Race Report: Royal Parks Half Marathon

Good morning. I hope you are all having a great week. Apologies in advance, I have a feeling this race report will be rather lengthy.

RPHM Logo

Before I start my review, I need to provide a bit of context. The Royal Parks Half Marathon was on my races bucket list for a long, long time. At the beginning of February, after six consecutive ‘failures’ in the ballot, I was thrilled when I discovered I’d finally been successful in the ballot. It meant that I could raise money for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity without any pressure.

I paid my £60.95 entry fee, let Rachel from The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity know I’d got a place in the ballot, drafted out a training plan and then put the race to the back of my mind. The original plan was for my PhD supervisor and good friend Geoff to travel to London for the weekend of the race. Unfortunately, Geoff passed away peacefully at The Royal Marsden in London in August so never got to see me run.

I started training for the Royal Parks Half approximately three months ago, and documented my training on here. I also started fundraising, and as I’m writing this race report, have raised £756.62. Training for the Royal Parks Half went reasonably well. I had a couple of injury scares but nothing too serious. I had a bit of a sniffle the week before the race, and also missed a couple of longer training runs.

I travelled down to London the day before the race, treated myself to pie and mash in The Barley Mow pub in Marylebone, and then checked into my hotel in Southwark. On Saturday evening, I headed to Casa Becci for one last time and quite possibly overdid the carbo-loading. I returned to Southwark, laid out my kit and went to bed feeling very well fuelled.Kit flat layI was woken by the rain at 06:00. I looked out the window and discovered it was absolutely chucking it down. As a hydrologist working in an area in prolonged dry weather, the rain made me smile. After spending months moaning about the lack of rain, I couldn’t really complain! I had a shower, a couple of productive loo visits, got changed into my running gear, and then as my stomach felt a bit iffy, took a couple of Imodium tablets.

By the time I walked to Southwark tube station it had stopped raining and actually felt quite humid. I successfully navigated myself from Southwark to Hyde Park Corner tube station – I followed dozens of other runners – and walked the short distance across Hyde Park to the race village. As I didn’t have to use the secure bag storage, I got straight into the queue for the portaloos. Final loo stop completed, I started to explore the race village. I spotted a VIP tent and a media tent; I guess official bloggers got to use the one of these tents. After spending 10 minutes saying no to all the free food and drink that was offered me – I wasn’t brave enough to try the healthy(?) energy drink – I tracked down a copy of the race route.Route MapI was a little disappointed as the route sent runners down The Strand rather than making the most of Victoria Embankment. I guess I should have checked out the route before the morning of the race.

And then it started to rain again and I found myself sheltering with a load of other runners under a tree. The tree didn’t make the best shelter; I should have used a bit of common sense and sheltered inside the charity marquee. If I find myself in a pre-race monsoon again, I know what to do! By the time I squeezed inside the Royal Marsden area of the charity marquee I was soaking wet and quite cold. Luckily, the rain stopped just because we were asked to make our way to the start area.

I’ve no idea why, but I’d been allocated a green number which meant I was in the second wave of runners to start. I entered the green start pen and immediately walked to the back of the pen. I didn’t want to be caught up in a mad rush at the start! The green pen was quite empty to start with. There was more than enough room for more serious sensible runners to work through their pre-race routines.Waiting to startFrom what I could see, a lot of runners were stuck in portaloo and bag storage queues. I took this selfie – how nervous do I look? – and spent a bit of time talking to a lady who was injured and was planning on run-walking the half. The loo and bag queues cleared and more runners joined the back of the green pen. This meant that one minute we were at the back of the green pen, the next we were up near the front.Pre race selfieThe race started at 09:00, and after a short delay – the different waves started at different times – I found myself running towards Green Park. I quickly noticed that the course was incredibly crowded, and my trainers were useless at gripping on the wet surfaces. Basic race etiquette was unfortunately also a little lacking at times, I lost count of the number of times I was clipped by other runners.Start of RPHMThis set the scene for the first few miles. Most runners were making the most of the stunning surroundings; I was too busy trying to avoid slipping over and getting in the way of other runners. Despite this, I felt great and found myself running at a far too ambitious pace. A familiar mistake which would come back to haunt me later on. The route took us along Birdcage Walk, past Horse Guards, underneath Admiralty Arch and then along an out and back section along Whitehall. The rain had stopped, the humidity had unfortunately increased, but the support was amazing.

