Race Report: Shenstone Fun Run

Good morning and Happy Tuesday, I’m so pleased it’s not Monday. Yesterday, when I spotted a single magpie during my walk to the train station, I should have gone back to bed. Hopefully, my new job will start to improve ASAP. Anyway, enough moaning and groaning and back to the point of this blog; my first race review since the Royal Parks Half back in October.LogoBefore I launch into a review of the Shenstone Fun Run, I need to rewind back to Saturday evening. Let’s just say a two-hour shopping session – sorry feet – and three pints of beer – sorry head – weren’t the best pre-race preparation. I doubt this pre-race routine will ever feature in Runner’s World et al.Shenstone Fun RunWhen my alarm woke me on Sunday, my head felt a little fuzzy and I was thirsty. A couple of cups of tea and pint of water didn’t do much to alleviate the thirst, not a good sign before a 10k. My pre-race routine went something like; drink tea, nervous wee, make myself eat some Weetabix, shower, get dressed, productive loo visit, drink more tea, another nervous wee, struggle to pin race number to t-shirt, pack bag, have bonus nervous wee and then leave the house. By the time I left the house, I was feeling a lot better and was looking forward to the prospect of taking part in an organised event for the first time this year. The weather was pretty much perfect and my right knee felt completely niggle-free.

I met my running buddy Ellen at the train station, we got on a train and four minutes later reached Shenstone. Quite possibly the most straight-forward I’ve ever had to an event. We walked the short distance to the Race HQ, Ellen collected her number, dropped our bags and then realised we had a lot of time to kill before the start of the run. After spending a bit time chatting and avoiding the drizzle, we decided to track down some loos. Although there was a ladies loo inside Race HQ, there was an impressive queue of female runners waiting, so we decided to have a look around the centre of Shenstone.Waiting to startI spent a lot of time in Shenstone up to the age of 16 because my grandparents lived there. I suspect I bored Ellen to tears with my “that used to be an HSBC”, “that used to be a greengrocers”, “that used to be a chemists” type observations. Even the library had changed; what used to be the children’s books section was now a cafe area with an amazing selection of homemade cakes. We both decided that a cake would make the perfect post-run reward and told the library volunteers we would definitely be back later. As an added bonus, the library had loos with no queues so we both made the most of the facilities.SelfieThe 10k was scheduled to start at 11:00 so at 10:50 we both joined the back of the pack so to speak. After a quick warm-up, we were sent on our way. The 10k route had changed as was advertised as flat and fast so I was a little surprised to find myself running up several short but quite steep hills in the first mile. We headed out of Shenstone past my grandparents’ old house and into the countryside. It took me less than 15 minutes to be reminded of my complete loss of fitness and my fragile right knee. I was struggling to run at Ellen’s pace so slowed down to what was almost a walk. Sorry Ellen!

By the third mile, I felt shattered. I’m not sure if it was the humidity, my lack of food the previous evening, my lack of training or a combination of the three but I was struggling to put one foot in front of the other. I was also struggling a little mentally and started to just want the 10k fun(?) run to end. I’m pretty sure that had the course allowed me to, I would have called it a day there and then.

The second three miles were what I’d describe as undulating. It suddenly seemed to get warm and I was grateful the organisers had provided several water stations. After a quick consultation with Ellen we switched to a strategy of running for four minutes and then walking for a minute. Walking after 5k didn’t make me feel very good about myself but I had to do something to make sure that I actually finished and made it back to Shenstone.

After an hour or so of ‘running’ my temperamental right knee decided to remind me that it didn’t appreciate me running downhill; it was pain-free on the numerous small uphill sections, but very painful on the downhill sections. Awesome, thanks knee! I was not a happy bunny at this stage. Running past a collapsed runner who was receiving treatment gave me the kick up the arse and reality check I so desperately needed. Although I didn’t suddenly turn into Little Miss Happy, I was reminded that I’m lucky to be able to run and that my knee issue was likely to be a temporary setback rather than a long-term injury.

We eventually – sorry again Ellen – reached the bridge next to Shenstone train station, ran past ‘Rocket Ron’ who had his camera with him but wasn’t actually taking any photos. Slightly strange but I suspect he wasn’t one of the official race photographers and was only taking photos of members of his running club. We both ‘sprinted’ towards the finish line, posed for the official photographer, collected our medals and some water and then spotted some of Ellen’s club mates. While Ellen caught up with her club mates, I popped into the medical tent to ask for an icepack for my knee.

MedalI guess it should be a case of what goes on in the medical tent, stays in the medical tent. However, I wasn’t very impressed with the rudeness of a runner who hobbled in for treatment, I’m going to call this person Runner x. Runner x had injured her ankle before the 10k – I remember seeing her sprawled on the floor – but decided to run anyway. I know that I’m not one to judge, but why would you attempt to run a 10k on a damaged ankle? Anyway, Runner x was incredibly rude to the St John Ambulance person treating her. Apparently, the ice packs weren’t cold enough and the lady treating her was useless. I was quite relieved when another runner came in seeking treatment for a nosebleed and I was able to escape from the medical tent.

