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.  

2018 Review: Running highlights & lessons learned

As 2018 is almost over – I swear January was only a month ago – I’ve decided to review my running highlights, lowest points and lessons learned throughout the year. As always, if you don’t enjoy reading lengthy posts I’d recommend that you close the page. Here are the links to my reviews of 2017 and 2016.

January

While most sensible people were out and about having fun, I quite literally ran into 2018. If I’m injury-free, I’m planning to do the same again this year. I started 2018 feeling positive and shared my running goals and entered a slightly ambitious number of races.Sutton ParkTraining for the Cambridge Half Marathon was going well, and I felt reasonably niggle free. I relocated to Wallingford to start a new job and joined up with the local running group; Run Wallingford, for some challenging training sessions. I completed my first Walsall Arboretum parkrun of the year in 29:15 and had some incredibly enjoyable runs in Sutton Park.

February

I was thrilled when I discovered I’d finally got a ballot place in the Royal Parks Half, and paid the £57+£3.95 postage and packaging entry fee without hesitating. A top tip, always check out the route and read the small print before entering expensive races. Although my Cambridge Half Marathon training continued, a frustrating knee niggle meant that I missed quite a few key training runs. I think it’s safe to say I didn’t feel very confident as the half marathon approached. I completed one parkrun in a slightly faster time of 28:44 and set myself the target of running the 5k distance in less than 25 minutes in 2018.

March

I unfortunately missed my target race the Cambridge Half Marathon due to illness; a touch embarrassing when I’d raised £500 for The Butterfly Thyroid Cancer Trust. Once I’d recovered, I completed the inaugural and very exclusive, Four Oaks Half with Ellen and spent the rest of the day in bed feeling terrible.Post run selfieI also found myself running laps around Walsall Arboretum three times in March in times of 28:03, 29:05 and 29:51.Walsall parkrun 24_03_18 1

[Photo: Ron Reynolds]

So much for getting faster with each parkrun, I’m definitely getting slower with age. A highlight of one of my trips to Walsall Arboretum was getting to meet blogging and running superstar; Anna the Apple.

April

At the beginning of April, I realised that I wasn’t really enjoying running, heading out the door had become a chore. After following training plans for what felt like months, I decided to run for fun for a while. It was time to keep it simple with no time or distance pressures. This approach seemed to work, and I completed what turned out to be my most enjoyable race of the year; the Cathedral to Castle 10 mile run in a respectable time.Hopwas Woods

[Photo: Mick Hall Photos]

It’s just a shame in typical Emma style I managed to injure my right knee during the race. I ended up missing a 10k race I don’t think I’ll get the opportunity to enter again; the Treehouse 10k in Cholsey near Wallingford.

May

The start of May saw me reach the grand old age of 39! I can’t believe I’m nearly 40, I don’t feel like I’ve achieved very much. The highlight of what was a really low-key birthday was my right knee coping with a five-mile run after work. The following Bank Holiday weekend I celebrated my birthday with a trip to Walsall Arboretum parkrun – I was quite pleased to finish in 28:18 – and far, far too much food and drink.

The following weekend I completed Walsall Arboretum parkrun in 27:10, my fastest parkrun of 2018. I met up with Ellen for a couple of training runs in Sutton Park, experienced a not so relaxing post-work run with Run Wallingford, and at the end of the month, jogged around the hottest race ever; the Wallingford Thames Run.Group photo

[Photo: Run Wallingford]

The pint of cold and refreshing beer tasted amazing, all races should provide bars and BBQs. Looking back, May was a pretty awesome month.

June

The first weekend in June saw me complete a not very enjoyable Walsall Arboretum parkrun in 28:14, and the even less enjoyable Great Midlands Fun Run the following day. The highlight of the weekend was definitely the BBQ and beer afterward. I’ve said it before, but don’t think I’ll enter the Great Midlands Fun Run again, each year I either end up injured or have a shit time. I shared a really personal blog and received a shed load of support from people I’ll probably never meet. I completed another boiling hot race; the Aldridge 10k and failed to achieve a sub-60 minute 10k.

July

At the start of the month I shared a halfway(ish) through the year running goals progress report and adjusted some of my goals. Thanks to some major rail engineering works, I spent the weekend in Wallingford and finally popped my parkrun tourism cherry at a boiling hot Didcot parkrun.Didcot pakrun group 2

[Photo: Lewis Cousins]

A couple of weeks later, I returned to Walsall Arboretum and completed my tenth parkrun of the year in 27:52. I accepted that my sub 25-minute goal would have to wait until 2019, I just wasn’t fast enough. The following morning, I found myself running in Sutton Park with Ellen.Sutton Park ice cream

I was reminded that running with others is really, really good fun. I also discovered that I can run a couple of miles immediately after eating an ice cream without any repercussions. The end of July saw me complete the incredibly challenging and soggy Abbott Trail 10k and start my Royal Parks Half Marathon training.

August

Unfortunately, August wasn’t the most positive of months as my PhD supervisor, mentor and close friend Geoff Petts passed away. I’ll never forget opening the email with the heading ‘Geoff’ and realising that I’d missed my opportunity chance to say goodbye. Running and the Boat House pub next to the River Thames became my escape mechanisms. Although I *may* on occasion have had a few too many beers, I managed to complete the majority of my training runs.Sutton Park parkrun finish

[Photo: Richard Hill]

I also attended and wrote a brief review of the inaugural Sutton Park parkrun. After several failed attempts to get a Sutton Park parkrun up and running, it felt amazing to finally have a parkrun in my local park.

