Royal Parks Half Marathon training week 6

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

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

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

Monday – 90 mins comfortable

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

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

Tuesday – Rest

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

Wednesday – 25 mins speed session

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

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

Thursday – 45 mins steady

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

Friday – Rest

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

Saturday – Sutton Park parkrun volunteering

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

Sunday – Little Aston 5

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

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

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

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

Training totals

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

Fundraising total

  • £420 (£120 increase from last week)

Niggleometer

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

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.

The inaugural Sutton Park parkrun

Good morning. I can’t believe its Thursday already, I can almost smell the long weekend. Time flies when I’m in Wallingford.

Regular readers of this blog will be aware I participated in the inaugural Sutton Park parkrun last weekend. Before I share my thoughts on my new ‘home’ parkrun, I thought I’d start with a bit of history.Sutton Park parkrun start

[Photo: Richard Hill]

Way back at the start of 2010, I was a member of a group of local runners who were keen to get a parkrun up and running – apologies for the terrible pun – in Sutton Park. We failed. I think another group of runners tried and failed a few years later. At one stage it felt like parkrun would never come to Sutton Park. A shame when you consider the lack of parkruns in Birmingham and the fact that Sutton Park is so popular with runners.

Earlier this year I heard rumours that a parkrun in Sutton Park was looking more likely. When I bumped into my old running coach at the start of August, I discovered that a test event was taking place. He also described the course to me and said it would be quite challenging; definitely not one for setting a personal best. Hills are unavoidable in Sutton Park, but for every up there is nearly always a down!

On Saturday, I woke up well before my alarm and was dressed and ready to go by 07:30. It actually took longer to drive to Sutton Park parkrun than to Walsall Arboretum parkrun. Although I live next to Sutton Park, the parkrun course starts and finishes near Banners Gate at the opposite end of the park. I suspect it may be easier to run or cycle through the park.

Course

Car parking at Banners Gate is always at a premium, so the event organisers encouraged people to access the park via Boldmere Gate and to park in the large car park near the model aircraft flying field. The start was a short walk or run from this car park, I think it’s safe to say I’d warmed-up by the time I reached the start.

It was interesting to play ‘spot the inaugural parkrun collector’ (I’m not sure what the official title is) at the start. I overheard one runner saying he’d travelled for more than five hours to get to Sutton Park. I’m not sure if that’s dedication or something else.

The Event Director had asked for people to stay away from the inaugural event as he didn’t want to overwhelm the volunteers, other park users or the course. In the end I think there were a manageable 239 finishers. It will be interesting to see how quickly this number increases. I don’t think it will take long.

The event briefing was emotional and outlined some of the challenges Gary and his team had overcome to get Sutton Park parkrun started. A lot of people were thanked and we were reminded that we weren’t the sole users of the park. We were then set on our way; it took me about five seconds to cross the start line.

Although the first kilometre and a bit were reasonably flat, the surface (and my general lack of fitness) made it quite hard to run fast. It took me a long time to get going.

Most other runners were taking in the scenery, I was busy watching my footing; the last thing I wanted was another injury. The majority of the first section is along quite a narrow path; if you are a fast runner, I would strongly recommend you start as near the front as you can as overtaking is virtually impossible. I’ve included a still from a video a runner called Andis has shared on YouTube. Andis captured the whole course, I think it’s definitely worth watching if you are considering a trip to Sutton Park.

First section

[Source: Andis Ozols]

I must admit that I find watching myself running a little strange. I discovered that I still run like a wonky donkey and look like I’m constantly limping. So much for improving my running technique. I thought I was running at quite a decent pace, the reality was a little different. The course then split into two and runners had the option of running across a wooden bridge – warning this bridge does get quite slippery when it’s wet – or through what in normal, wet conditions is a small water feature.

Sutton Park parkrun kilometer 1

[Photo: Richard Hill]

I think it’s safe to describe the path along Lord Donegal’s Ride towards the Jamboree Memorial stone as the most challenging section of the course. Think gravel, energy sapping sand, and a short but steep hill which is really hard to run up. Thanks to the recent dry weather, the path was incredibly uneven in places. I’m ashamed to admit I got half way up the hill and slowed to a walk. Next time I’m determined to run up it all.