And then, once we had collected our bags, it was time for the highlight of the morning, tea and homemade cake. Luckily, the library was still open and there were plenty of cake options. I played it safe and asked for a slice of sponge cake and a cup of breakfast tea. As we didn’t want to ruin everyone else’s tea and cake enjoyment, we decided to sit outside. The homemade cake tasted amazing and I regretted not buying a second slice to take home with me. Tea and cake consumption completed, we hobbled the short distance to Shenstone station and a short train journey later were back in Four Oaks.

Tea and cake

This isn’t a food blog so I’ll stop talking about cake now.

Would I recommend the Shenstone Fun Run?

Yes, I would, but I think the organisers need to consider bringing the start time forward an hour to 10:00. The fun run would also benefit from a few more loo options at the start; the queues were some of the longest I’ve seen. I personally preferred the old, slightly longer than 10k route but that is just my personal opinion.

And finally, the positives which most definitely outweighed the negatives. The organisation was pretty much flawless; I entered well in advance so my number was posted to me. Ellen had to collect her number on the day; this took less than a minute. The organisers provided a secure baggage area, this was well organised and there was no chance of people’s bags getting mixed up. Although I personally didn’t like the new course, feedback from other runners was positive. Every single race volunteer I was out on the course was incredibly supportive, the cowbells and music were definitely impossible to ignore and gave me a much-needed boost. The run was chip timed so results were available the second we crossed the finish line.

Race ratings:

  • Cost: 5/10 (£20 but a proportion of this went to local charities)
  • Course: 5/10
  • Medal: 9/10
  • Race t-shirt: n/a
  • Goody bag: 2/10
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Running goals for 2019: Progress report

I hope that everyone had an awesome weekend and that Monday wasn’t too much of a chore. As it’s now July – seriously, how quickly is this year going? – I thought I’d write a quick (lack of) progress report on my 2019 running goals.

Run 1000km – I started the year with loads of good intentions; one was to run 1000km. Thanks to the combination of injuries, and a complete loss of running mojo, my running has been sporadic. I’ve just checked out my training log on Fetcheveryone. So far in 2019, I’ve run approximately 51km. Not recording all of my training runs was a mistake. I don’t think I’ll get near my 1000km target but that’s okay.Injured runner

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Complete 10 races – I haven’t completed a single organised race. Thanks to the reasons I gave above I’ve not made it to the start line of every single race I’ve entered this year. I don’t want to think about how much money I’ve wasted on race entry fees!

Complete 15 parkruns – Back in January, I was quietly confident I would be able to complete 15 parkruns. Sutton Park parkrun is just over three miles from my front door; I had visions of relaxing runs to and from parkrun. The reality is a little different as I’ve only completed one parkrun.

Volunteer 10 times at parkrun – Now this is one running goal I’ll definitely achieve. It’s been very much a case of ‘can’t run, can volunteer’.

parkrun volunteering

I’ve checked out my parkrun volunteer stats and so far in 2019 I’ve marshalled 4 times, written the run report once, tail walked once and handed out finish tokens once. This Saturday I’m having a go at timekeeping.

A sub 8-minute mile – I didn’t head down to London for the Vitality Westminster Mile. My official mile PB remains a very beatable 9:09. Perhaps I should focus on short distances during the second half of 2019.

A sub 25-minute 5k – I think it’s safe to say my only official 5k time of 57:04 is a long way from a sub-25 minute time. The way I’m feeling at the moment, I can’t see me ever getting below 30 minutes again.

A sub 60-minute 10k – I’m yet to complete an official 10k race this year. I’m hoping to complete the Shenstone Fun Run later this month; it will be good to get some sort of benchmark.

A sub 2:15 half marathon – I had grand plans of running a decent time at the London Landmarks Half Marathon. However, the reality was a little different. I completed most of my training runs in the lead up to the London Landmarks and then picked up some sort of office lurgy which refused to go away.  The result? Another DNS!

Listen to my niggles – This is another running goal I’ll definitely achieve. I’ve had so many injuries this year, I’ve now reached the stage I’m almost scared of running. I’m also starting to suspect a lot of niggles are a figment of my imagination.

Improve my core strength – This is another running goal success story. I’m hoping that all the workouts I’ve been completing will start to benefit my running.Clean House Injured Runner

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Run with others more – Whenever I’ve pulled on my trainers and run, I’ve made more effort to run with others. Although I didn’t get to run with Run Wallingford before I moved back home, I’ve found myself some Birmingham-based running groups to join.

