London Landmarks Half Marathon training Week 2

I hope that everyone had a great weekend. Thanks to the lurgy, my weekend wasn’t the best; I didn’t even leave the house. I’m still feeling terrible this morning; fortunately I’d already booked the day off as flexi.  collage 5Week two of my half marathon training plan – getting started – recommended that I completed an easy half hour run on Monday, a steady 50 minute run on Tuesday, a steady 45 minute run on Thursday and finally, a steady 60 minute run on Sunday, After struggling to complete my first long run due a complete loss of fitness, I was a little concerned about the second week of training.

So how did I get on during the second week of my half marathon training? Did I manage to complete all my training runs? Did I manage to run at all?

Monday – 30 mins easy Rest

It felt quite good to be back in the office. I think I’m the type of person who needs routine. I spent the morning working my way through 300+ emails and completing a spot of time recording. Lunchtime involved some last-minute presentation preparation as I’d agreed to fill in for a colleague who was off work. Midway through the afternoon, I noticed that my throat felt a little ‘odd’ and my head felt more fuzzy than usual. By the time I got back to my shared house I’d accepted that running was completely out of the question. My head was pounding, and I felt terrible. The noise my housemates were making did nothing to improve my mood. It got so bad – think living with a couple of elephants – I sent off a couple of enquiries about alternative rooms. At least the Wolves v Liverpool match cheered me up a little.

Tuesday – 50 mins steady Rest

I woke up feeling terrible and weighed up the pros and cons of travelling to Reading to help deliver a training session. I decided I couldn’t let my colleague down and headed into Reading. Spending two hours in a hot and crowded room was a struggle, and I spent most of the time trying not to cough, but I think our presentation went well. After a far too quick drink (of coke) with a colleague I hadn’t seen in almost ten years, I found myself running to catch the bus back to Wallingford. After running for the bus left me coughing and struggling to breathe I realised that running when I got back to Wallingford was completely out of the question. What a rubbish start to the second week of my training. I guess being ill is better than being injured.

Wednesday – Rest

The thirty minute or so walk into the office was a tad on the chilly side, and I regretted leaving my hat and gloves at home in Four Oaks. A slight adulating fail as people warned me that Wallingford was cold when I moved here last year. Benson – across the road from my office – seems to feature on BBC Weather’s tweets on a regular basis.

While I didn’t feel or sound unwell, I had an irritating tickly throat and nose thing going on all day. I spent most of the day trying not to cough as I could tell I was annoying my colleagues. I also wanted to give my throat chance to recover. After a pretty shitty day, something incredibly positive happened in the evening. I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

Thursday – 45 mins steady Rest

After spending most of the night and early morning trying and failing not to cough too much, I actually felt slightly better when one of my housemates woke me up at 05:30. Not well enough to run but well enough to go into work. Although I felt ok, I sounded terrible and spent most of the day either coughing or trying to avoid coughing. Fortunately, the office was reasonably quiet otherwise I would have irritated a lot of people.collage 6I left work early and headed back to my shared house with the intention of having a nap. Not a chance! I know I sound like a broken record, but the people I live with aren’t exactly quiet. At one point the noise got so bad I headed to the Boat House pub as I needed some peace and quiet. I’m not convinced drinking a pint of ice cold coke helped my throat, but the peace and quiet helped my head.

Friday – Rest

I spent the grand total 35 minutes in the office before I admitted defeat and told my line manager I wasn’t feeling well enough to be at work. I couldn’t stop coughing and felt terrible. The journey back home was a bit of a struggle; at least I wasn’t the only person on the train coughing. I got home, stuck a load of washing in the machine and then headed to bed. That was about as productive as the day got. In an attempt to make myself feel better, I ordered a takeaway from my favourite Chinese, and struggled to eat more than a couple of mouthfuls. The rest of Friday was incredibly mundane!

Saturday – Rest

Saturday was a complete write-off, such a waste of a day. I did, however, learn a valuable lesson; don’t drink a bottle of milkshake when you have a bad and slightly unpredictable cough. My post-milkshake coughing fit almost got very messy.