Gravel hill

[Source: Andis Ozols]

Thankfully, a steep uphill in Sutton Park is generally followed by either a flat or a downhill section; the next section of the course took runners towards the Jamboree Memorial stone (and my favourite ice cream van) and away from the gravel onto some welcome tarmac. Although the tarmac was easy to run on, I found the short out and back section quite mentally challenging and a little demoralising. Probably because it brought back memories of evil hill training sessions with my running club. There is nothing worse than running down a hill knowing you’ve got to run straight back up it.

Out and back

[Source: Andis Ozols]

I *may* have walked part of the hill back towards the Jamboree Memorial stone. I clearly need to work on my endurance. Fortunately, the remainder of the course is generally back downhill towards the finish next to Longmoor Pool. Judging by the photo my friend took, I’m not convinced I enjoyed running across a slightly uneven field covered in cow shit.  At least the cows (which incidentally belong to my family; the shame) kept their distance.

Sutton Park pakrun field

The parkrun organisers had very kindly provided a series of signs which gave an indication of how far we had left to run. I think it’s safe to say I enjoyed the downhill section towards the finish.

Sutton Park parkrun finish

[Photo: Richard Hill]

I’m not sure how I managed to maintain my sub 30 minute parkrun streak, but I finished in 29:18. I crossed the finish, collected token 155 and then made sure I thanked all of the volunteers and the person that had made Sutton Park parkrun a reality; Gary the Event Director.

I’ll stop waffling now as this has turned into a bit of an essay. Once I’ve volunteered a few times, I’m aiming to complete Sutton Park parkrun without any walking breaks. I have a feeling that if I make the most of the numerous downhill sections, I’ll be able to run quite a respectable time. Although I found the course quite challenging in places, I really enjoyed not having to run multiple laps around a lake or playing field. I think a single lap course is great 🙂

How far would you travel to attend a parkrun? Travelling for five hours shows some serious dedication to parkrun.

Have you ever attended an inaugural parkrun? I hadn’t realised until Saturday that collecting inaugural parkruns is a ‘thing’.

Royal Parks Half Marathon training Week 4

I hope that everyone had an awesome weekend. I think the highlight of my weekend was attending the inaugural Sutton Park parkrun. I think it’s safe to say that the course is quite challenging.Collage 13Week four of my half marathon training plan recommended that I completed a steady 45 minute run on Tuesday, an hour long easy run on Wednesday, a steady 45 minute run on Friday and a longer 80 minute run on Sunday. Although Saturday was meant to be a rest day; I suspected that the opportunity of attending a new parkrun in Sutton Park would be too good to miss.

So how did I cope during week four of my half marathon training? Did I manage to get my training back on track? Did I manage to avoid picking up an injury?

Monday – Rest

To say that Monday wasn’t the most positive of days would be a huge understatement. I received an email at 08:30 with the subject “Geoff”. I was devastated to read that my PhD supervisor, mentor and friend Geoff Petts had passed away on Saturday evening. I’d had the opportunity to visit him last week, but didn’t due to work. I’d missed my chance to say goodbye. Looking back, I’ve got no idea how I got through the day. I had to leave my desk a couple of times because I was crying; not ideal in an open plan office. Geoff was an amazing PhD supervisor, mentor and above all, friend. He was always there for me and I can’t believe I’m never going to see him again.

I left the office with a colleague at 17:00, and we headed to a local pub for a couple of drinks and something to eat. It was good to sit down and relax for an hour or so. It’s a shame it was a rest day as I know a run would have helped me process everything that had happened.

Tuesday – 45 mins steady

Tuesday was a little difficult. Work was a nightmare and I kept thinking about missing my chance to say goodbye to Geoff. I was putting on a brave face until I read a London Higher blog; The Geoff Years, then the tears really started. It’s a good job I have an incredible line manager.