Train consistently – Does consistently training inconsistently count?

Don’t buy any unessential running gear – So far this final running-related goal is more possibly more failure than success. I’ve just worked out how much I’ve spent on running gear, and had a bit of a shock. Having said that, I’ve sold such a lot of unwanted running gear online, I’ve probably ‘made’ more money than I’ve spent.

I think it’s quite obvious that the first half of 2019 wasn’t great from a running perspective. At times I’ve felt like selling all of my running gear. Some people may be questioning the point of this rather negative running goal progress update. I decided to publish this update as I think it’s important to write about the not-so-positive aspects of running.

How are you progressing with your running goals? Hopefully better than I am with mine 🙂

Do you think I should readjust all of my goals or rule out this year and start again next year? I’ve reached the stage I’m about to ‘write-off’ 2019 and will start again next year.

Returning to running after a knee injury and aZengear compression review

I hope that everyone is having an amazing week; at least it’s almost the weekend. I think I’ve just about recovered from a slightly traumatic interview yesterday lunchtime. I think the expression ‘By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’ quite accurately described what happened.

I don’t want to put some sort of random ‘injury curse’ on myself, but after almost two months of no running and a lot of knee strengthening exercises, I think that I’m ‘up and running’ again.

With apologies for the randomness, this quote sums up why I’ve missed running so much:

“Our running shoes have magic in them. The power to transform a bad day into a good day; frustration into speed; self-doubt into confidence; chocolate cake into muscle.”
– Mina Samuels, author of Run Like a Girl 

Although I’m not a huge fan of chocolate cake, since the day I DNS the London Landmarks Half, I’ve eaten far, far too much unhealthy food. I’ve also developed an unhealthy post-work drinking habit. I was definitely using my injury as an excuse to overindulge. Let’s just say the scales don’t lie. The healthier regime starts once I’ve celebrated(!?) my 40th birthday at the beginning of May. I’m pretty sure that most 40-year-old women don’t pop into McDonald’s every Sunday evening.Unhealthy choicesWhen I was unable to run, I spent a bit of far too much time thinking about all of the running injuries I’ve had. In my first ever post way back in March 2013 I described myself as an incredibly injury-prone runner. I seem to spend most of the time trapped in a running injury cycle. I wasn’t able to find out what happened to Small Town Runner – hopefully, they haven’t retired from running due to injury – but this running injury cycle diagram is pretty accurate.Running Injury Cycle

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If I remember and if people are interested, I’m going to blog about how I went back to basics to hopefully break my own personal running injury cycle. Let’s just say, I was a little embarrassed when I realised that I’d been working a short walk from a sports injury rehabilitation centre since last January. Not one of my finest moments.

Since the beginning of the month, I’ve been running for 15-20 minutes two or three times a week. I’ve left my Garmin behind as I didn’t want to compare my running to this time 12 months ago. Although *touch wood* my knee seems to be coping, I’m not sure I’ll be able to take part in the three 10k events I’ve entered in May.

Now that I’ve finished complaining about my knee and self-inflicted weight gain, I’m going to quickly review a couple of products I’ve been testing. I hope you all enjoy reading the review and find it useful.

aZengear Compression review

At the start of March, Emily one of the co-founders of aZengear, contacted me after reading this blog. Emily wanted to send me some free samples for review. I agreed as I enjoy working with and hopefully increasing the awareness of slightly lesser known brands. As I already own far too many pairs of compression calf sleeves, I opted for a pair of compression socks and a compression knee sleeve. My right knee was incredibly niggly at the time, so I thought it would be really interesting to see if the knee sleeve helped my knee.

Before I start my review, I’m aware that people may not have come across aZengear Compression (I hadn’t) so here’s a very quick introduction to the brand.

A quick introduction to aZengear Compression

aZengear is a UK startup for compression gear for sports, travel and daily wear. The co-founders mission is to design and manufacture compression gear products that contribute to healthy living and make a difference in people’s lives.

The aZengear product range currently includes:

  • Graduated compression socks for sports and travel
  • Compression calf sleeves for running
  • Plantar fasciitis socks
  • Compression knee sleeves for running, squats, weightlifting and arthritis

The compression socks and knee sleeve were well packaged and arrived promptly. Both items came with a Read Me First card which provides information about a 30 day warranty and bonus, wash and care instructions and contact details in case there are any issues with the product. I wish more brands provided the same information.

Compression Knee Sleeve

According to aZengear’s website, if you suffer from intermittent or constant knee pain, their compression knee sleeve will provide immediate joint pain relief, improved blood circulation and muscular recovery. The knee sleeve is described as being perfect for a range of sports and activities, the infographic below provides more information. knee-sleeve-infographic-900x900

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I think it’s safe to say that my recent knee injury meant that I thoroughly tested the compression knee sleeve. So, first things first, did the knee sleeve fit? I’m pleased to report that for once I managed to send the correct measurements to a compression gear brand. The last knee brace I wore was a far too tight behind my knee and felt uncomfortable after I’d been wearing it for a while. I didn’t have any issues with the aZengear knee sleeve, it felt reasonably comfortable and the material didn’t cause any unwanted skin reactions.

