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
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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

Royal Parks Half Marathon training Week 4

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

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

Monday – Rest

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

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

Tuesday – 45 mins steady

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

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

Wednesday – Rest

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

Thursday – 60 mins easy

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

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

Friday – Rest

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

Saturday – Sutton Park parkrun

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

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

Sunday – More Rest!

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

Not the most positive end to the week.

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

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

Training totals

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

Fundraising total

  • £300 (same as last week)

Niggleometer

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

Royal Parks Half Marathon training Week 1

As always, I hope that everyone had an awesome weekend. I think the highlight of my weekend was completing a challenging 10k trail race. As a few people said that they enjoyed reading my training and life updates before my disappointing Cambridge Half DNS, I’ve decided to share my training and fundraising progress in the lead up to the Royal Parks Half Marathon in October.Collage 1I suspect I’m going to find my fundraising more challenging than my training. Last year, Geoff, one of my closest friends and PhD supervisor was diagnosed with an inoperable form of thyroid cancer. Geoff had originally planned on travelling across to London for the weekend of the Royal Parks half marathon. Unfortunately, this is now looking extremely unlikely. I’m more determined than ever to run the half marathon in a respectable time and to reach my £1000 fundraising target.

The first week of my 12-week half marathon training plan 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 60 minute run on Sunday. So much running!

So how did I cope during the first week of my half marathon training? Did I manage to avoid breaking myself and picking up a niggle? Did I avoid the 2018 heatwave?

Monday – 30 mins steady

After waking up a little later than originally intended, I decided to run to and from my 08:10 doctor’s appointment. I figured that two runs of 15 minutes would be sort of equivalent to one 30 minute run. Unfortunately I hadn’t counted on it being incredibly hot and humid at 07:45. I arrived at the surgery pouring with sweat and doing an awesome impression of a beetroot. At least people sat away from me in the waiting room. I’ve no idea how my blood pressure was fine after running in the heat, but my doctor seemed happy. Perhaps she just wanted to get me out of her consulting room. The 15 minute run back home felt really difficult. I’m blaming one of my nemesis hills.Collage 2Following a much needed shower and lie down, I headed into Birmingham for a music exam. Once I’d got the exam out of the way I returned home on what felt like the hottest train ever. I think it’s safe to say that a combination of the heat, my post-run and exam tiredness and my lack of motivation prevented me from doing very much.

After checking out the weather forecast, I set my alarm for the rather unsociable time of 05:00 and headed to bed at a sensible time.

Tuesday – 50 mins steady

My alarm went off and I debated the pros and cons of running. I seriously considered delaying my run until the evening. I reminded myself why I was running, gave myself a talking to and got up. I got dressed, went to the loo, drank some slightly dubious tasting tap water, did some stretches, went to the loo again and headed outside. Although it wasn’t as hot as I thought it would be, it was incredibly humid.

My training plan said ’50 minutes steady’ so I decided to follow my favourite 5-mile route. My stomach unfortunately didn’t feel great, and I was a little concerned I’d have an unfortunate incident. Thanks to the humidity and my lack of fitness, I had to walk twice on my nemesis hill. Predictably, the final mile or so of the run felt easy and I felt I could have carried on running for longer than 50 minutes.

As I felt incredibly thirsty, as soon as I got home I made myself drink a pint of water. Can someone remind me to buy some nuun tabs? I headed into the garden, sat down and took a couple of terrible post-run selfies.

The rest of my Tuesday was not as productive as it should have been. I spent a bit of time researching medal options for virtual runs, generated a queue at the Post Office, spent a couple of hours gardening and ate far too much.

Wednesday – Rest

After running four times in four days, everything ached. I definitely needed a rest day. I’ve said it before, but there’s no way my injury-prone body would cope with a running streak. After a not very productive start to the week, I decided it was time to sort through the pile of unread research papers in my office. I also tried and failed to respond to the comments a reviewer had made on a manuscript I submitted to a journal. As my mentor is far too unwell to help, I suspect the manuscript will unfortunately remain unpublished.   Collage 4Following a reasonably productive morning and afternoon, I decided to make the most of my leave, and treated myself to a nap. I woke several hours later feeling somewhat disorientated and dehydrated. My deluxe nap meant that I had left myself with only 20 minutes to walk to the pub to meet a friend. I was a few minutes late. Sorry Anna! As the pub was hot and noisy, we decided to risk sitting outside with the flying, biting things. We spent an enjoyable couple of hours putting the world to rights before Anna had to head back home.