Sunday – 60 mins steady Rest

After a slightly disturbed night and early morning, I didn’t feel well enough to get out of bed until lunchtime. I think it’s pretty safe to say that I hate feeling unwell. I had zero appetite and no energy. I did do a spot of research into the pros and cons of running with a cold – yes I am stupid – but decided staying in bed was the safer option.cold running

[Source]

So that’s week two of my London Landmarks Half Marathon training not at all completed. I don’t think I’ve ever missed a whole week of training in the past, but I’m not going to worry about the missed runs. I’ve got no idea how some runners seem to run with coughs and colds, I struggled to walk into the office.

Week three of my London Landmarks half marathon training plan will hopefully see me complete at least one run! I’m meant to be completing a 30 minute easy run today, a steady 50 minute run on Thursday, a 20-35 minute speed session on Friday, and a longer 70-75 minute run at a comfortable pace on Sunday.

Training totals

  • Runs: 3
  • Time: 1 hour 55 mins
  • Distance: 10.83 miles

Niggleometer

  • Right knee: 2/10
  • Left foot: 2/10
  • Right foot: 2/10 (my right foot has been a little niggly, I’ve no idea why!)

Did you have a good weekend? I hope that everyone who reads this actually made it outside!

Do you have any tips for getting rid of irritating, tickly coughs? I’ve tried honey and lemon, gargling with salt water, three types of cough medicine and a lot of cough/throat sweets.

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London Landmarks Half Marathon training Week 1

I hope that you all had a great weekend. When this blog is published, I’ll be back in the office for the first time since December 21st. As quite a few people seem to enjoy reading my weekly training updates, I’ve decided to share my training progress in the lead up to the London Landmarks Half Marathon. I suspect the next three months will be quite challenging as my temporary contract comes to an end the week after the half marathon.collage 1Week one of my 12-week half marathon training plan – getting started – recommended that I completed a steady 30 minute run on Monday, a steady 50 minute run on Tuesday, an easy 30 minute run on Thursday, a brisk 25 minute run on Friday and a steady hour long run on Sunday. After eating (and drinking) far, far too much over the festive period, I was slightly concerned I wouldn’t be able to complete five training runs!

So how did I find the first week of my half marathon training? Did I avoid getting injured? Did I manage to complete all five training runs?

Monday – 30 mins steady

My alarm went off at 07:00 and after spending a couple of minutes debating getting out of bed, I decided to treat myself to a bit of a lie in. I eventually dragged myself out of bed and headed out on my 30 minute run just after 09:00. The run wasn’t great as I felt unfit and quite sluggish; the final five minutes were a bit of a struggle. I blamed the fact I’d spent the last ten days eating and drinking far, far too much. I need my fitness to improve ASAP.

Once I’d recovered, I had a reasonably productive day. I caught up on some slightly overdue blog related admin and tidied the house. I spent a couple of hours drafting out a job application and had an enjoyable afternoon nap. I treated myself to one last Chinese takeaway and spent New Year’s Eve doing very little. I went to bed well before midnight and then struggled to sleep. I estimate that I probably slept for less than three hours.

Tuesday – Rest

Happy New Year! I should have completed a steady 50 minute run, but after getting very limited sleep, I decided to swap some of my training sessions around. I didn’t have a hangover, I just felt so tired I knew running would have been a struggle. I spent the morning doing very little. In the afternoon, I decided I needed some fresh air so I walked through Sutton Park into Sutton Coldfield.collage 2I popped into TK Maxx and bought a diary, Moleskine notebook and sports bra. I love shopping for random bits and pieces. I’m a little ashamed to admit that when I escaped TK Maxx, I popped into Mc Donald’s. While I was eating my healthy snack I shared an idea that had been floating around in my head all day:

I switched off twitter and walked the three miles back home. When I checked twitter, I discovered that my idea had been liked and retweeted by a lot of people. Most people seemed to love my idea. I just need to remember to stick £1 in my ‘running fund’ every time I run!

Wednesday – 50 mins steady Rest

Switching my training sessions around didn’t work out very well because thanks to yet another headache, I felt far too unwell to run on Wednesday. I popped into Mere Green to buy a money tin from the pound shop and paid some Christmas cheques into my bank. I spent the remainder of the day lying in bed trying to get rid of my migraine. Such a waste of a day of annual leave.

