Race Report: Royal Parks Half Marathon

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

RPHM Logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Race ratings:

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

Royal Parks Half Marathon training week 12

Good morning! Apologies this training update is a week late. I had a bit of a disaster last Monday and managed to destroy Derek the Dell (my laptop). I used my laptop to watch TV – my shared house doesn’t have a lounge – and to update this blog.Collage 37The final week of my half marathon training plan – taper week and race – suggested that I completed 20 minute easy run on Monday,  a comfortable 40 minute run on Wednesday, a steady 30 minute run on Friday, and finally, my half marathon race on Sunday. I felt reasonably confident I’d be able to complete all of my training runs. I just needed to avoid picking up the office lurgy.

So how did I get on during the final week of my half marathon training? Did I manage to avoid injuring myself running around Wallingford? Did I get ill? Did I make it to London?

Monday – 20 mins easy

After a slightly frustrating Monday morning – why do people come into to work when they are ill? – the day improved when I discovered that pasta was on the menu at lunchtime. I decided to start my carb-loading, and ordered a double portion with potato slices; my colleagues thought it was hilarious. I escaped from the office at 16:30, popped into Boots to buy some what I call cold repellent, and then walked back to my shared house.

I’ve no idea what was going on, but my housemates seemed to be having a ‘who can make the most noise?’ competition. I know I sound like moaning myrtle, but when I’m in Wallingford, I seem to get under six hours sleep a night. Even ear plugs don’t make much difference. I think it’s say to say I was feeling a little ‘grumpy’ when I headed out on my run. The 20 minutes easy turned into 20 minutes quite speedy. And then I got back to my room and managed to knock my laptop onto the floor, an expensive mishap.

Tuesday – Rest

I woke up feeling a little under the weather, so made sure that I ate a lot of oranges and ate a decent lunch.  Work was busy, but I managed to do some research and tracked down someone who repairs computers and PCs in Wallingford. I arranged to leave my laptop with him after work, so I had a slightly not very restful hour when I had to power walk back to my shared house to collect my laptop and then power walk to the computer repair place. The person I spoke to seemed reasonably confident my laptop would be fixable.

Wednesday – 40 mins comfortable

The chilly weather caught me out a little in the morning. Most people I spotted during my walk to work were wearing coats and gloves; I’d left my coat in my room. The centre of Wallingford and the River Thames looked so stunning, I had to take some photos. Work was reasonably stress-free, however, I’m not sure how, but I ended up with the thankless task of organising the office Christmas party. Arrrragggh!Collage 38I left work at a little later than I wanted to, popped into Waitrose – other supermarkets are available, just not in Wallingford – for some supplies and then headed back to my room for a nap. Predictably, I woke up a couple of hours later feeling completely disorientated and not really in the mood for running. I got changed into some of my warmer running gear, did some stretches, and headed out into the dark. I found the run a bit of a struggle as I felt quite sniffly and my breathing was all over the place. Not the most confidence boosting of runs. The cone of chips at the finish cheered me up a little.

Thursday – 30 mins steady

Thursday was pretty amazing. I found out that I’ve got an interview for a permanent job I applied for. I wrote the blog below, and shared it on Fetcheveryone, a running site I’ve been a member of for 10+ years.

One last plea

What have the last three months taught me? Fundraising, is difficult. 

I’ve found it very hard to ask people, in some cases almost complete strangers, for money. As someone who is proud to be self-sufficient, I’m not used to asking for help.

I’ve no idea how some people manage to raise thousands of pounds. They must be incredibly selfless. They must also put their cause first. I have a huge amount of admiration for these people.

To be honest, I’ve felt bad asking people for sponsorship just once. I’ve had a couple of slightly rude knockbacks, most recently last Friday in the pub following my PhD supervisor Geoff’s memorial. I think you need to be determined, creative and thick-skinned.

I’ve struggled with the rude knockbacks, particularly those from people I know, and have probably taken them a little too personally.

Most of you know I’m using the upcoming Royal Parks Half Marathon to raise money for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. I’m pretty certain that we all know someone either directly or indirectly that has been diagnosed with cancer. My PhD supervisor Geoff was unfortunately diagnosed with a rare, aggressive and generally untreatable form of thyroid cancer; anaplastic thyroid cancer. I’d like to help to eradicate it completely. Every penny really does help.

It’s not very long now until I pound the pavements of London, and I thought I should do one last push to try and raise a bit more money for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.

I’ve provided more information on my reasons for fundraising for this amazing charity on my fundraising page justgiving.com 

If you could spare even £5 that would mean the world to me, and to anyone who has ever been treated at the Royal Marsden. 

At one stage, my outlook inbox was full of Just Giving sponsorship notification emails. My fundraising total increased by over £100. Geoff would have been thrilled. My final training run before the Royal Parks Half was a little on the soggy side, but niggle and incident-free.