September

September was a far more positive month. I completed another four weeks of half marathon training and just about managed to avoid picking up any injuries. I really enjoyed a spot of volunteering at Sutton Park parkrun and managed to bag myself a sneaky PB at the Little Aston 5 mileparkrun volunteering

[Photo: Peter Heafield]

The following weekend I completed the Lichfield 10k in a disappointing 61:17. I made my usual mistake of setting out at a far too ambitious pace and paid the price. So much for finishing in under 60 minutes.Lichfield 10k

[Photo: Mick Hall Photos]

While my own performance was pretty shit, my sister-in-law Julie completed the 10k distance in an absolutely amazing time.Lichfield 10k 2018

My slightly disappointing 28:23 parkrun summed up September. At the end of September, I returned to my old university to present some of my research at a hydrology conference. The conference was emotionally draining as it was originally going to be a large part of Geoff’s retirement celebrations.

October

The first Friday in October saw me travel into London for Geoff’s memorial service. The congregation was a who’s who of academia and hydrology. This quote will stay with me forever:

“The candle that burns twice as bright, burns half as long”

I stepped up my fundraising efforts and got closer to my £1000 target. Thanks again to everyone who sponsored me. I completed the final few sessions of half marathon training and felt quite confident I’d be able to achieve my sub 2:15 goal. I travelled to London the day before the half marathon and spent a slightly emotional day walking around parts of Marylebone and Southwark.

I wouldn’t recommend eating three large meals the day before a half marathon. I went to bed feeling like a giant slug. The weather on the morning of the Royal Parks Half was incredibly ‘hydrological’, I don’t think I’ve ever run in such wet conditions. The course was more than a little disappointing, I don’t think I’ll enter the ballot again.Royal Parks Half

I’m a little ashamed to admit that immediately after the Royal Parks half I completely lost my running mojo; I just didn’t feel like running. I wasn’t injured, I just couldn’t be bothered to pull on my trainers.

November

I’ve just checked my training log and discovered that I ran seven miles in November. The combination of a persistent knee niggle combined with a complete loss of running mojo meant that I just didn’t feel like running. Even buying new running gear in the Black Friday sales and reading my favourite running blogs didn’t seem to help.

I ran Sutton Park parkrun with Fetchie Rachel, realised that my knee still didn’t feel 100 per cent, and decided to DNS both the Birmingham MoRun and the Birmingham Christmas BII 10k. In an attempt to rediscover my running mojo, I treated myself to some running magazines. My loss of mojo had one slightly unexpected advantage, all the extra free time meant that I managed to get most of my Christmas presents purchased and wrapped and Christmas cards written. I also managed to complete some slightly overdue product reviews. Every cloud and all of that shebang.

On the final day of November, I entered the Run up to Christmas virtual running challenge and set myself the target of completing 50 km before Christmas Day.

December

December got off to a far, far more positive start. My right knee finally decided to stop randomly hurting, and for the first time in a month, I actually wanted to run. I got up stupidly early one Saturday morning and entered my target race for the second half of 2019. I met up with Ellen for a series of weekend runs in Sutton Park, these saw us running in some slightly tricky conditions. I also managed to fit in a few runs around Wallingford after work.Rainy Selfie

A lack of transport meant that I unfortunately didn’t make it to the Wheaton Aston 10k yesterday. I can’t wait to get my own car in 2019. After really enjoying quite literally running into this year, I’m planning on running into 2019.

In standard Emma style, I’ve already set myself some running and fitness goals for 2019. Some are quite challenging, and some scare me a little. I just need my left foot to behave itself as I want to start running regularly again. I’ve got two half marathons in London in March.

I think it’s safe to say that on both a personal level and as a runner, 2018 had its ups and downs. Probably more ups than downs. Although my monthly mileage was reasonably consistent throughout most of the year, you can see where I completely lost my running mojo. This combined with a couple of niggles, meant that I got nowhere near my target of running 1000 km in 2018.

2018 milesI’m hoping that 2019 is slightly less turbulent.

What was the running highlight of 2018 for you? Although the weather was far from ideal, my running highlight was completing the Royal Parks Half Marathon.

What are your running and fitness goals for 2019? I’ve set myself the challenge of not buying any unessential running related purchases. I failed in 2018 but will succeed in 2019!

Race Report: Royal Parks Half Marathon

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

RPHM Logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Race ratings:

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

Royal Parks Half Marathon training week 12

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

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

Monday – 20 mins easy

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

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

Tuesday – Rest

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

Wednesday – 40 mins comfortable

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

Thursday – 30 mins steady

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

One last plea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday – Rest

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

Saturday – Rest

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

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

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

Sunday – Royal Parks Half Marathon

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

Training totals

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

Fundraising total

  • £756.62 (£156.62 increase from last week)

Niggleometer

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

Royal Parks Half Marathon training week 11

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

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

Monday – 20 mins jog

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

Tuesday – Rest

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

Wednesday – 40 mins steady

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

Thursday – Rest

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

Friday – Rest

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

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

Saturday – Rest

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

Sunday – 60 mins comfortable

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

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

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

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

Training totals

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

Fundraising total

  • £600 (£68 increase from last week)

Niggleometer

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

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

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

Royal Parks Half Marathon training week 9

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

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

Monday – Rest

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

Tuesday – 40 mins steady

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

Wednesday – Rest

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

Thursday – 30 mins steady

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

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

Friday – Rest

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

Saturday – Rest

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

Sunday – Rest!

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

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

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

Training totals

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

Fundraising total

  • £502 (£25 increase from last week)

Niggleometer

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