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?

Advertisements

Rants and Raves #30

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

Rave: The Running Community

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

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

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

Rant: eBay

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

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

Rave: Sturdy by Design

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

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

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

Rant: The Royal Parks Half Marathon

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

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

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

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

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

Rave: This Works Choose Sleep Gift Set

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

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

Rant: Irritating Adverts

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

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

Rave: Twitter

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

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

Rant: Asics #IMoveMe

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

A parkrun, some cupcakes and a chilled out run in Sutton Park

Good morning. As always, I hope that everyone had an amazing weekend. I’m feeling quite chirpy for a Monday morning, probably because I’m on annual leave this week. My half marathon training also started this morning.

I’ll rewind back to Friday evening. I’m not sure why, but I decided to treat myself to a curry from one of my favourite local restaurants; Chennai. My random free starter was quite spicy for me but edible, my chicken korma tasted amazing. After a pretty shitty week, chilling out in front of the TV with a couple of beers and a curry was just what I needed.

I woke well before my alarm on Saturday, went to the loo, had a shower and got ready for parkrun. My stomach felt a bit ‘off’ but I wasn’t overly concerned because I managed a successful loo visit. My friend tried and failed to convince me that parkrun would be cancelled due to the heat. I was determined to complete my tenth parkrun of 2018 so took no notice!

After a typically stressful journey to Walsall Arboretum, I jogged to the start, saw how many people were waiting to run and positioned myself quite near to the front. I was so near the start, I got a little carried away and made the fatal error of running mile one in a far too speedy for me 8:23.

Walsall parkrun 210718

[Photo: Ron Reynolds]

By mile two I felt incredibly nauseous and was concerned I was going to be reacquainted with the banana I’d eaten a couple of hours earlier. Evidently eating a curry the evening before, and a banana a couple of hours before a parkrun isn’t a winning combination. I’ve no idea how, but I somehow managed to run mile two in 9:06.

The third and final lap wasn’t pretty. Halfway round the final lap I thought I was going to be sick. So frustrating! I walked for about 10 seconds and then started to run again. Whenever I tried to increase my pace I felt sick, so I kind of slowed down and jogged to the finish.

I crossed the line in 27:52, collected a token and then spent a few minutes lying in the shade feeling incredibly nauseous. The walk back to the car for my traditional post parkrun photo wasn’t much fun. Could we have some rain ASAP please…

Traditional post parkrun pose

The journey home in a boiling hot car with no aircon was even less fun. It was definitely worth it because I managed to ‘tick off’ one of my 2018 running goals. I’m just a little disappointed that I completely failed to make myself run faster.

10 parkrunsAfter a quick lie-down, I nearly pulled a muscle removing my sweaty sports bra. My second shower of the morning made me feel a lot cooler but unfortunately did nothing to shift the nausea. I got dressed and headed into Sutton to collect a birthday presents for my niece Jessica Being the unorganised aunt that I am, I left this until the last minute. I got back from Sutton, wrapped Jessica’s presents and headed across to my brothers house. The journey in mum’s convertible was quite literally refreshing and helped to clear my head.

Bad hair day

My sister-in-law makes amazing cakes and the four cupcakes I consumed definitely aided my recovery. I’m not sure drinking two cans of cider was sensible, but I couldn’t face drinking wine after I accidentally consumed a bottle on Tuesday evening.

I think it’s safe to say that I slept quite well after parkrun, loads of fresh air, cupcakes and cider.

On Sunday morning I walked across to Ellen’s house and we headed into Sutton Park for a run and to catch-up. Although it didn’t feel too hot, it did feel incredibly humid. The first walking break to take some photos was definitely needed.

Sutton Park 1

As was the second…

Sutton Park 2

It was an incredibly relaxed and enjoyable run, just what we both needed. Sometimes I think it’s important to forget about pace and times and to run for fun. As you can imagine, I was over the moon when Ellen spotted an ice cream van near the Jamboree Stone. My emergency £10 – let’s face it buying a couple of ice creams was definitely an ’emergency’ – was put to very good use.

Sutton Park ice cream

I discovered that I can eat an ice-cream and run two miles without any issues, happy days.