I got back to my shared house at 17:30 and then spent a couple of hours lying on my bed watching Holby City. After a lot of procrastination, I headed out the door for my 45 minute run. I had to remind myself that one of the very last things Geoff said to me was to “keep on jogging”. Not starting my run until after 21:00 was good because it was so dark in Wallingford, I had to run at a steady pace to avoid twisting my ankle on the uneven pavements. It was cool and still; perfect running conditions. The run definitely helped me process recent events, it also left me feeling so tired, I got a decent night’s sleep.

Wednesday – Rest

The weather on my walk into the office was so gorgeous; I actually stopped for a couple of minutes to watch the River Thames. I’ve always found rivers incredibly relaxing – okay, perhaps not when they are making my job a nightmare – and often spend time just watching the water flow past me. I had a reasonably productive day at work and left the office feeling I’d actually achieved something.Collage 14I’m not sure what happened, but for the second time in three days, I found myself enjoying a post work pint of beer with a work colleague. I did briefly contemplate heading out for my run. I then rather sensibly (for me) decided that running after drinking two pints of beer and eating a reasonably sized portion of fish and chips wasn’t a good idea.

Thursday – 60 mins easy

What a difference a day makes. Although we definitely needed the rain, I got absolutely drenched walking the couple of miles into the office. It was so wet; I decided to take a slightly grumpy selfie during my walk to work. At least my sogginess gave my colleagues something to smile about. Work was a little difficult again and I was pleased to escape the office at 17:00.

My unscheduled rest day left me with a bit of a dilemma. I’d already agreed to run with a colleague at 19:30, but also needed to fit in a 60 minute run. I didn’t want to start my run while it was warm and humid. I also didn’t want to play dodge the traffic, dog walkers and pedestrians. I decided to split my hour long run into two thirty minute runs either side of running with my colleague. A slightly unconventional approach, but it enabled me to run for an hour. Can someone please remind me how to run at an ‘easy’ pace. The first run felt so hard, I had to sit down outside the local garage for 10 minutes to recover.  You know you must look awful when people stop to check you’re okay.

Friday – Rest

I love Fridays. I also quite like the organisation I work for. Thanks to the awesomeness that is flexitime, I was able to leave the office at 15:00; this meant I arrived back in Four Oaks at 18:00. I should have completed a 45 minute run at a steady pace. After a bit of debate and a meal from the local Chinese takeaway, I decided to play it safe and to take a rest day. I also wanted to enjoy the inaugural Sutton Park parkrun.

Saturday – Sutton Park parkrun

I woke up an hour before my alarm went off – why does this always happen on a Saturday morning? – so I made a start on some household chores. I phoned my friend to check that he was still okay to drive me to Sutton Park. He did his best to talk me out of running, but I was determined to take part. I’m not going to go into too much detail as I’m going to share my thoughts in a separate post. Sutton Park parkrun is definitely quite tricky; totally different to the flat and fast Walsall Arboretum parkrun. I’m ashamed to admit I had to walk a couple of times.  I’ve no idea how I managed to maintain my sub 30 minute parkrun streak.Collage 15The rest of Saturday was unfortunately a bit of a write-off. I think the events of the week finally caught up with me. I felt so physically exhausted I had to head back to bed for a couple of hours. So much for being productive and getting loads done. I managed to watch a couple of hours of athletics before my eyesight started to go a bit strange, always a warning I’m heading towards migraine city. As I didn’t want a migraine, I abandoned the athletics and headed back to bed for an hour.

Although I wasn’t convinced I’d feel well enough to complete a longish run the following morning, I set my alarm and laid out my running gear before heading to bed.

Sunday – More Rest!

I woke up well before my alarm feeling terrible. A few years ago I would have attempted my 80 minute run; I’m now older and a little wiser and accepted that running was completely out of the question. I’d like to give a big shout out to my colleague who came into work last week when she should have stayed at home. I suspect that every office has a ‘hero’ who comes into work when they shouldn’t’. I don’t think she reads this blog.

Not the most positive end to the week.