The route then sent us on an out and back along what felt like the most slippery road in England, the Strand, back underneath Admiralty Arch, along The Mall in the ‘wrong’ direction, back through the middle of Green Park and then just before the 10k mark, into Hyde Park.

After years of trying and failing to get a place in the Royal Parks Half through the ballot, I really wanted to have a positive race experience. I’m a little ashamed to admit I found the final half of the route in Hyde Park a little frustrating. The support was amazing and in certain sections a little overwhelming, and the water stations well organised and stocked. The mile markers were easy to spot and had some rather unusual motivational quotes including ‘no swanning around’ and ‘tree-ly well done’.

I found myself struggling after my far too ambitious first half and had to slow my pace. As I’m useless at drinking and running, I allowed myself to walk and drink after every drinks station. Just before the 10 mile marker, I was involved in a bit of an unfortunate incident. I was running along minding my own business when suddenly a couple of pedestrians decided to walk directly in front of me. I didn’t have time to react and to stop running, so had to push my way past the pedestrians while apologising. Sorry but you shouldn’t really just walk in front of a load of runners!

I think my personal highlight of the final section of the course was the Lululemon cheer station. Thanks guys, now if you could restock my favourite running shorts

The route took us past the Royal Albert Hall and back towards the finish. I overtook a lady being pushed in a wheelchair, spotted some photographers, smiled grimaced, and ‘sprinted’ across the finish line.Finish 1Finish 2Finish 3I remembered to stop my watch and collected a medal, a couple of cartons of water, a banana and an empty canvas bag. Five minutes after I finished it started to rain again. I pretty much instantly went from feeling a little too warm to feeling cold.MedalLeaving the finish area was tricky as the route back to the race village was incredibly congested. There were loads of supporters with massive umbrellas looking out for their runners. I felt a little sad when I saw runners and their family and friends being reunited. Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to travel to races on my own. Enough self-pitying, as I knew I had to get back to my hotel and out of my wet clothes ASAP, I navigated my way out of this area as quickly as I could.

Once I’d made my way back to the race village, I spotted a huge queue of runners. I asked another runner what the queues were for, and discovered that they were for the post-race goodies. I joined the back of one of the queues and less than ten minutes later found myself in a conveyor belt of runners – it was really efficient – being handed a mixture of healthy snacks, drinks and rather randomly, a bottle of tomato ketchup!Goody bagAs, by this stage I was feeling very cold, wet and hungry, I left the race village and power-walked to Hyde Park Corner tube station. Less than 30 minutes after leaving Hyde Park, I was back in my hotel room having the most amazing hot shower. The £10 late checkout fee was definitely worth every penny.

I shared a photo of my medal and pre-race selfies on my Facebook page and thanked all my sponsors. I made my way back to Paddington station, treated myself to a McDonald’s, and then headed back to Wallingford and reality.

I spent Sunday evening feeling incredibly frustrated with myself. Once again, my pacing was all over the place and I let myself down. Although I got a 5 minute PB, I feel that I definitely could have done better. After vowing to never run in London again, I remembered I’d already paid to enter two half marathons; the London Landmarks Marathon and the the Vitality Big Half. Both events are in March.

Finally, if you’ve taken the time to read and to comment on my training updates; ‘thank-you’. My family don’t really understand why I run so your support has been invaluable. If you sponsored me ‘thank-you’. As soon as people spotted my Royal Marsden vest, the support I received on during the run was incredible, quite a few other runners came up to me with their own personal stories.

Would I enter the Royal Parks Half Marathon again? Yes! It’s expensive, yes it’s crowded, but the support along the route was incredible.

Race ratings:

  • Cost: 2/10 – (£57 + £3.95 postage and packaging)
  • Course: 7/10
  • Medal: 9/10
  • Race t-shirt: 8/10
  • Goody bag: 8/10
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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.

Royal Parks Half Marathon training Week 5

Happy Bank Holiday Monday! I loved being able to have a bit of a sneaky Monday morning lie in.  I think we should have more Bank Holidays. Anyway, I hope that everyone is enjoying the extra long weekend. I think the highlights of my weekend were eating, sleeping and drinking.Collage 16The fifth week of my half marathon training plan – the mid schedule peak – recommended that I completed a 30 minute easy run on Monday, a 20-25 minute speed session on Thursday, a steady 50 minute run on Friday, and a longer 90 minute run at a comfortable pace on Sunday. After missing my last two longer runs I was determined to smash my 90 minute run.

