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?

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Royal Parks Half Marathon training week 6

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

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

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

Monday – 90 mins comfortable

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

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

Tuesday – Rest

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

Wednesday – 25 mins speed session

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

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

Thursday – 45 mins steady

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

Friday – Rest

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

Saturday – Sutton Park parkrun volunteering

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

Sunday – Little Aston 5

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

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

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

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

Training totals

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

Fundraising total

  • £420 (£120 increase from last week)

Niggleometer

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

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’.

Keeping it Real # 2

As it’s Thursday #ThrowbackThursday #tbt etc etc, I thought I’d share some of my not quite so flattering running photos. I put together a similar post way back in 2014, it was definitely time for an update.

Apparently, to be a successful blogger and to make money from my random thoughts, I need to fill my posts with professional photos. I think it’s safe to say that with the exception of a couple of official race photos, the photos in my blog are anything but professional.

I’ve been blogging for several years and have never made a penny. I have a full time job and blog as a hobby, so although it would be nice to cover the costs of running this blog, I don’t really mind if I don’t.

Enough waffle, here are some photos I found while I was sorting through all the random files I’ve got saved on my computer. I’m not completely sure why I actually paid for some of these beauties.

Don’t get injured

Since 2014, I have had more than my fair share of running injuries. I’ve tried to run through some of them – never a smart idea, rest is the only way forward.

My friend took this photo of me back in 2015. I’d been injured and hadn’t been able to run for several months. For once in my life, I’d listened to what my physio said, had done loads of strength and conditioning exercises, and hadn’t tried to rush back into running. I remember the excitement of being given the go ahead to run.

Injured runner

Unfortunately, although I managed to complete a 3000m run, during the final couple of laps my right knee was incredibly painful. I knew I was back to square one. As you can imagine I wasn’t exactly thrilled when I discovered my friend had captured me lying on the track sulking.

Fortunately, I recovered from my knee injury and was soon back gurning my way around races while impersonating a beetroot.

Don’t stop running

My friend took this delightful photo of me towards the end of the 2016 Great Midlands Fun Run. It was boiling hot and I’d made my usual mistake of wearing far too many layers.

GMFR 2

I remember spotting my friend at the side of the road, stopping and removing a couple of layers in front of quite a few slightly bemused spectators. I’m sure my friend really appreciated being handed a sweaty and rather smelly t-shirt. Although I wasted valuable time, stripping down to my club vest was definitely the right decision.

Also, don’t ever run with #1 on your race bib. The heckling when you aren’t actually in first place does get a little predicable after an hour.

At least I look reasonably awake and have my eyes open. Judging by the photos I sorted through, I seem to run with my eyes closed.

Strike a pose

I’m not sure what I was thinking when I tried to give the race photographer a ‘thumbs up’ as I approached the finish line of the 2016 Great Birmingham Run. After running for well over two hours, I was clearly feeling too tired to keep my eyes open.

Great Birmingham Run

Can someone explain to me why I paid for this delightful photo? It’s a dreadful photo. I’m also struggling to recall why I felt the need to wear a pair of shorts and a running skort. Oh well, at lease the male runner wearing bib #8328 looks happy.

At least I was pleased to be nearing the finish line, this isn’t always the case.

The grumpy runner

I think it’s safe to say I didn’t enjoy the final mile of the 2016 Lichfield 10k. I set out at a far too ambitious pace and found the second half of the race a struggle. As you can imagine, I wasn’t exactly thrilled when I realised that the finish line of the 10k was at the top of a grassy hill.

Lichfield 10k

I think this pose is a combination of “shit there’s a race photographer” combined with relief at crossing the finish line. I was so tired I couldn’t even find the strength to give the photographer a proper thumbs up.

The kick up the arse photo

This delightful photo was taken at the start of this year’s Great Midlands Fun Run. Although the rather random positioning of my running bag doesn’t help, I personally think that I look terrible.

Too many takeaways

The camera doesn’t (generally) lie and this photo was a bit of a wakeup call. I’d been eating far too much unhealthy food for far too long and it showed, I could almost see all the takeaway meals.

At least I nailed my standard thumbs up pose.

The beetroot faced runner

I’ll start with a confession, whenever the photographer has actually captured me; the photos of me running at my local parkrun haven’t been that bad recently. I think knowing what Ron looks like and where he usually ‘hides’ helps 😉 Unfortunately, the traditional post-parkrun photos I get my friend to take are generally pretty rubbish.