As my right knee wasn’t coping very well with the two mile walk to and from the office – walking down the steps on Wallingford Bridge to the Riverside Park was a painful experience – I wore the knee sleeve five days a week. I found the knee sleeve the perfect length and just the right level of compression. It didn’t slide down my leg and remained in place all day. Finally, I think I need to point out that with the exception of short sprints across main roads, I haven’t run in the compression knee sleeve.

Graduated Compression Socks

aZengear describe their graduated compression socks as being perfect for those who are on the move. The socks are described as being a great fit for a range of people including runners, nurses, hikers, cyclists and those suffering from varicose veins, DVT or recovering after surgery. The socks are described as being reliable, stylish, affordable and most importantly, effective. Once again, I’ve included an infographic in order to provide more information. pink-sock-on-white-900x900

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Once I’d realised that there wasn’t a dedicated left and right sock, the graduated compression socks were fairly easy to put on the first time I wore them. I was little surprised to discover they were so long they almost covered my knees. I have longer than average legs so this made a refreshing change, however, shorter runners may find that the socks are too long.aZengear compression socksI’ve worn the compression socks during and for an hour after the majority of my post-knee injury training runs. I genuinely believe that wearing the socks has helped my gradual return to running. The socks provide a good level of compression, my calf muscles have been completely niggle free and my legs have felt amazing. The only minor complaint I have with the compression socks relates to the thickness of the material they are made from. I guess I’m just used to running in thin socks as these compression socks make my trainers feel slightly too tight.

The washing machine test

I’m repeating myself, again, but one of the reasons it takes me a while to publish my product reviews is that I like to wear and to wash items I’m reviewing several times. Unfortunately, in the past some of my running gear hasn’t coped very well with being washed. I’m still a little traumatised about my first ever Lululemon purchase. Having an injury which has prevented me from running also slowed down the review process! I’m pleased to report that the knee sleeve and the compression socks passed the washing machine test.

The Verdict

So, would I recommend aZengear compression to other runners? Yes, I would. The knee sleeve and graduated compression socks all felt comfortable when I wore them. I think that the knee sleeve helped to support my dodgy knee during my walks to and from work; I genuinely believe that it aided the recovery of my knee. The graduated compression socks appear to have helped my calves as I’ve made a return to running, I’ll definitely be wearing them as I increase my weekly mileage.

**Full disclosure: aZengear compression sent me a knee sleeve and a pair of graduated compression socks for free in return for an honest review. I did not receive any payment for this review. As I wore the knee sleeve underneath my work trousers, I forgot to take any ‘action’ photos. The infographics in this review were taken from aZengear’s website. As always all opinions are my own**

London Landmarks Half Marathon training Week 10

Happy Monday! I hope that everyone who reads my waffle had an amazing weekend. I had an enjoyable but perhaps slightly chaotic weekend. I’m feeling tired this morning, getting out of bed this morning was difficult.Collage 24Week 10 of my half marathon training plan – the ‘peak’ week – recommended that I completed a 30 minute easy run on Monday, a 60 minute easy run on Thursday, a 5k run or parkrun on Saturday, and a longer 120-130 minute run on Sunday. After missing far too many longer runs, I was determined to run for a couple of hours on Sunday.

So how did I cope during the tenth week of my London Landmarks Half training? Did my niggly right knee behave itself? Did I remain injury free? Did I allow the pub to get in the way of running?

Monday – 30 mins easy Rest

After a celebratory wine and beer on Sunday evening, I started the week with a slightly fuzzy head. Fortunately for everyone, I felt a lot better after the walk into the office. Thanks to some computer related issues – I’m pretty certain computers shouldn’t take 30 minutes to load – I didn’t have the most productive morning ever. The afternoon didn’t improve and I wasn’t in the best of moods when I left work.

The walk back to my room and a sneaky powernap helped me to shift my slightly grumpy mood. I decided to postpone my 30 minute run by a day as my right knee felt quite niggly after my long run on Sunday and I felt too tired to run. Not the most positive start to the week, perhaps I need to avoid working on Mondays.