So that’s week four of my Royal Parks Half training not very successfully completed; only another eight weeks to go. Week four was emotional, there were a lot of tears and at times I failed to see the point in continuing with my training and fundraising. Hopefully next week will be less emotionally draining.

Week five is a little bit confusing as it is described as the ‘mid schedule peak’ but doesn’t *touch wood* look too challenging. I’ve got to complete an easy 30 minute run after work – I’m feeling so shattered it will definitely be ‘easy’, some sort of speed session on Thursday, a 50 minute steady run when I get home from work on Friday and a longer 90 minute run on Sunday. I’m determined to run for the full 90 minutes so I must remember to slow down!

Training totals

  • Runs: 12
  • Time: 8 hours 25 mins
  • Distance: 49.77 miles

Fundraising total

  • £300 (same as last week)

Niggleometer

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

Keeping it Real # 2

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

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

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

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

Don’t get injured

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

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

Injured runner

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

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

Don’t stop running

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

GMFR 2

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

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

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

Strike a pose

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

Great Birmingham Run

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

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

The grumpy runner

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

Lichfield 10k

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

The kick up the arse photo

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

Too many takeaways

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

At least I nailed my standard thumbs up pose.

The beetroot faced runner

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

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

Strike a pose

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

Mine’s a double…chin

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

Chin chin

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

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

The peaky selfie

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

Terrible selfie

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

Definitely not my finest moment as a runner.

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

Royal Parks Half Marathon training week 3

I hope that everyone had a great weekend, after spending all of last week in a far too warm office; I personally really appreciated the slightly cooler weather. I have a feeling that when this post is published, I’ll be experiencing a dose of Monday morning office related blues.Collage 10The third week of my half marathon training plan suggested that I completed an easy 30 minute jog on Monday, a steady 50 minute run on Thursday, a 20-25 minute speed session on Friday and a slightly longer 70-75 minute run on Sunday at a comfortable pace. Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday were meant to be rest days.

So how did I cope during the third week of my half marathon training? Did I manage to motivate myself to run after work? Did the mini heatwave on Monday have an impact? Did I complete all my training runs? Did I end the week injury free?

Monday – 30 mins easy jog

Before I talk about Monday, I need to rewind slightly to Sunday evening. After a slightly lengthy journey to Wallingford, I reached my house at 21:30, opened my bedroom door and discovered that my bedroom had been converted into a sauna. Seriously, it was so hot in there; I knew I’d struggle to get any much sleep. After spending what felt like all night trying to sleep, I woke up at 07:00 feeling shattered.

My first day back in the office was difficult. There’d been a desk move, I struggled to remember my password – luckily I wasn’t locked out after more than three incorrect attempts – and I had over 350 emails to wade through. I just about managed to get through my first day back without getting too stressed out. It was so hot during the walk back to my shared house, I decided to postpone my run until it got a little cooler.Collage 11After spending two hours catching up on emails and Casualty, I rather reluctantly got changed into my running gear, did some stretches and headed outside. It still felt pretty toasty so I started my run at a sensible pace. I’ve no idea why, but I decided to increase my pace. I felt great until the heat and humidity hit me and I wanted to stop. I think it’s safe to say the final 10 minutes of my run were anything but enjoyable. It took me about an hour to feel well enough to have a shower and to get ready for bed.

Tuesday – Rest

I definitely needed a rest day. By Tuesday afternoon, I was feeling mentally and physically exhausted. I emailed my mentor Geoff’s ex PA and unfortunately received some not so positive news. The post work pint (of coke) and meal with a colleague was just what this doctor ordered.

Wednesday – Rest

I had a bit of a scare midway through my morning walk into the office. I’ve no idea why, but my injury-prone right knee suddenly felt incredibly painful. Fortunately, it only lasted for a couple of seconds and Wednesday was a rest day.

The rest of the day went something like this; work, lunch break, work, afternoon snack, more work, walk home after work, nap, TV, shower and then bed. Not very exciting or blog worthy, but I suspect this is the reality for most people who work in an office 9-5.