Thursday – 30 mins easy Rest

I woke up feeling a million times better; a good thing as I’d arranged to meet dad and his wife for lunch. Having to turn down lunch due to a migraine would have been pretty devastating. I spent the morning working on a job application and then headed across to Lichfield Trent Valley to meet dad. After a quick cup of tea, dad drove us the short distance to The Royal Oak in Kings Bromley.collage 3The food was amazing and I ate so much, the short journey back was a little uncomfortable. I briefly considered running when I got back to Four Oaks three hours later, but I felt far, far too full to even contemplate pulling on my trainers. A poor excuse I know!

Friday – 25 mins brisk

After ranting about my Garmin 235 in my latest set of rants and raves, I wasn’t exactly thrilled when I discovered that both of my Garmin watches had gone completely flat. Talk about poor planning. I had a couple of options; to run ‘naked’ or to charge my Garmin and run later. As I didn’t want to delay my run – there’s always a danger I won’t run at all if I do this – I decided to opt for the naked option. Although it was so cold I found it quite hard to breathe, I really, really enjoyed my run. When I got back, I stuck a pound coin in my ‘running fund’ pot, hopefully the first of many pound coins.

Saturday – Rest

I felt a little gloomy on Saturday as I realised that it was my last full day at home in Four Oaks. The thought of returning to a shared house didn’t do much to cheer me up. Silly of me when I know I’ll miss Wallingford when my temporary contract ends in March. My morning improved when mum collected me and drove us to Chase Farm Shop. A sensible person would have ordered a small breakfast; I managed to order and work my way through a huge Farmers breakfast. The healthy eating starts next week.

The journey back was a little stressful as mums car started to sound like a tractor and then lost power. Luckily, we just about made it back home. After a slightly mundane afternoon of washing, ironing and housework, I spent the evening chilling out in front of the TV catching up on my guilty TV habit; Holby City. I also remembered to enter the Birmingham 10k Winter Warmer Run which takes place in Sutton Park next month. I’m hoping that I’ll feel slightly less wobbly after some consistent running.

Sunday – 60 mins comfortable pace

The weather yesterday morning was perfect for running; not too cold, sunny, dry and not too windy. I found my mile warm-up jog to meet up with Ellen a little harder than I would have liked. I think it’s going to take time to get my fitness levels back to where they were in October.

Ellen was aiming to complete a six mile run as part of her half marathon training, so we decided to aim for 60 minutes as a starting point. We walked the short distance into Sutton Park, had a quick discussion about where we wanted to run and then headed towards the Jamboree Stone. We reached the Jamboree Stone and stopped for a bit of a breather. Ellen suggested we ran the majority of the parkrun route, starting with the slightly soul destroying out and back section to and from the Jamboree Stone.Just running up one short hill left me feeling like I needed a long sit down.collage 4Luckily, the next section towards the finish of parkrun was down hill, there is no way I could have carried on running in an uphill direction! We reached the finish of parkrun, paused our Garmins and walked the short distance to where parkrun starts. Once we were back on track so to speak, we started to run again and continued to run until we reached the bottom of the ‘Hill of Doom’. I’m a little ashamed to admit that I had to power walk up the hill as my legs felt like jelly. We reached the end of the parkrun route, worked out how much longer we needed to run for and headed back towards where we started.

Ten minutes later, I was able to stop running as I’d been running for an hour. I wouldn’t call the run ‘comfortable’ but it was enjoyable and that’s what matters. The rest of the day felt a little rushed as I had to travel back down to Wallingford. I guess all good things (holidays) have to come to an end.

So that’s week one of my half marathon training plan not really completed. Like last time, I know that I’m going to have to adapt the training plan to suit my needs and somewhat fragile body. I just hope that I start to feel a little fitter ASAP! Only another 11 weeks to go.