Tuesday – Rest 30 mins easy

Thanks to some decent sleep, I woke up feeling reasonably refreshed, even my archaic work computer failed to wind me up. I spent the day preparing flow and groundwater data for a hydrology report and felt like I’d had a productive day when I left the office with a colleague. I’m not sure what happened, but we ended up back in The Old Post Office enjoying a beer and some healthy snacks crisps. Fortunately, my colleague could only stay for a couple; otherwise there is no way I would have headed out for a run.Collage 25I escaped from The Old Post Office, picked up some bits and pieces in Waitrose, got back to my room and then spent an hour writing a product review and watching Casualty. Once I felt confident the beer had settled, I got changed into some running gear and headed out of the door before I could change my mind. The half hour run felt reasonably easy, the beer just about stayed put and I avoided having an unfortunate incident in the centre of Wallingford. It felt good to make a start on ‘peak’ week.

Wednesday – Rest

My computer finally ‘died’ and I spent quite a lot of time on the ‘phone talking to someone on the computer helpdesk. I’m not sure why I was told changing my password would solve my computer related woes; it didn’t. In the end, I abandoned my computer, tracked down a spare desktop and managed to finish collating a technical report that had to be completed by Friday. My colleague very kindly saved me from a wet walk, gave me a lift back to her house in Wallingford and cooked us an awesome meal.

The rest of the evening was incredibly chilled out, just what this doctor ordered. I set my alarm for 05:30 as I wanted to run before work. Sensible people would have gone to bed at a reasonable time, I somehow ended up watching violin master classes on YouTube and completely lost track of the time. Who needs sleep..?

Thursday – 60 mins easy

Getting out of bed at 05:30 was a bit of a struggle. Once I got outside, it took me quite a long time to wake up and to get into my stride, to be honest, the run felt anything but easy. I was reminded that Wallingford is quite a small town and that the bridge over the River Thames is just like Mount Everest when your legs are feeling tired. Although the run was challenging, it felt incredibly satisfying to complete a midweek training run before 07:00. It’s just a shame my lack of fitness meant that the post-run walk into the office seemed to take forever.

Computer issues meant that work was a little frustrating at times. Anyone who has ever used ArcGIS will know you need a decent computer to actually use it; my temporary computer didn’t seem to cope with the map I was trying to produce. My early start meant that by lunchtime I was feeling pretty tired, I’ve got so much respect for people who run before work, I couldn’t do it on a regular basis.

The rest of Thursday was a little predictable. One minute I was in the office, the next I was enjoying a couple of pints in The Old Post Office. I think it’s safe to say that I slept well on Thursday night.

Friday – Rest

I had a productive Friday as I was quite literally the only person in the office from my team. Walking to lunch on my own felt a little strange, but I found myself a different team to sit with. After a short but productive afternoon, I escaped from the office at 15:00 and arrived back home in Four Oaks after a reasonably stress free journey, three hours later. The evening was dull but incredibly productive as I made a great start on my weekend ‘things to do’ list. I’ve no idea how I used to go out every Friday evening, these days I’m in bed well before midnight.

Saturday – parkrun Rest

I looked at the weather forecast, saw it was going to be a tad soggy, and decided not to head to my local parkrun. I spent the morning replying to emails, reading Tokyo Marathon race recaps – one day, I’d love to go to Tokyo, and generally faffing around. At lunchtime I met up with a friend in Bistrot Pierre in Mere Green for an early lunch. I decided to be brave and opted for a new to me starter; the Goats’ cheese bruschetta. I’m not a huge fan of beetroot but quite enjoyed the bruschetta. The steak with my steak-frites was a little chewy, and the Crème brûlée quite small compared to last time. I guess you can’t win them all.Collage 26After lunch, I had the enjoyable experience of Sutton Coldfield on a Saturday afternoon. I had to collect an order from TK Maxx and needed to buy a couple of birthday cards. TK Maxx was incredibly busy but people didn’t seem to be actually buying anything. I was in and out of the store in less than five minutes, definitely a personal best. I grabbed a couple of birthday cards and escaped from the crowds. The rest of my Saturday was so mundane – think sleep and lots of carbs – I won’t bore you all to tears with the details.

Sunday – 120-130 mins easy 80 mins easy

I felt shattered when my alarm woke me at 05:00, not the best way to feel before a long training run. I lay in bed and mentally debated the pros and cons of getting my run done first thing in the morning, the pros just about outweighed the cons so I reluctantly got out of bed. The weather wasn’t ideal; cold, wet and quite windy, and it took me a long time to find my rhythm. My stomach unfortunately didn’t feel ‘right’ from the start, and after an hour of running, I reluctantly headed back home. I’m hoping that running for 80 minutes is better than running for zero minutes.LLHM MapI just about made it back home and headed straight to the loo. Loo stop completed, I headed to the kitchen made myself drink a pint of strawberry milkshake, stretched and then headed back to bed for a couple of hours. I treated myself to a bit of a lie-in and watched the Big Half in bed – watching all the runners made me feel a tad lazy – next year I will hopefully at least start the race.

So that’s the tenth week of my half marathon training not really completed. I can’t believe there are now only a couple of weeks to go. I most definitely don’t feel at all prepared at the moment.