So how did I find week five of my half marathon training? Did I manage to avoid injury? Did I manage to run for 50 minutes after returning home from work on Friday? Did I work out how to use my hydration vest?

Monday – 30 mins easy

Work was as entertaining as work can ever be on a Monday. It’s very much holiday season at the moment so the office is lovely and quiet; just how I like it. The lack of people at work means that the queues in the canteen at lunchtime are a lot shorter than normal. Definitely my idea of a win-win situation.  Not that lunchtime is the highlight of my working day…

It felt so warm and humid on my walk home from work, I decided to delay my run until later in the evening. I got back to my room, lay on my bed and started to read a book I was recently sent to review. I headed out on my run at 20:30 and discovered that it was still fairly humid. I’d like to say that I enjoyed my run but I didn’t. Although I started at a sensible pace; an unfortunate encounter with a man walking a dog made me speed up. The final 20 minutes of the run were anything but easy.

Tuesday – Rest

My housemates very kindly woke me at 05:00 and then at 06:30. No ideal after being kept awake until gone midnight. As I couldn’t get back to sleep, I decided to get up and to head into the office early. I had so much time; I stopped off at Riverside Park and spent a couple of minutes watching the River Thames flow past me. The office was reasonably quiet again, so I had an incredibly productive (for me) day at work.Collage 17I escaped the office at 17:00 and headed to The Boathouse Pub on my own. Much as I do enjoy a post work pint with my colleagues, I wanted to have a drink on my own. I must have looked like a bit of a loner clutching a pint of beer, but quite frankly, I didn’t care. I just needed some time on my own to think about recent events.

Wednesday – Relaxed run along the River Thames

When i woke up on Wednesday I was convinced it was Thursday, as you can imagine, I was gutted when I realised it was only Wednesday. I had another productive day in the office and escaped at 16:30. Wednesday should have been a rest day, but I wanted to make the most of it being light enough to run along the River Thames. I have a feeling that after work runs along the Thames will have come to an end soon. Although Wallingford feels safe, there’s no way I’d run along the Thames Path in the dark. I’m so clumsy I’d probably trip over a twig and break something.Collage 18I ran at a steady pace for the first 10 minutes, it was still far too humid for my liking. Once I reached the Thames Path I made an effort to speed up. I was aiming to run for 20-25 minutes fast, but failed. I left the Thames Path, crossed over the river and found myself running along the Old Reading Road. Have you ever felt like you are miles from civilisation during a run? I was actually quite relieved when I spotted someone from my office running in the distance. I rejoined civilisation, ran back to the centre of Wallingford, stopped running, had a much needed sit down outside the local garage and used my ‘emergency’ money to buy an ice lolly.

Thursday – Rest

Thursday was so mundane I won’t bore you all to tears with the details. The highlight was my colleague bringing in some amazing cakes because it was her birthday. I thought about running after work but reminded myself that rest days the most important element of all training plans.

Friday – Rest

Most people who read my weekly training updates know my Friday routine. I left the office at 15:00 and arrived back in Four Oaks three hours later. I was meant to complete a steady 50 minute run but quite frankly, I felt so shattered, I didn’t feel like running.

Saturday – Rest

I’m a little ashamed to admit that I didn’t manage to squeeze in a 50 minute steady run. I must have turned my alarm off in my sleep as I didn’t wake up until 09:30. I spent what was left of the morning completing a few somewhat overdue ‘adulting’ tasks. I decided not to run before lunch because I felt light-headed after skipping breakfast. I spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening working on my BHS conference presentation and planning some fundraising ideas including a ‘guess my official finish time’ competition.

Running in the evening wasn’t an option because I’d already arranged to meet up with a friend from school. Although the pub food was a little underwhelming, it was good to see Sarah for the first time in ages. Sarah unfortunately had to leave earlier than planned due to a poorly child, so I walked home and headed to bed at a sensible time.