Week two of the training plan contains four training runs and three rest and recovery days. I’ve got to complete an easy half hour run after work, a 50 minute steady run tomorrow, a 45 minute steady run on Thursday and an hour long run on Sunday. I’m hoping to make it to Sutton Park on Sunday. At the moment, just thinking about running after work is making me feel quite tired. After two weeks doing very little at home, I need to get back into some sort of routine again.

Training totals

  • Runs: 3
  • Time: 1 hour 55 mins
  • Distance: 10.83 miles

 Niggleometer

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

Did you have a good New Year’s Eve? I used to love New Year’s Eve when I worked at a pub. Since then, I’ve not really seen much point in getting plastered and then waking up feeling terrible.

Do you think rewarding running is a good idea? When I shared my slightly daft idea on twitter, I didn’t expect my tweet to be quite so popular.

A slightly random one, do you find it hard going back to work after a break? I don’t think I’ve ever felt this anxious about going back to work before.  

My running goals for 2019

Happy New Year! I hope that you all had an awesome Christmas and New Year. Here’s to a healthy, happy and injury free 2019. I can’t believe I’ll reach the grand old age of 40 at the start of May.

As always, I’m acutely aware that people are getting a little fed up with all of the New Year’s resolutions and goals type blogs. I really hope that my slightly unusual mix of running goals doesn’t bore you all to tears.training-journalsLike last year and the year before, I’ve decided to set myself some challenging but hopefully achievable running goals. After – with a few notable exceptions – I failed to achieve most of last year’s goals, I wasn’t originally going to share my 2019 goals. However, I hope that by sharing these goals I make myself slightly more accountable. A runner can always dream.

Run 1000 km – I set myself the same goal last year and ended up running approximately 735 km. I’ve entered the 1000 km in 2019 challenge on Virtual Runner and have set my distance target on Fetcheveryone so that I can monitor my progress throughout the year.

Complete 10 races – I set myself the same goal last year and ended up completing eight races and an unofficial virtual half marathon, a huge improvement on 2016 and 2017. I’ve already entered six races this year so I’m reasonably confident I’ll earn myself 10 running medals this year. I just need to avoid picking up any too many niggles.

Complete 15 parkruns – Now that Sutton Park parkrun is up and running – apologies for the rubbish pun – I don’t have to rely on lifts to and from Walsall Arboretum, I can run into Sutton Park. Last year, I aimed to complete 10 parkruns and ended up completing 13; a massive increase on the one parkrun I completed in 2017. I suspect this running goal may be slightly lacking in ambition, so I’ll see how I’m getting on in June and update it if needed.

Volunteer 10 times at parkrun – I’ve been pretty rubbish at volunteering at parkrun. Having to rely on lifts to and from Walsall Arboretum made volunteering difficult. I felt I had to complete parkrun as quickly as possible and then run back to the person who had (reluctantly) driven me to the Arboretum. Now that I can run to Sutton Park parkrun, I’ll be volunteering on a more regular basis.   parkrun volunteering

[Photo: Peter Heafield]

A sub 8-minute mile – I’ve just looked through all my old race listings on Fetcheveryone and my current mile PB of 9:09 is from way back in 2012. I’d like to lower my mile PB at some point this year, possibly at the Vitality Westminster Mile at the end of May. I’ve already entered the Vitality London 10,000 which takes place the following day, so I could go for a weekend of PBs.

A sub 25-minute 5k – Last year, I set myself the goal of completing every parkrun in under 30 minutes. My times ranged between 27:10 and 33:59 so I more or less achieved my goal. I set my parkrun PB of 26:49 in February 2016 when I weighed less than I do now and was fitter. Once again, I suspect I’ll find running 5k in under 25 minutes incredibly challenging but I’m going to give it a go.

A sub 60-minute 10k – in 2016, 2017 and 2018 I set myself the challenge of completing a 10k in under 55 minutes. After struggling to complete the so-called ‘fast’ Lichfield 10k in 61:17 and feeling completely demoralised, I’ve decided to set myself the challenge of completing a 10k in under an hour. I was going to enter the flat and fast Fradley 10k in March, but I already have a date with a half marathon on the same day. I just hope the weather on the morning of the Vitality London 10,000 in May is kind this year.

