Sutton Park, experienced a not so relaxing post-work run with Run Wallingford, and at the end of the month, jogged around the hottest race ever; the Wallingford Thames Run.Group photo

[Photo: Run Wallingford]

The pint of cold and refreshing beer tasted amazing, all races should provide bars and BBQs. Looking back, May was a pretty awesome month.

June

The first weekend in June saw me complete a not very enjoyable Walsall Arboretum parkrun in 28:14, and the even less enjoyable Great Midlands Fun Run the following day. The highlight of the weekend was definitely the BBQ and beer afterward. I’ve said it before, but don’t think I’ll enter the Great Midlands Fun Run again, each year I either end up injured or have a shit time. I shared a really personal blog and received a shed load of support from people I’ll probably never meet. I completed another boiling hot race; the Aldridge 10k and failed to achieve a sub-60 minute 10k.

July

At the start of the month I shared a halfway(ish) through the year running goals progress report and adjusted some of my goals. Thanks to some major rail engineering works, I spent the weekend in Wallingford and finally popped my parkrun tourism cherry at a boiling hot Didcot parkrun.Didcot pakrun group 2

[Photo: Lewis Cousins]

A couple of weeks later, I returned to Walsall Arboretum and completed my tenth parkrun of the year in 27:52. I accepted that my sub 25-minute goal would have to wait until 2019, I just wasn’t fast enough. The following morning, I found myself running in Sutton Park with Ellen.Sutton Park ice cream

I was reminded that running with others is really, really good fun. I also discovered that I can run a couple of miles immediately after eating an ice cream without any repercussions. The end of July saw me complete the incredibly challenging and soggy Abbott Trail 10k and start my Royal Parks Half Marathon training.

August

Unfortunately, August wasn’t the most positive of months as my PhD supervisor, mentor and close friend Geoff Petts passed away. I’ll never forget opening the email with the heading ‘Geoff’ and realising that I’d missed my opportunity chance to say goodbye. Running and the Boat House pub next to the River Thames became my escape mechanisms. Although I *may* on occasion have had a few too many beers, I managed to complete the majority of my training runs.Sutton Park parkrun finish

[Photo: Richard Hill]

I also attended and wrote a brief review of the inaugural Sutton Park parkrun. After several failed attempts to get a Sutton Park parkrun up and running, it felt amazing to finally have a parkrun in my local park.

September

September was a far more positive month. I completed another four weeks of half marathon training and just about managed to avoid picking up any injuries. I really enjoyed a spot of volunteering at Sutton Park parkrun and managed to bag myself a sneaky PB at the Little Aston 5 mileparkrun volunteering

[Photo: Peter Heafield]

The following weekend I completed the Lichfield 10k in a disappointing 61:17. I made my usual mistake of setting out at a far too ambitious pace and paid the price. So much for finishing in under 60 minutes.Lichfield 10k

[Photo: Mick Hall Photos]

While my own performance was pretty shit, my sister-in-law Julie completed the 10k distance in an absolutely amazing time.Lichfield 10k 2018

My slightly disappointing 28:23 parkrun summed up September. At the end of September, I returned to my old university to present some of my research at a hydrology conference. The conference was emotionally draining as it was originally going to be a large part of Geoff’s retirement celebrations.

October

The first Friday in October saw me travel into London for Geoff’s memorial service. The congregation was a who’s who of academia and hydrology. This quote will stay with me forever:

“The candle that burns twice as bright, burns half as long”

I stepped up my fundraising efforts and got closer to my £1000 target. Thanks again to everyone who sponsored me. I completed the final few sessions of half marathon training and felt quite confident I’d be able to achieve my sub 2:15 goal. I travelled to London the day before the half marathon and spent a slightly emotional day walking around parts of Marylebone and Southwark.

I wouldn’t recommend eating three large meals the day before a half marathon. I went to bed feeling like a giant slug. The weather on the morning of the Royal Parks Half was incredibly ‘hydrological’, I don’t think I’ve ever run in such wet conditions. The course was more than a little disappointing, I don’t think I’ll enter the ballot again.Royal Parks Half

I’m a little ashamed to admit that immediately after the Royal Parks half I completely lost my running mojo; I just didn’t feel like running. I wasn’t injured, I just couldn’t be bothered to pull on my trainers.

November

I’ve just checked my training log and discovered that I ran seven miles in November. The combination of a persistent knee niggle combined with a complete loss of running mojo meant that I just didn’t feel like running. Even buying new running gear in the Black Friday sales and reading my favourite running blogs didn’t seem to help.

I ran Sutton Park parkrun with Fetchie Rachel, realised that my knee still didn’t feel 100 per cent, and decided to DNS both the Birmingham MoRun and the Birmingham Christmas BII 10k. In an attempt to rediscover my running mojo, I treated myself to some running magazines. My loss of mojo had one slightly unexpected advantage, all the extra free time meant that I managed to get most of my Christmas presents purchased and wrapped and Christmas cards written. I also managed to complete some slightly overdue product reviews. Every cloud and all of that shebang.

On the final day of November, I entered the Run up to Christmas virtual running challenge and set myself the target of completing 50 km before Christmas Day.

December

December got off to a far, far more positive start. My right knee finally decided to stop randomly hurting, and for the first time in a month, I actually wanted to run. I got up stupidly early one Saturday morning and entered my target race for the second half of 2019. I met up with Ellen for a series of weekend runs in Sutton Park, these saw us running in some slightly tricky conditions. I also managed to fit in a few runs around Wallingford after work.Rainy Selfie

A lack of transport meant that I unfortunately didn’t make it to the Wheaton Aston 10k yesterday. I can’t wait to get my own car in 2019. After really enjoying quite literally running into this year, I’m planning on running into 2019.

In standard Emma style, I’ve already set myself some running and fitness goals for 2019. Some are quite challenging, and some scare me a little. I just need my left foot to behave itself as I want to start running regularly again. I’ve got two half marathons in London in March.

I think it’s safe to say that on both a personal level and as a runner, 2018 had its ups and downs. Probably more ups than downs. Although my monthly mileage was reasonably consistent throughout most of the year, you can see where I completely lost my running mojo. This combined with a couple of niggles, meant that I got nowhere near my target of running 1000 km in 2018.

2018 milesI’m hoping that 2019 is slightly less turbulent.

What was the running highlight of 2018 for you? Although the weather was far from ideal, my running highlight was completing the Royal Parks Half Marathon.

What are your running and fitness goals for 2019? I’ve set myself the challenge of not buying any unessential running related purchases. I failed in 2018 but will succeed in 2019!

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?

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

Royal Parks Half Marathon training week 7

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

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

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

Monday – Rest

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

Tuesday – 40 mins steady

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

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

Wednesday – Rest

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

Thursday – 60 mins steady

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

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

Friday – Rest

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

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

Saturday – Rest

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

Sunday – Lichfield 10k

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

Lichfield 10k 2018

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

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

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

Training totals

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

Fundraising total

  • £477 (£57 increase from last week)

Niggleometer

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

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

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

Race Report: Little Aston 5

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

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

LA5 2018

[Photo: Marc Kirsten]

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

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

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

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

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

LA5 start

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LA5 finish

[Photo: Marc Kirsten]

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

LA5 medal

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

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

LA5 post run pose 2

LA5 hat

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

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

Race ratings:

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

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

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