The rest of Sunday was as chilled out as our run in Sutton Park and ‘may’ have involved a walk around the Four Oaks Estate, some thinking time, some tears, another curry and a couple of pints.

Four Oaks Estate

After receiving some devastating news on Thursday evening, a quiet, slightly boozy and calorific weekend was just what this doctor ordered.

As I know most of the people who read this blog are parkrunners, which parkrun did you do? Now that I’ve started my half marathon training, my Saturday mornings are going to feel a little empty.

Does the amount you eat ever surprise your family? I’m not convinced mum was overly  impressed when I ate cupcake number four. Never mind!

A parkrun and a half marathon

I hope that everyone had a great weekend, at least Monday is now out of the way and it’s a short week. Apologies for the recent blog silence, life has been quite quiet recently and I haven’t had much to write about.

I had an amazing weekend and after I had to miss Cambridge earlier this month, I finally completed a half marathon run.

On Saturday morning I was woken up at 06:00 by what sounded like someone trying to break into my bedroom window. I looked outside, and realised that the ‘burglars’ were in fact starlings. After trying and failing to get back to sleep, I dragged myself out of bed and got changed into some running gear. I discovered that I’d left my hairbrush and running gloves in Wallingford. Luckily, I have hair that is so fine it doesn’t really need brushing.

The journey to parkrun was as late and as stressful as always. I’m scared to complain because my friend is doing me a massive favour driving me to the Arboretum, but it would be nice to arrive with enough time to warm up, get nearer the front etc.

I made it to the start area just in time for the pre-race briefing and managed to navigate myself a little nearer the front. It still took me 30 seconds to cross the line and my first mile was the slowest as there were limited overtaking opportunities.

Walsall 1[Photo: Ron Reynolds]

I felt great throughout the first couple of laps and managed to increase my pace throughout the third and final lap around the lake. I crossed the line in approx 29:04 and was handed token number 211. I was aware that people around me were really out of breath, I felt fine so perhaps it’s time for me to see what happens when I increase my pace. Let’s face it, I’m never going to get a sub-25 time if I take it easy.

I got home, had a quick shower and then headed to the Chase Farm Shop with mother and my stepdad Colin for a late breakfast/early lunch.  By this stage I was feeling rather hungry so I opted for an unhealthy Club sandwich and an extra bowl of chips.Club sarnieMuch to the horror of my mother, I managed to clear my plate in less than 5 minutes. I seriously regretted not ordering a pudding.

The rest of Saturday was incredibly boring. I had loads of housework and washing and ironing to catch-up on. I think the highlight of the afternoon was my new Garmin arriving. I’m easily pleased. As I was aware I would be attempting to run 13.1 miles the next morning, I made myself eat a huge bowl of pasta, kept myself reasonably hydrated and went to bed at a sensible time.

On Sunday morning, I was woken up by my starling friends again at 07:00. I wasn’t due to meet up with Ellen until 09:00 so I had plenty of time to faff around. I made myself eat a banana and a couple of weetabix and drank a glass of orange nuun.

As I walked the short distance to Ellen’s house I realised that we were incredibly lucky as the weather was pretty much perfect for running. It was quite chilly so I wore a long sleeved top – I’d later regret this decision. I also left my water at home.

At 09:00 we set off on the inaugural Four Oaks half marathon. I’d worked out a reasonably ‘hill free’ route around Four Oaks, nothing could possibly go wrong. We both had money and phones so that we could be rescued if needed.

The first couple of miles were easy but I soon realised I was wearing two too many layers on my top half. After running in cold temperatures for so long, I wasn’t used to running in slightly warmer temperatures. I definitely didn’t need a t-shirt, a long-sleeved top and gilet!

The route of the Four Oaks half wasn’t scenic but it was reasonably runner friendly. There weren’t any toilets or water stations and the only support we got was from other runners and people walking their dogs.

Unfortunately, by 10 miles I was really struggling; my mouth felt like the Sahara Desert and I was starting to feel quite woozy. The hill from Mere Green up to All Saint’s Church nearly finished me off. Thanks to Ellen, I just about managed to keep running.