Sunday – 30 mins steady

I took one look at the weather, and decided to postpone my 90 minute run until Monday morning. While we definitely needed the rain, I didn’t see any point in getting cold and wet – my running coat is in Wallingford – when the Bank Holiday meant that I had the option of running the following day.

I definitely made the right decision, as I found running for half an hour in the wind and rain quite hard, probably because I set out at a ridiculous, unsustainable pace. I’ve no idea why but I had hardly any energy and felt like I was running on empty. If the tiredness continues, I might treat myself to another Thriva test just to rule out any issues. Collage 19So that’s the fifth week of my Royal Parks training not really completed; only another seven weeks to go. Although week five was slightly more successful than the previous week; I’m just a little concerned about the longer runs I missed.

Week six is described as a taper week with a mini target race. The schedule recommends completing a 10k race or time trial on Sunday. I’ve already entered the Little Aston 5 mile race so will see if I can improve the 5 mile time I ran way back in 2013. Training has got off to a good start as I completed a 90 minute long run first thing this morning. The aim is to complete a fast (?) 25 minute run tomorrow, a steady 45 minute run on Thursday and a slow 15 minute run on Saturday.

Fingers crossed I don’t get injured as I’m really looking forward to the Lichfield 10k on Sunday September 9th.

Training totals

  • Runs: 15
  • Time: 9 hours 50 mins
  • Distance: 58.40 miles

Fundraising total

  • £300 (no change from last week)

Niggleometer

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

Do you ever switch your training runs around or do you stick to your training plan? I’m hoping that all the changes I’ve been making don’t come back to haunt me in October.

Would you pay £5 to enter a guess the half marathon finish time competition? The prize will be a pair of AfterShokz Trekz Air headphones. Apologies for the rather random fundraising question.

Royal Parks Half Marathon training Week 2

I’m aware that the start of my blogs are getting slightly predictable, but I hope that everyone had a great weekend. I suspect that when this post is published, I’ll be struggling to adapt to office life after spending two weeks in Four Oaks. Thanks to everyone who took the time to read and to comment on my review of the first week of my half marathon training. I’ve said it before, but I really do appreciate all your support.Collage 6The second week of my half marathon training plan recommended that I completed an easy 30 minute run on Monday, a steady 50 minute run on Tuesday, a steady 45 minute run on Thursday and a steady hour long run on Sunday. After struggling to complete five training runs during week one, I appreciated the extra rest day.

So how did I cope during the second week of my half marathon training? Did I manage to fit my training runs in around a training course? Did I manage to avoid picking up an injury?

Monday – 30 mins easy

I woke up feeling incredibly gloomy when I realised that my week and a bit of annual leave had almost come to an end. In typical Emma style I’d hardly made any progress with my ‘things to do’ list. I sometimes wonder how on earth I managed to complete my PhD thesis. I gave myself yet another talking to, got dressed and ready to run. Unfortunately, my Garmin had died, so I had to wear my ‘normal’ watch. I found the run quite difficult. My legs felt tired, I had no choice but to run at an easy pace.Collage 7I got home, did some stretches and then lay on my bed relaxing for a while. I’ve no idea why, but I felt exhausted. As I didn’t want to waste my last day, I asked my friend if he wanted to head into Sutton Coldfield for some lunch. He took a little bit of persuading, but I convinced him in the end. We left his car in Sutton Park, and walked the short distance into Sutton Coldfield. As neither of us wanted to eat loads, we headed to TGI Fridays where I picked a slightly random selection of appetizers. Unfortunately, we ended up having to rush our lunch a little; I think it’s safe to say the experience wasn’t very relaxing.

It was good to get week two of my half marathon training off to a somewhat calorific start!

Tuesday – Rest

I should have completed a 50 minute steady run on Tuesday but somehow managed to sleep through my 05:00 alarm. Although my running wasn’t up to scratch, I did manage to get myself back into hydrologist mode and had a reasonably productive day working from home. I did, however, find spending all day on my own quite mentally challenging. It reminded me just how isolated I felt throughout the final two years of my PhD.

Wednesday – 50 mins steady

I had to get up reasonably early as I had a two-day training course in Birmingham and hadn’t actually packed. A quick Google search informed me that I would have access to a gym – I love my priorities – so I packed my trainers and some running gear. For once the trains were running on time, and I did my usual trick of arriving at the location of the training course – Aston University – ridiculously early.