This particular photo is awesome as I’m doing my standard thumbs up pose while looking like a beetroot.

Strike a pose

I mean how red does my face look in this particular photo? The heat from my face could have powered the National Grid. I don’t think it was even that warm that morning!

Mine’s a double…chin

I loved every minute of the Cathedral to Castle Run earlier this year. The 10 miles felt relatively easy, and I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face. Although I love how focused I look in this photo, I’m not such a fan of my double chin.

Chin chin

I guess playing the violin for 30+ years hasn’t helped. Can anyone recommend some anti double chin exercises?

I can just about make out a hint of a double chin in the final photo I’m going to share.

The peaky selfie

I took the final photo I’m going to share myself, so I’ve only got myself to blame for this delight. I think I need to provide some background. I’d just completed a half marathon training run and was feeling incredibly nauseous.

Terrible selfie

It took me several attempts to take this half respectable selfie, and I still look pretty terrible. My usual bright bed beetroot face is nowhere to be seen. I remember it taking me ages to walk home as I felt so rough. I made it home and then spent several hours in bed feeling ill. At least I wasn’t actually sick.

Definitely not my finest moment as a runner.

So I hope you all enjoyed this #ThrowbackThursday post and my not quite so perfect running photos. Hopefully, you won’t have nightmares.

Race Report: Abbott Trail 10k run

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abbott Trail 2 (2)

[Photo: Simon’s Heroes]

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

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

Nightmare hill 1

Nightmare hill 2

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

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

Abbott Trail 2

[Photo: Simon’s Heroes]

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

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

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

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

Medal

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

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

Post run pose

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

Coventry Canal

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

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

Race ratings:

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

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

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

Royal Parks Half Marathon training Week 1

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

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

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

Monday – 30 mins steady

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

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

Tuesday – 50 mins steady

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

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

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

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

Wednesday – Rest

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

Thursday – 30 mins easy

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

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

Friday – Rest

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

Saturday – 25 mins brisk

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

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

Sunday – Abbott Trail 10k

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

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

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

Training totals

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

Fundraising total

  • £275

Niggleometer

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

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

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

The Donor Run: come and run in Birmingham to support organ donation

Like all bloggers, I receive loads of press releases. Although most are not directly relevant to my blog and get deleted, very occasionally a press release will grab my attention.

I was recently asked if I could promote an event I must confess I hadn’t heard of before; the Donor Run, which this year is taking place in Birmingham.

The Donor Run will form part of the 2018 Westfield Health British Transplant Games’ sporting programme which takes place in Birmingham from 2-5th August.

Westfield Health British Transplant Games North Lanarkshire 2017.

The Games are organised by charity Transplant Sport and will bring hundreds of transplant recipients together through sport to demonstrate the live-saving potential of organ donation.

Although most events at the Games are open only to transplant recipients, the Donor Run is open to everyone with the desire to raise maximum awareness for organ donation. The Donor Run takes place each year, and is open to all transplant recipients, donor families and the general public.

The Donor Run is set to bring transplant recipients together with their donors, family, friends and the general public with over 1300 participants already signed up to run either 3km or 5km on Saturday 4th August.

Organised by Transplant Sport, this year’s Donor Run is being supported by the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham Charity and the Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity. The run will take place on the University of Birmingham campus and will finish with a celebratory BBQ and Hog Roast for everyone.

More than 7,000 people in the UK are estimated to be waiting for an organ transplant, with three people dying each day while waiting to find a match.

James Neuberger, Chair of the British Transplant Games Local Organising Committee and Consultant Transplant Physician at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, wants as many people as possible to join the Donor Run and help raise awareness of organ donation.

He said: “The Donor Run is a fantastic opportunity for transplant recipients to celebrate their new lease of life with the people that helped them through a difficult time in their lives – family, friends and of course donors or their families.

“The Run has already been unbelievably popular this year but it’s not just for transplant recipients and their families. There is still plenty of time for people in and around Birmingham to join in the celebrations with some truly inspirational people. This is already going to be the biggest and best Transplant Games to date.”

The Donor Run will start at 6:30pm from The Vale, this year’s main accommodation area for the Games. Registration will be open from 5:30pm and costs £10 per person.

If I’m in Birmingham that weekend I’ll definitely be taking part in the Donor Run.

For more information or to sign up to the Donor Run, please visit or click.