The penultimate week of the training plan I’ve been following is described as the ‘start of the taper’. To be honest, I haven’t done enough training to justify or to need 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 a 60 minute run at a comfortable pace on Sunday. If my knee feels okay, I may try to run for 90 minutes on Sunday.

Training totals

  • Runs: 22
  • Time: 18 hours 2 mins
  • Distance: 99.59 miles

 Niggleometer

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

London Landmarks Half Marathon training Week 9

I hope that everyone who reads this had an amazing weekend. I think the highlights of my weekend were submitting a couple of job applications and completing a long run yesterday morning.Collage 23Week nine of my London Landmarks Half training plan recommended that I completed a steady 40 minute run on Monday, a steady 45-50 minute run on Wednesday, a 20 minute easy jog on Saturday, and a two hour long run at an easy pace on Sunday. After missing a few too many training runs, I was determined to complete my longer training run on Sunday.

So how did I get on during the ninth week of half marathon training? Did I manage to avoid the pubs in Wallingford? Did I manage to run after work? Did I rediscover my running mojo? Most importantly, did my slightly niggly right knee cope with four training runs?

Monday – 40 mins steady Rest

Sometimes I wonder what’s wrong with me, why I lack motivation. I booked Monday off so I could finish working through the comments some reviewers made on an academic manuscript I submitted ages ago. I think I did everything but spend time on my manuscript, it’s like I enjoy putting pressure on myself and causing myself more stress. I’ve always been the same. At university, I completed my dissertation three hours before it was due to be submitted. I didn’t even leave myself enough time to read through my masterpiece.

The weather was perfect, I could have run in the middle of the day and soaked up some Vitamin D, but I barely left the house. My procrastination levels were epic; I listed and sold more unwanted running gear on Farcebook, made a start on a job application and cleaned my fridge. What a waste of a day of leave.

Tuesday – Rest 40 mins steady

Once again, the weather was amazing, it definitely felt more like early summer than the end of winter. Such a contrast to the snow at the beginning of the month. After failing to leave the house the previous day, I played dodge the pushchairs, and got to the Post Office for when it opened. Following a couple of productive hours of hydrology work, mum collected me and we headed to the local farm shop for a late breakfast. I managed to polish off my Farmer’s breakfast in world record time, I’m not sure if my mum was shocked or impressed.Collage 22Eating a large breakfast left me with a bit of a running dilemma. I had to decide whether to run before heading back to Wallingford or when I got back to Wallingford. I decided to risk running less than two hours after eating a cooked breakfast.

Thanks to the cooked breakfast and the warm weather, the run felt far, far more difficult than it should have done nine weeks into half marathon training. I headed towards my usual ‘Figure of 8’ route in one of the flattest areas of Four Oaks. I thought it would be reasonably quiet, I was a little frustrated when I discovered I was sharing the pavements with dozens of school children completing some sort of cycle safety training. After nearly getting run over by children on bikes three times, I decided to run somewhere a little safer. I don’t think I’ve ever been so relieved to reach the end of a training run; my beetroot impression lasted until I travelled back down to Wallingford.

Wednesday – 45-50 mins steady Rest

The day got off to a positive start when I remembered I had a meeting in Reading, I have been known to head to the wrong office. The highlight of the day was seeing a colleague for the first time in 15 years; some people never seem to age. The meeting itself was incredibly productive and the six hours flew by. I escaped from Reading with a colleague and got back to Wallingford after a slightly stressful bus journey. We decided to pop into The Old Post Office pub for a quick drink. Several hours, not enough food and a fascinating conversation with a retired international athlete later, I virtually fell into bed.

Thursday – Rest 45-50 mins steady

I’m definitely giving up alcohol for Lent! I may also attempt to put an end to my slightly excessive Diet Coke consumption. I’ll be 40 in May; I need to make more effort to look after myself. Although the office was busy, I had a reasonably productive day. I escaped the office a little later than originally planned, picked up some food in Waitrose, got back to my room and had a much-needed power nap.

Thankfully, my 50 minute steady run felt a million times easier than Tuesdays run. I have a feeling I’ve turned myself into some sort of early morning/evening runner who doesn’t run very well when it’s light or above 5°c, not ideal! I got back to my lodgings, packed my bags, managed not to break the slightly scary power shower and headed to bed at a sensible time.

Friday – Rest

Most people who read my waffle know that thanks to the wonders of flexitime, I escape from the office at 15:00 on Fridays. For once the bus and trains behaved themselves, and I had a stress-free journey back to Four Oaks. I briefly considered completing a 20 minute jog but decided to give my slightly niggly right knee a rest. My Friday evening was dull but productive. As soon as I got home I went into get shit done mode, and managed to cross off most of my weekend ‘things to do’ list. I also made sure that I remembered to watch some of the European Indoor Athletics. I just love watching KJT and Laura Muir compete.