I can’t really remember much of the final 3 and a bit miles, probably not a good sign. With about a mile and a half to go, I’m ashamed to admit that I slowed to a walk. I told Ellen to run on ahead and told her that I’d run walk to the finish. I crossed the imaginary finish line and walked the short distance to Ellen’s house. I can honestly say that the two pints of South Staffs water I knocked back tasted amazing.

IMG_1028We posed for a quick ‘after’ photo, sat down for a couple of minutes and then said our goodbyes.

The mile or so walk back took ages because I was trying and failing to get a decent selfie – I guess the camera doesn’t lie – but definitely helped my legs recover from the run.

Post run selfie

I got home, drank another glass of orange nuun, had a shower and then headed back to bed for a nap. I slept for a couple of hours and woke up much better.

I’ve now had 24 hours to reflect on what went wrong in the final stages of the half marathon. I clearly wore too many layers and didn’t drink enough water. I also felt incredibly underprepared and don’t think I squeezed in enough longer training runs in weeks before. Although the dodgy weather didn’t help, I could have fitted in a few more runs after work.

Now that I’ve completed a half marathon, I feel that I’ve done something to justify the £500 I raised for charity. Once my legs and right knee have recovered, I’m going to focus on slightly shorter distances.  I’m determined to bring my parkrun time down and I’ve entered several 10k races. I’m not very good at conquering hills, so my longer Sunday morning runs will be replaced with shorter, hilly runs.

Cambridge Half Marathon training week 11

As always, I hope that everyone had an amazing weekend. I think the highlights of my weekend were catching up on some much needed sleep and completing a 6 mile run.

I can’t believe that this time next week I will have successfully *touches wood* completed the Cambridge Half Marathon. I’m trying not to let the dubious weather forecasts stress me out.Collage 31Following a much needed rest day on Monday, an unscheduled trip to a couple of pubs meant that I postponed my run on Tuesday. I plucked up the courage to attend my third training session with Run Wallingford on Wednesday. Although I felt shattered, I managed to complete a 50 minute easy run on Thursday, a 40 minute stair session on Friday, a 40 minute speed work session on Saturday and a six mile run yesterday.

So how did my incredibly fragile body cope during the penultimate week of my half marathon training?

Monday – Rest

As always, I found getting out of bed at 07:00 on Monday morning more than a little challenging. I’ve no idea why I felt so tired because I got a reasonable night’s sleep. I even managed to sleep through the usual early morning kitchen noise. After a slightly ‘difficult’ day in the office, I walked back home and headed to my room for a nap. I didn’t get to spend long in my room. One minute I was having a lie down, the next minute I found myself drinking a pint in The Queen’s Head in Crowmarsh with one of my housemates. Spooky! As I was feeling quite tired and hungry, the sensible option would have been to go home after one drink. I’m not sensible and ended up watching the football and drinking a couple more pints in The George Hotel. It was good to see a tiny bit more of Wallingford.

Tuesday – Rest

Once again, my long ‘easy’ run didn’t happen. I can’t remember exactly when, but one minute I was fast asleep, the next I was lying in my bed in agony because my left calf had gone into spasm. My calf was still sore when I got up – even walking the short distance to the bus stop was painful – so I decided to give myself an extra rest day.Collage 33Following a long and hot bus journey into Reading – not ideal with a slightly iffy head, I spent the morning and early afternoon in a series of meetings and training sessions. I left the office and less than 45 minutes later was in London for the first time since December. After the emptiness and silence of Wallingford, the crowds of people and noise took a little getting used to. I called into my old university to collect some paperwork and then met up with my mentor and close friend Geoff for the first time this year. Geoff was as positive as always, and I went away from our all too brief catch-up feeling a lot better about a few career related issues. The journey back to Wallingford was long but stress free and I fell into bed at 22:30.