Friday – Rest

I woke up feeling sniffle free. I like to think that my orange eating obsession made a difference. The Just Giving sponsorship emails kept on arriving; amazing. Thank you to everyone who read my slightly cheeky ‘One last plea’ blog and took the time to sponsor me. It felt a little strange not returning home on Friday and I felt a little gloomy when I got back to my room. I felt quite tired so I headed to bed at a sensible time. It’s just a shame some of my housemates decided to keep everyone awake until 02:00.

Saturday – Rest

I woke up feeling a little tired on Saturday morning, had a shower before my housemates got up, and then packed everything I needed for the weekend. I left Wallingford at 11:00 and arrived in London a couple of hours later. As I couldn’t check into my hotel until after 15:00, I decided to walk the short distance to The Barley Mow pub in Marylebone for something to drink.

I’m a little ashamed to admit I felt a little emotional when I walked into The Barley Mow. The last time I visited the pub was with Geoff, I think it’s safe to say we spent a lot of time in the pub drinking, relaxing and talking about hydrology. I had to keep reminding myself he wasn’t running late and he wouldn’t be meeting me. I decided to treat myself to a pint and a pie and mash. Probably not the best pre-race food, but I needed to eat something and options were limited. The pie was actually incredibly tasty if a little unusual. It felt strange sitting and eating alone, but a wonderful couple started talking to me, and after hearing why I was in London, gave me £10 towards my fundraising. Amazing!Collage 39I left Marylebone and caught the tube to Southwark where I’d found a cheapish hotel. I actually know Southwark really well, as I spent a few months there during my fire brigade training. Although it’s not what I’d call the most touristy area, my hotel was a five minute walk from Southwark tube station, and a two minute walk from a supermarket. I spent a bit of time exploring the area – it was incredibly warm – bought some bits and pieces for breakfast, and then headed back to my hotel room for a couple of hours to chill out.

On Saturday evening I found myself on the Jubilee Line heading back to Baker Street. I’d booked a table at the Italian restaurant I used to visit on a far too regular basis with Geoff. Eating alone felt strange, and I managed to work my way through three courses and half a carafe of red wine in less than an hour. I suspect I may have overdone the carbo-loading a little as I felt incredibly bloated when I got back to my hotel. At least I wasn’t under-fuelled.

Sunday – Royal Parks Half Marathon

As I’m in the process of writing up a slightly delayed race review, I’m not going to go into too much detail here. The weather before, at the start and after the Royal Parks Half was most definitely what I’d call ‘hydrological’! Such a shame for the spectators and race organisers. Geoff would have found both the rain and my grumpy face hilarious.

Training totals

  • Runs: 38
  • Time: 28 hrs 46 mins
  • Distance: 172.77 miles

Fundraising total

  • £756.62 (£156.62 increase from last week)

Niggleometer

  • Right knee: 3/10
  • Left foot: 4/10
  • Left groin: 1/10

Royal Parks Half Marathon training week 11

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

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

Monday – 20 mins jog

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

Tuesday – Rest

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

Wednesday – 40 mins steady

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

Thursday – Rest

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

Friday – Rest

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

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

Saturday – Rest

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

Sunday – 60 mins comfortable

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

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

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

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

Training totals

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

Fundraising total

  • £600 (£68 increase from last week)

Niggleometer

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

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

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

Royal Parks Half Marathon training week 10

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

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

Monday – 30 mins easy

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

Tuesday – Rest

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

Wednesday – Rest

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

Thursday – 60 mins easy

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

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

Friday – Rest

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

Saturday – 120-130 mins easy

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

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

Sunday – 30 mins easy

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

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

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

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

Training totals

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

Fundraising total

  • £532 (£30 Increase from last week)

Niggleometer

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

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

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

Royal Parks Half Marathon training week 9

Good morning and Happy Monday. I can’t believe that I’m actually in the office on a Monday. Shocking behaviour! I hope that you all had an awesome weekend.  I think it’s safe to say my weekend only really had one highlight; catching up on some much needed sleep. Collage 28The ninth week of my half marathon training plan – I can’t believe there are only three more weeks to go – recommended that I completed a steady 40 minute run on Monday, a 45-50 minute steady run on Wednesday, a 20 minute long easy jog on Saturday and a longer two hour long run at an easy pace on Sunday. As always, real life got in the way a little and I had to change things around a little.

So how did I get on during the ninth week of my half marathon training? Did I manage to motivate myself to run after work? Did I manage to avoid tripping over running in the evening? Most importantly, did I remain injury free?

Monday – Rest

My week unfortunately didn’t get off to the best of starts. My long run on Sunday left me feeling terrible. I went to bed with a migraine and woke up with a migraine. Luckily, I hadn’t travelled down to Wallingford, so I was able to pay my GP a visit. After I confirmed that I’d had my eyes checked less than month ago, my GP decided it was time to arrange some more detailed tests. I felt a bit gloomy during the lengthy journey back down to Wallingford.