Saturday – 20 mins easy jog

I wasn’t exactly thrilled when I woke up at 05:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep. I decided to get my 20 minute run done and dusted so that I didn’t have time to change my mind, I was also aware that running first thing in the morning would give me more time to recover before my long run. The run was definitely too fast for a jog but still felt relatively easy. I wore my new Brooks for the first time and didn’t think they felt as comfortable as I’d hoped.Sutton ParkFollowing a quick trip to Sutton Coldfield – Sutton Park looked beautiful – the rest of the day was so mundane; I won’t bore you to tears with the details. I made sure that I didn’t waste too much time obsessing over the weather, ate a high-carb meal, watched more athletics, set my alarm for 05:00 and headed to bed at a sensible (for me) time.

Sunday – 120 mins easy

I found it really hard to get to sleep, and ended up getting the not so impressive total of four hours sleep. I almost felt jet-lagged when my alarm woke me at 05:00. Thanks to a combination of the weather and my lack of fitness, my long run yesterday felt challenging. My calf muscles felt quite tight to start with and seemed to take a long time to warm up. I felt tired and rather surprisingly given what I’d eaten the evening before, under-fuelled. I allowed myself a walking break after 60 minutes and then struggled to get going again. I’d overestimated how far I’d run in two hours, and found myself ‘waddling’ down a main road in the rain at 07:15.3 weeks to goSo that’s the ninth week of my London Landmarks Half training more or less completed. I can’t believe there are only three more weeks to go, I don’t feel at all prepared.

The tenth week of my half marathon training plan is described as the ‘peak week’ and appears to be the most important week of training. I’m aiming to complete a 30 minute run later today, an hour long easy run after work on Thursday, parkrun or an equivalent run on Saturday, and a longer 120-130 minute long easy run on Sunday. I was originally going to complete the Big Half in London on Sunday but have decided not to travel down to London.

Training totals

  • Runs: 19
  • Time: 15 hours 12 mins
  • Distance: 84.13 miles

 Niggleometer

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

Did you manage to make the most of the sunshine last week? I definitely picked the right time to take leave, it’s just a shame I didn’t make the most of the good weather.

Do you tell people when and where you are going running? Something happened during my long run yesterday that got me thinking. I don’t tell people I’m heading out running; perhaps I should start taking my mobile ‘phone with me!

London Landmarks Half Marathon training Week 8

As always, I hope that everyone had an amazing weekend. I’ve taken today and tomorrow as annual leave as I need to finish a slightly overdue academic paper.Collage 20Week eight of my half marathon training plan recommended that I completed an easy 30 minute run on Monday, a steady 45 minute run on Wednesday, a 5km time trial on Saturday and a longer 110 minute run at a comfortable pace on Sunday. With only four weeks until race day, I wanted to have a solid week of training.

So how did I cope during the eighth week of my half marathon training? Did my knee niggle turn into an injury? Did I allow ‘real life’ to get in the way of my training? Did my running mojo return?

Monday – 30 mins easy Rest

I found myself in the office for the first time in what felt like ages. It’s probably a good job I wasn’t on leave or working from home because the whole building was incredibly quiet due to the combination of half term and training courses. The peace and quiet meant that I managed to complete a couple of technically challenging pieces of work I’d been putting off.

The plan had been for me to help a colleague fix her shed roof after work. Unfortunately, or should that be fortunately, it rained quite a lot during the afternoon which meant it was too wet to do anything outside. We both headed into town after work to buy some housewarming presents. We had some nibbles and then popped into the Old Post Office for a couple of drinks. I felt like I could have run afterwards, but I didn’t want to risk running for half an hour after drinking two pints of quite gassy lager.

Tuesday – Rest 30 mins easy

The walk into the office seemed to take twice as long as normal, possibly because I kept stopping to take random photos. The weather was gorgeous; quite chilly to start with but sunny, it definitely felt like spring had made an appearance.

Wallingford TuesdayWork was a little challenging at times but the day seemed to fly by. One minute I was logging into my computer, the next it felt like it was time to head home again. Most definitely my kind of day! I got back to my lodgings and spent an hour chilling out while catching up on Casualty. Thanks to an accidental(?) nap, I almost left it a little too late to run. I’d like to say that I found the half-hour run easy, however, thanks to my inability to pace myself sensibly, I found the final 15 minutes of the run quite tricky.

Wednesday – 45 mins steady Rest

Looking back, I can’t actually remember what happened at work on Wednesday, clearly nothing very out of the ordinary or worth writing about. I left the office at a sensible time with a colleague and we popped into The Old Post Office for a quick drink. We somehow found ourselves back in the Delhi Brasserie restaurant enjoying a curry and another pint. I felt so full after my meal there was no way I could have run, even walking back to my lodgings was challenging.