Thursday – Relaxed run walk run with a colleague

Thursday was not a great day. The office was busy and I found the noise a touch overwhelming at times. Even listening to music didn’t help to drown out the noise. I’ve no idea how people manage to concentrate in large, open plan offices as I really seem to struggle. I escaped at a reasonable time and walked back to my shared house alone. Much as I enjoy walking back with my colleagues, I needed some peace and quiet and some time on my own.

I should have completed a 50 minute steady run, but made the decision to support a colleague who is just getting back into running on a run walk run session. I felt that missing one 50 minute training session would be acceptable, I also wanted to give my slightly niggly right knee a rest. If run walk run is good enough for Jeff Galloway, it’s good enough for me. There was more walking, and talking than running, but I really enjoyed our run along the River Thames and back into Wallingford.

Friday – Rest

My Friday was peaceful and productive to start with because I was quite literally the only person in from my team. I felt sorry for my two colleagues out doing fieldwork because the rain before lunch was quite epic. I got soaked walking the short distance to and from the canteen. Thanks to the wonders of flexible working, I left the office at 15:00 and arrived back home in Four Oaks three hours later. The training plan said “20-25 minutes speed session”, my head said “Chinese takeaway”. I’m a little ashamed to say that I let my head win and the speed session didn’t take place.

Although my Friday evening was quite dull, I enjoyed chilling out watching the athletics on the TV. I was thrilled to see local athlete Matthew Hudson-Smith grab gold in the 400m. I also loved watching KJT win silver in the heptathlon. How athletes can be virtually world-class in seven different events is a mystery to me. It’s so impressive. Once the athletics finished, I plucked up the courage to send an email to my mentor Geoff.

Saturday – Rest

As I lay in bed experiencing parkrun #FOMO, I reminded myself that Sutton Park parkrun is due to start next week. Although the course is so challenging there’s a danger it’ll take me longer than 30 minutes to complete the 5k, I’m going to make sure I attend the inaugural event.

My Saturday was productive but boring; I’m sure that other people have far more exciting weekends. Following a music lesson, I spent a couple of hours doing some presentation preparation for the hydrology conference I’m attending next month. I made myself iron my work clothes, picked loads of blackberries for mum, and then treated myself to an afternoon nap.

Once I’d tracked down my running coat and worked out where I was going to run, I spent the majority of the evening chilling out, watching the athletics. Dina Asher-Smith was amazing and Jakob Ingebrigsten completely blew my mind. How can someone be so talented at 17 years old?

Sunday – Rest

I’m a little ashamed to report that I didn’t even attempt my long run. After a terrible night – I hate the way I over think virtually everything – my alarm woke me at 05:00, I debated running, decided I didn’t feel like running for over an hour, and went back to sleep. I woke up again a couple of hours later feeling incredibly guilty.

Mum picked me up and we headed to the Chase Farm Cafe for a late breakfast – I opted for the Farmers Breakfast which tasted amazing but was a little small for what it cost. Sunday afternoon was a little soggy – we needed the rain – so I spent the time I had left catching up on some paperwork (and Holby City) before packing my gear together for the journey back down to Wallingford.  Collage 12So that’s the third week of my half marathon training not completed. I must do better this week. I need to sort my head out, at the moment I’m letting myself, my sponsors and Geoff down.

Week four of my half marathon training plan contains four runs. As I want to complete the inaugural Sutton Park parkrun, I might end up running five times if I squeeze in a run when I get home from work on Friday. I’ve got to complete a steady 45 minute run tomorrow, an hour long easy run on Wednesday, a steady 45 minute run on Friday and a longer 80 minute run at a comfortable pace on Sunday. I have a feeling that the reality will look slightly different.

Training totals

  • Runs: 9
  • Time: 6 hours 10 mins
  • Distance: 36.44 miles

Fundraising total

  • £300 (+£25 from last week)

Niggleometer

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

How do you bounce back from a not so successful week? If I don’t get my arse into gear next week, I may as well DNS the half marathon in October.

Do you watch much sport on the TV? I’m going to miss the athletics; there have been some amazing performances.

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.