The first day of the course was quite informative – I won’t bore you all to tears with the details – the food was what I would call ‘interesting’. The conference centre provided a decent but not very filling lunch, and I may have overdosed on the snacks that were laid out during each coffee break.Collage 8We finished at 17:00 and headed to reception to check-in. My room was on the fifth floor and came with a nice view of not a lot. I got changed into my running gear and tracked down the gym. I was pleased to discover that university gyms have improved since my undergrad days; the swimming pool looked quite tempting on a warm Wednesday evening.

I think it’s safe to say that the 50 minute treadmill run reminded me why I avoid treadmills. I was bored after five minutes, wanted to stop running after 10 minutes and nearly lost the will to live after 20 minutes. I reminded myself why I was running and made it to 50 minutes.

Thursday – Rest

After spending slightly longer in the bar networking than I should have done, I found the first session of the second morning of the course a little challenging. When we stopped for a midmorning coffee break, I was pleased to discover that the conference centre had provided some fresh tea and a huge jar of cola bottles.

The food options at lunch were slightly unusual. I’m not sure cod and spicy chickpeas worked well as a combination, but I was so hungry I cleared my plate, a decision I would later on regret. Following a slightly uncomfortable afternoon session – my stomach didn’t feel quite right – the training course came to an end, and we went our separate ways. As my line manager had very kindly allowed me to work from home on Friday, I only had a short journey and arrived back home in Four Oaks at 17:30.

I’d originally planned on completing my 45 minute steady run when I got back from the training course. Unfortunately, my stomach wasn’t feeling great so I decided to postpone my run. I’m not going to go into too much detail but I definitely made the right decision.

Friday – Rest

My rest day on Friday was so incredibly mundane; I won’t bore you all to death with the details.

Saturday – Rest

I headed to bed on Friday night with ambitions of heading to Walsall Arboretum parkrun the following morning. For some reason, I didn’t wake up until 09:30; the time I’d usually be finishing parkrun. I spent an enjoyable couple of hours watching England beat India in the cricket, and although I didn’t run, I’d like to think the two hours I spent cleaning the house counted as a form of cross training.

The rest of Saturday passed by far too quickly. I caught up on some blog related emails, tackled a huge pile of ironing and packed my bags for my reluctant return to Wallingford and work. In the evening, I had arranged to meet up with Anna for a couple of pints in our local pub. After remembering how peaky I felt on Thursday morning, I was sensible and only had a couple of pints. I reluctantly left the pub at 22:30, walked home, laid out my running kit and set my alarm for 05:00.

Sunday – 60 mins steady

I woke up well before my alarm – I was dreaming someone had hacked into my iphone and I could see what they were doing, is that even a thing? I almost went back to sleep, but then I reminded myself of the voicemail Geoff left on my phone yesterday.

Once I’d warmed (it was actually pretty chilly at 05:00) and woken up, I enjoyed my hour long steady run and loved watching the sun make a gradual appearance. I spotted another runner in the distance running along Lichfield Road; he was unfortunately far too speedy for me. Mr Speedy was the only person I saw during the run. I can only assume most people are far too sensible to be out and about before 06:00 on a Sunday.

I got home, drank a pint of water, made myself cuppa, chilled out in the garden for a few minutes, took some terrible photos, and then headed back to bed for a snooze.  Collage 9So that’s the second week of my Royal Parks Half Marathon training more or less completed. Three out of four runs or a 75 per cent success rate isn’t too bad for me…

The third week of my half marathon training plan contains four runs – I have a feeling I may run with a work colleague so may end up running five times. I’ve got to complete a 30 minute easy jog when I finish work today, a 50 minute steady run on Thursday, a 20/25 minute fast run on Friday and a longer 70-75 minute run at a comfortable pace on Sunday. Hopefully nothing will go wrong and I’ll remain injury free.

Training totals

  • Runs: 8
  • Time: 5 hours 40 mins
  • Distance: 33.42 miles

Fundraising total

  • £275 (no change from last week)

Niggleometer

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

How do you motivate yourself to run? I’ve been struggling a little recently, I blame the heat.

Do you try to ‘race’ other runners? I’m not sure why I thought I’d be able to catch up with Mr Speedy but it was never going to happen.

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.   

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!