Wednesday – Training session with Run Wallingford

I spent most of the day inspecting hydrometric monitoring sites with a colleague. Although it was incredibly cold, I definitely enjoyed getting away from my desk for a few hours. It’s just a shame I had to pop back into the office for an hour to answer a few emails. Following a trip to Waitrose and quick power nap, I got changed into some running gear and met up with the Run Wallingford group. The training session was a little unusual as a representative from Skins had come along to give a quick presentation on the science of compression and 20 members of the group were testing out a pair of Skins tights.Collage 32The talk was interesting but didn’t do enough to convince me to break my buying new running gear ban. The run around the streets of Wallingford was probably a little fast for me, but I enjoyed running with someone else for the first time in a few weeks. I almost got gritted twice and fell down a pothole. I was quite relieved to make it back from the training run in one piece.

Thursday – 50 mins easy

I escaped from the office at 17:30, got back to my room and then spent what felt like ages watching rubbish on my laptop and generally avoiding getting changed into my running gear. I doubt my 50 minute easy run would have happened had it not been for the generosity of another runner. The email from Just Giving spurred me into action and 10 minutes later I was outside in the cold waiting for my Garmin to work. Once I’d warmed up, the rest of my 50 minute run around Wallingford felt niggle free and fairly easy. It’s just a shame it took me ages to get warm again after my run.

Friday – 40 mins cross training

Thanks to the wonders of flexitime, I left the office at 15:00 and arrived back home 3.5 hours later. I switched on the heating – for some reason it had turned itself off which wasn’t ideal, had a quick shower, changed into some gym gear, ordered myself a Chinese takeaway and then completed a 40 minute stair session. Although the stair session was incredibly boring and the 40 minutes felt like an hour, my dodgy knee and calf muscles felt reasonably niggle free. I finished the torture stair session feeling confident that weather permitting I’d be able to complete my two weekend runs.

Saturday – 40 mins speed work

With just over a week to go until the Cambridge Half, I rather reluctantly gave parkrun a miss and stayed at home. As I wanted to save my legs (and niggles) for my 6 mile run at race pace, I left my Garmin at home and enjoyed a ‘naked’ run. The cold weather unfortunately meant that my speed work session was anything but speedy.

When I got back from my run I really struggled to get warm. I decided that sitting around inside probably wasn’t helping, so I made a start on my list of weekend chores. A couple of hours later I’d collected my online order from Sutton Coldfield, called into the local florists and ordered some flowers for Mothers Day and tackled the ironing mountain. I also spent almost £200 booking my accommodation and train tickets for Cambridge, so much for running being an inexpensive sport!

Sunday – 6 miles steady

I took one look out of my bedroom window at 06:00, saw how icy it was and went back to bed as I didn’t want to risk falling over so close to Cambridge. After a much needed lie-in, I spent the morning stressing myself out by trying to work out how I’m going to fit in everything next weekend. At the moment I’m travelling home on Friday evening, from Birmingham to Cambridge at lunchtime on Saturday and returning on Monday morning. I had originally planned to return home on Sunday, but there aren’t any trains. I’m going to have to be super productive on Friday and Saturday, as I won’t have much time at home on Monday.

After spending the majority of Sunday afternoon getting myself incredibly worked up about the weather forecast for next week, a couple of work related issues and the half marathon, I decided a run would help to clear my mind. Although my niggles behaved themselves during the 6 mile run, I felt incredibly unfit and spent the final mile obsessively checking my Garmin. Not the best way to end the penultimate week of training!

So that’s week 11 of my half marathon training more or less successfully completed. Only another week to go. I had to switch some of my training sessions around but managed to complete all of my runs.

The final week of my Cambridge Half training plan looks both enjoyable and achievable. Injuries and weather permitting, I’m scheduled to complete three training runs and then if everything goes to plan, the Cambridge Half Marathon on Sunday. I’m not convinced I’m ready to run 13.1 miles! I’ve got to complete a 40 minute long easy runs on Tuesday and Friday and a 30 minute tempo run on Wednesday.

In order to get me to the start line, my coach has kindly allocated me rest days on Monday, Thursday and Saturday. I’m going to make sure that I do some sort of strength and conditioning on Monday and Thursday and will dig out my foam roller on Saturday morning.

Training totals

  • Runs: 35
  • Time: 24 hours 29 mins
  • Distance: 144.27 miles

Niggleometer

  • Right heel: 2/10
  • Right knee: 2/10
  • Right calf: 5/10
  • Left foot: 5/10
  • Left calf: 5/10