A sub 2:15 half marathon – After completely messing up my pacing, I finished the Royal Parks Half in 2:24:19. Although this was a 5+ minute PB, I came away from London feeling disappointed. The training plan I’ve cobbled together for my next half marathon – the London Landmarks Half – started on Monday. My running mojo has returned and *touch wood* my temperamental left foot is behaving itself. I’m quietly confident I’ll be able to improve my half marathon PB in March.

Listen to my niggles – I’ve said this countless times before, but I’m definitely an injury-prone runner. Some runners hardly ever seem to get injured – or else they are really good at pretending they don’t – I seem to spend a lot of time nursing various niggles. As I don’t want to spend weeks on end feeling envious of other runners, I’m going to continue to listen to and closely monitor my aches and pains. Finances permitting, I’m also going to continue to work with a local sports injury expert. Knee injury

[Source]

Improve my core strength – At the moment, my core strength is pretty much nonexistent. My friend who is a qualified running coach friend has told me that if I want to stop getting injured all the time, I need to improve my core strength. In between Christmas and New Year, I spent far too long time watching core strength exercise for beginner’s themed videos on YouTube.

Run with others more – I set this as a running goal last year and did reasonably well. I tracked down a local running group in Wallingford and ran with them when my training schedule allowed. I’ll never forget some of the more challenging runs I completed with Run Wallingford. Running with faster runners most definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone, it nearly killed me. Run WallingfordThis year, I’m aiming to run with Run Wallingford on a more regular basis. I’m only going to be working in Wallingford until the end of March, so I need to make the most of the time I’ve got left there. I’m also aiming to complete the majority of my long weekend training runs with Ellen. Running in Sutton Park is far, far more enjoyable than running around Four Oaks.

Train consistently – I’ve never been great at running and training consistently; some months I love running and will run 3-4 times a week. Other months I seem to fall out of love with running and don’t run at all. If I want to improve as a runner, I need to train more consistently. I also need to get better at actually following training plans.

Don’t buy any unessential running gear – I set myself the same goal last year and failed miserably. My family bought me some amazing running gear for Christmas. I also treated myself to some trainers in the Brooks sale, a couple of t-shirts and a pair of gloves in the Lululemon sale and some 2XU capris in the TK Maxx sale. So although I’m definitely going to have to invest in a couple of replacement running bras sooner rather than later, I don’t need to buy anything else.

I know I ask the same question every January, have you set yourself any running goals for the year ahead?

Have you entered any target races?

Can you recommend any core strength exercises or YouTube videos that are relatively beginner-friendly? 

How I’m rediscovering my running mojo

I’ve lost my running mojo.

It disappeared immediately after the Royal Parks Half Marathon, and I’m struggling to find it again. After a decent performance in the Royal Parks combined with some epic fundraising, I’ve struggled to run on a regular basis. Some weeks, my trainers have remained unworn and my Garmin battery has gone flat.A well placed benchMy right knee and left foot have been a little niggly. I’ve no idea what I’ve done to my right knee, it started to hurt one morning when I was walking to work, it’s all a bit of a mystery. I suspect the ‘niggle’ in my left foot is related to the stress fracture, it only hurts when it’s cold.

I’m not using this as an excuse, but I’ve also been feeling both mentally and physically exhausted a lot of the time. I think the lack of sleep combined with what has happened this year have finally caught up with me.

I’ve rather foolishly entered two half marathons in London in March, so I need to get my running mojo back ASAP.

Here’s my advice for rediscovering your running mojo. As usual, I’m struggling to follow my own advice.

Enter races – Although I enjoy running on my own, this year I’ve rediscovered my love of taking part in organised races.London Landmarks HalfNothing beats running somewhere new with likeminded people. The medal at the end is just an added bonus. I’ve got everything crossed I make it to the start line of my next 10k race on Sunday. If I don’t, I’ve got the Wheaton Aston 10k to look forward to next month. My sister-in-law has also entered, so I’ve got even more of an incentive to take part.

Set some goals – I’ve always struggled to keep myself motivated without goals. At school I’d set myself attainment goals, slightly geeky but it worked for me. I like to set myself running and fitness goals and share them on here to make myself slightly more accountable. While I’ve accepted I won’t be grabbing myself are more PBs this year, injury permitting, I’d like to run 50 miles in December.