Thursday – 30 mins easy

My alarm woke me at 05:00 and I rather reluctantly got out of bed, dressed and ready to run. As the training plan said 30 mins easy, I made an effort to slow my pace down and to maintain what felt like an ‘easy’ pace. Although the run felt pretty effortless, a combination of the heat and humidity meant that I was still doing an awesome impression of a beetroot when I got home. As my house felt like a sauna, I drank a pint of water and lay down in the garden in an attempt to cool down. I then headed back to bed.

Later that morning, I headed across to Lichfield to meet up with my dad and his wife for lunch. Dad wanted to treat me so he had booked us a table at one of his favourite pubs; The Swan at Walton. I can honestly say that the menu was huge; there was almost too much choice. As I wasn’t feeling very hungry, I opted for the fish and chips and a side of onion rings, followed by the chocolate fondant brownie.Collage 3The fish was so huge when it arrived – see the pint glass for scale – I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to squeeze everything in. I managed to eat all of the fish and most of the chips, however, the onion rings were a bit of a struggle. Main meals complete, we headed outside to get some air and to escape from the boiling hot restaurant. Our puddings made an appearance and didn’t last long. I think it’s safe to say the rest of Thursday was quite chilled out.

Friday – Rest

I should have completed a 25 minute brisk run. After two failed running attempts, I decided to listen to my body and to treat myself to a rest day. It’s always good to record a training run ‘fail’ in the first week of a training plan.

Saturday – 25 mins brisk

When I woke up, I briefly considered asking my friend Vic to drive me to Walsall Arboretum parkrun.  In the end I was sensible and decided that I’d probably run too fast and injure myself. After a reasonably productive morning, I headed the short distance to the Four Oaks Estate and attempted to run at a brisk pace for 25 minutes.

I quickly discovered that although it was quite cool, it was also incredibly windy. Not the best conditions for trying to run at a faster than usual pace. I think it’s safe to say that my attempts to increase my pace failed. I made my usual mistake of setting out at a slightly ambitious pace. At least I finished the run without any new niggles.

Sunday – Abbott Trail 10k

Yesterday, I should have completed an hour long run at a ‘comfortable’ pace. As I’d already entered the Abbott Trail 10k, I decided not to waste the £21 entry fee, and risked breaking myself in Hopwas Woods.

I’m not going to go into loads of detail about the Abbott Trail 10k as I’m going to write a review of the race. It was wet, cold, windy, muddy and hilly. Most importantly, I had loads of fun and managed to avoid destroying my right knee.Collage 5So that’s the first week of what I suspect may well be a slightly too challenging for me training plan completed. I have a feeling I’m going to end up adapting the training plan to suit my needs and fragile body. I also need to make sure I squeeze in the occasional parkrun. Only another 11 weeks to go.

The second week of my half marathon training plan contains four training runs and three rest days. I’ve already completed a 30 minute easy run. I’ve got to squeeze in a 50 minute steady run tomorrow, a 45 minute steady run on Thursday and an hour long steady run on Sunday. Just thinking about running four times is making me feel quite tired. I’m such a granny.

Training totals

  • Runs: 5
  • Time: 3 hours 20 mins
  • Distance: 19.69 miles

Fundraising total

  • £275

Niggleometer

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

Do you prefer running in 30+ degree heat or in cold, wet and windy conditions? I personally prefer running in cold, wet and windy conditions.

Do you have any slightly irrational phobias? I found yesterday’s race quite mentally challenging because I’m scared of canals. Not ideal given that I’m meant to be a hydrologist.   

New Event: The Ciderthon (and discount code)

Like the majority of runners, I love taking part in organised events and races. In my opinion, nothing beats the feeling of crossing the finish line of a race.

Last week, I received some information about a new event called the Ciderthon. As a cider lover, I was incredibly disappointed when I realised that I had already entered a 10k race on the same day.

The Ciderthon

The Ciderthon is a half marathon with a cider taster at every mile and will take place on Sunday 29th April in Wells, Somerset.

Ciderthon

The event will be showcasing local ciders, raising money for Dorset and Somerset air ambulance while bringing runners from across the country to try a new challenge.

The Ciderthon starts at 11am and has a cut-off time of 5pm.

The route is one lap starting and finishing in Wells Market Place, Somerset. The route is undulating and multi-terrain with a bias towards road.

The Ciderthon is an untimed run, however, the roads will be closed and there will be stewards to support participants until the last runner goes past.

The event will be showcasing local ciders – I’ve checked out the website and the ciders that will be on offer look amazing.

How to enter

Tickets for the Ciderthon are available here and if you use the code EMMA10 you will receive a 10% discount.

With your ticket you will receive:

  • 13 x Cider tasters
  • Ciderthon medal
  • T-shirt

For more detailed information please check out the dedicated race website.