Thursday – Rest

I worked in Reading in the morning because I needed to travel into London at lunchtime. I’d booked the afternoon off as flexi as I’d been invited to the unveiling of Geoff’s portrait at my old university. Definitely one event I didn’t want to be late for. I left Reading at lunchtime and reached Paddington 30 minutes later, so much faster than travelling from Brum! I decided to walk from Paddington to Baker Street. London felt incredibly busy, I guess spending a year in Wallingford means I’m not used to crowds! I reached Baker Street, collected a chess book for a friend, and then headed to The Barley Mow. Thanks to a drunk bloke who didn’t seem to understand the word ‘no’ I didn’t have the relaxing pint I’d planned.Collage 21I quite literally escaped from the pub and went for a quick wander around Marylebone. I found walking past some of my old haunts quite upsetting; virtually every pub and restaurant I used to visit with Geoff had either closed or completely changed. I got to the university and met up with a couple of my old hydrology lecturers. I didn’t know what to expect, but the portrait unveiling was quite informal with a couple of speeches. I chatted to the few people I knew, enjoyed a couple of glasses of university red wine and then headed to Paddington. I got back to Wallingford at 21:00 and somehow found myself in the Boat House pub enjoying a relaxing pint. Cheers Geoff.

Friday – Rest 45 mins steady

After a slightly unsettled night, I felt more than a bit peaky when I woke up. Fortunately, I felt a lot better after the 40 minute walk into the office. I’ve decided that I’m going to give up alcohol for Lent. My liver and bank account will both definitely appreciate a bit of a break. Following a reasonably productive day, I left the office at 15:00 and arrived back in Four Oaks three hours later.

Usually, I get home, order a Chinese and eat it while I watch Chicago Fire. On Friday I got home and immediately changed into some running gear. I knew that if I sat down, I wouldn’t have the willpower to head out and run. Running back in Four Oaks felt great, nothing beats running along well lit pavements. I experienced a bit of what I call ‘half term heckling’ but nothing too serious. The 45 minute run felt reasonably easy, and before I knew it, I was I tucking into an enjoyable Chinese.

Saturday – parkrun Rest

How amazing was the weather on Saturday? Once the fog finally cleared, it felt like early summer rather than late February, slightly worrying if you ask me. I didn’t make it to Sutton Park parkrun, I did, however, have an incredibly productive day at home. I listed and sold a load more unwanted running gear on various Facebook selling groups. If I’m not careful, I won’t have anything left to wear this summer. At least I found my hydration vest while I was in the attic. I spent three hours gardening and definitely overdid it a little as my right wrist started to hurt again. I’m not sure of the events of the week suddenly caught up with me, but I went to bed for an afternoon nap, and woke up three hours later still feeling quite groggy.

Sunday – 110 mins jog 70 mins jog

As I wanted to avoid the random February ‘heat wave’ I set my alarm for the slightly unsociable time of 05:30. When I looked outside and saw how foggy it was, I almost headed straight back to bed. I gave myself a major talking to, got changed into some running gear, managed a productive loo visit, drank a pint of water and headed out the door.

It was freezing and incredibly foggy; perhaps not the best of conditions for an asthmatic runner with dodgy eyesight. I actually ran into a wheelie bin that had been left in the middle of the pavement, not my finest moment. I made sure that I ran at what felt like an unnaturally slow pace, this seemed to work quite well as I reached 50 minutes of running feeling great. In typical stupid Emma style, I inadvertently increased my pace and started to struggle. One minute I felt great, the next minute I felt terrible. I made it to 70 minutes and am a little ashamed to admit that I decided to call it a day.

So much for nailing one of my longer runs. To make matters worse, I received an email from the race organisers reminding me there was one month to go. Arraagghhhh!One month to goSo that’s week eight of my half marathon training not very successfully completed. I think I possibly let real life and the pub get in the way of my training. At the moment, I can’t imagine completing a half marathon in less than four weeks time.

Week nine of my half marathon training plan looks achievable, I just need to make sure that I prioritise running over drinking. I’ve got to complete a steady 40 minute run today, a 45-50 minute steady run on Wednesday, an easy 20 minute jog on Saturday – I must remember to check the parkrun roster – and a longer two hour run on Sunday. I’ve no idea if my right knee will allow me to run for a couple of hours. I need a decent longer run to give me a bit of confidence.

Training totals

  • Runs: 15
  • Time: 11 hours 22 mins
  • Distance: 63.89 miles

 Niggleometer

  • Right knee: 5/10
  • Left foot: 2/10
  • Right wrist: 4/10

Did you manage to make the most of the sunshine during the weekend? It feels a little strange to be wearing sun cream in February.

Have you ever run into something while you are running? I’m pleased it was so early no one saw me run straight into a wheelie bin.