Tuesday – 40 mins steady

Although my headache had virtually cleared up, I still felt a little bit peaky. Fortunately, the office was reasonably quiet and I managed to get quite a lot of work done. I left the office at 16:30, checked my emails and was thrilled to discover that someone had sponsored me and that my fundraising had reached £500. If you sponsored me then thank-you, I genuinely got no idea who you are!Collage 29I returned to my shared house and was greeted by a disgusting smell. I’ve no idea what one of my housemates had been cooking, but it smelt terrible. I headed up to the safety of my room and treated myself to a nap. I woke up, debated the pros and cons of running, reminded myself why I’m running, got changed into some running gear and headed outside. It was so windy, at times I felt like I was running backwards. At least the wind made me run at a steady pace. Week nine *gulp* of my training had got off to a positive start.

Wednesday – Rest

Work was okay. I had a couple of meetings and spent the afternoon preparing for and panicking about my midyear review. I regretted setting myself such challenging objectives earlier in the year. I left the office with a colleague, and we headed to the Boathouse pub for a couple of pints. After a couple of hours in the pub we sensibly decided to get something to eat. Our first choice – Delhi Brasserie – was unfortunately fully booked so we ended up in Pizza Express. I decided to play it safe and ordered myself Lasagna Classica. Following a pretty average Monday and Tuesday, a couple of beers and a nice meal was just what I needed. It’s just a shame one of my housemates held a party in the kitchen and kept everyone else awake until after midnight.

Thursday – 30 mins steady

Although I was woken up at 05:00, I somehow managed to have a really productive day in the office. The highlights of my Thursday were the fact it was Thursday and an amazing lunch. I also spotted another amazing looking job opportunity listed on the internal jobs board.  I left the office at 16:30 and walked outside into what felt like a wind tunnel. It was so windy that even walking was difficult; I realised that running would be quite challenging.

Following a much-needed power nap, I got changed into some running gear and headed out the door. I should have completed a 45-50 minute steady paced run, but decided to stop running after 30 minutes. Although I usually enjoy running, I hated every minute of my half hour run on Thursday. Constantly battling the wind and playing ‘dodge the out of control wheelie bin’ wasn’t very enjoyable and I didn’t want to risk picking up an injury.

Friday – Rest

Most people know my Friday routine now. I escaped from the office at 15:00 and arrived back in Four Oaks three hours later. I felt so shattered I got home and did very little. It’s a good job it was a rest day.

Saturday – Rest

In an ideal world I would have made the most of the perfect weather and headed to parkrun. I mean a 5km run is sort of equivalent to a 20 minute easy jog isn’t it? Unfortunately, my friend wasn’t able to drop me off in Sutton Park so I had a parkrun free Saturday. In the end I decided to treat(?) myself to an extra rest day as I wanted to be well-rested for my two hour run. I was so determined to be ready to run, I headed to bed at a sensible time and stayed away from the local pub.

Sunday – Rest!

The early night and extra rest day turned out to be a complete waste of time. I went to bed with a migraine – the flashing lights were impressive but irritating – and woke up with a migraine. I got out of bed and discovered that I felt incredibly dizzy and nauseous. I decided that attempting to run for two hours wouldn’t be very sensible and reluctantly headed back to bed.

The rest of my Sunday was what I’d describe as a waste of a day. I managed to book myself a hotel room for the night before the half marathon; London seems to get more expensive each year. Mum dropped my number and race t-shirt around, I’ve been allocated #2768 in the green wave. I spent a couple of hours trying to complete a job application – never easy with a fuzzy head – and then headed back down to Wallingford.Collage 30So that’s week nine of my half marathon training not really completed. I’m trying not to panic about missing a long run, but I’m aware that the half marathon is getting close!

Week ten of my training plan is described as the ‘peak week’ and is quite possibly the most important week of my half marathon training. I’ve got to complete a 30 minute easy run later today, an hour long easy run on Thursday, parkrun or an equivalent run on Saturday and a longer 120 to 130 minute long easy run on Sunday. I’ve got everything crossed I feel well enough to complete all of my training runs.

Training totals

  • Runs: 28
  • Time: 20 hours 42 mins
  • Distance: 121.62 miles

Fundraising total

  • £502 (£25 increase from last week)

Niggleometer

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

Royal Parks Half Marathon training week 8

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

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

Monday – 30 mins steady

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

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

Tuesday – Rest

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

Wednesday – Rest

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

Thursday – 45 mins steady

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

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

Friday – Rest

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

Saturday – parkrun

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

Sunday – 110 mins comfortable

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

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

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

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

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

Training totals

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

Fundraising total

  •  £477 (£0 increase from last week)

Niggleometer

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

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

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

Royal Parks Half Marathon training week 7

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

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

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

Monday – Rest

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

Tuesday – 40 mins steady

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

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

Wednesday – Rest

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

Thursday – 60 mins steady

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

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

Friday – Rest

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

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

Saturday – Rest

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

Sunday – Lichfield 10k

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

Lichfield 10k 2018

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

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

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

Training totals

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

Fundraising total

  • £477 (£57 increase from last week)

Niggleometer

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

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

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