Start again – If you haven’t fun for some time, it may well be worth going back to basics, and starting again. I’ve completed the Couch to 5k twice after recovering from running injuries. More recently, I returned to running with a slow parkrun. It was perfect, just what this doctor ordered.

Run with others – This summer, I discovered that running with others not only takes some of the pressure off, it also means that the miles fly (sort of) by. My Sunday morning runs in Sutton Park with Ellen were definitely my running highlight of 2018. We ran at a sensible pace, and stopped to take selfies and to eat ice cream. Perfect! I really hope your injury clears up quickly Ellen.Sutton Park ice creamI also enjoyed a few runs after work with my line manager. I’m gutted that these runs probably won’t happen again. A couple of weeks ago, I arranged to meet someone whose blog I’d enjoyed reading for years at Sutton Park parkrun. I hope that your hand is feeling a lot better Rachel, and you are back running again really soon. I’m sorry your first experience of Sutton Park parkrun didn’t go to plan.

Try something new – I suspect my running mojo disappeared because my training runs got too predictable. I estimate that in the lead up to the Royal Parks Half Marathon, 95% of my training runs were completed in the dark, on the pavements of Four Oaks and Wallingford. My running routine got too predictable and almost boring. Don’t make the same mistake; hit the trails, try a track session or embrace the mud. Mix it up.

Be a parkrun tourist – I finally popped my parkrun tourism cherry this summer when I travelled to Didcot parkrun.Didcot pakrun group 2

[Photo: Lewis Cousins]

Although the course was a little uninspiring, I met loads of other parkrun tourists and enjoyed running somewhere completely different. Not knowing the route was quite exciting. When I get a car, I’m determined to explore more of my local parkruns. Finally, check out Anna’s running blog. Anna has recently completed the parkrun alphabet challenge, such an amazing achievement!

Volunteer – If you don’t feel like running consider volunteering. I can pretty much guarantee that marshalling at your local parkrun will help you rediscover your running mojo. I’m looking forward to a spot of volunteering this weekend.

Listen to podcasts – I started to find my long Sunday morning training runs quite monotonous. Quite a few runners suggested downloading and listening to podcasts, so here are a few of my favourites.Running PodcastsI must admit I was a little sceptical, but listening to a podcast really did seem to make the time go faster during my final long run. I’ve now started to listen to podcasts while I’m blogging and also when I vacuum.

I Run On – I can pretty much guarantee that watching this short film will help you rediscover your running mojo.I Run On

Otherwise try watching a running-themed film, there are plenty to choose from, my favourite is Without Limits.

New kit – treat yourself. I’m going to sound really fickle, but new kit is pretty much guaranteed to get me running again. Buy that running top you’ve been secretly admiring for months, if it works for me, it may well work for you too.

Don’t stress – Finally, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t feel like running. At the end of the day, running is meant to be fun. Stick your trainers and running gear on and head outside for a walk. You never know, you might find yourself running again.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading my hints and tips. What are your tips for rediscovering your running mojo when it goes AWOL? Have I missed any?

Race Report: Royal Parks Half Marathon

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

RPHM Logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Race ratings:

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

Royal Parks Half Marathon training week 10

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

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

Monday – 30 mins easy

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

Tuesday – Rest

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

Wednesday – Rest

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

Thursday – 60 mins easy

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

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

Friday – Rest

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

Saturday – 120-130 mins easy

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

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

Sunday – 30 mins easy

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

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

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

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

Training totals

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

Fundraising total

  • £532 (£30 Increase from last week)

Niggleometer

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

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

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

Royal Parks Half Marathon training week 8

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

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

Monday – 30 mins steady

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

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

Tuesday – Rest

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

Wednesday – Rest

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

Thursday – 45 mins steady

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

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

Friday – Rest

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

Saturday – parkrun

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

Sunday – 110 mins comfortable

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

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

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

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

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

Training totals

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

Fundraising total

  •  £477 (£0 increase from last week)

Niggleometer

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

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

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