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!

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Royal Parks Half Marathon training week 8

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

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

Monday – 30 mins steady

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

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

Tuesday – Rest

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

Wednesday – Rest

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

Thursday – 45 mins steady

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

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

Friday – Rest

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

Saturday – parkrun

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

Sunday – 110 mins comfortable

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

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

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

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

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

Training totals

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

Fundraising total

  •  £477 (£0 increase from last week)

Niggleometer

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

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

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

The inaugural Sutton Park parkrun

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

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

[Photo: Richard Hill]

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

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

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

Course

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

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

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

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

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

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

First section

[Source: Andis Ozols]

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

Sutton Park parkrun kilometer 1

[Photo: Richard Hill]

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

Gravel hill

[Source: Andis Ozols]

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

Out and back

[Source: Andis Ozols]

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

Sutton Park pakrun field

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

Sutton Park parkrun finish

[Photo: Richard Hill]

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

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

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

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

A parkrun, some cupcakes and a chilled out run in Sutton Park

Good morning. As always, I hope that everyone had an amazing weekend. I’m feeling quite chirpy for a Monday morning, probably because I’m on annual leave this week. My half marathon training also started this morning.

I’ll rewind back to Friday evening. I’m not sure why, but I decided to treat myself to a curry from one of my favourite local restaurants; Chennai. My random free starter was quite spicy for me but edible, my chicken korma tasted amazing. After a pretty shitty week, chilling out in front of the TV with a couple of beers and a curry was just what I needed.

I woke well before my alarm on Saturday, went to the loo, had a shower and got ready for parkrun. My stomach felt a bit ‘off’ but I wasn’t overly concerned because I managed a successful loo visit. My friend tried and failed to convince me that parkrun would be cancelled due to the heat. I was determined to complete my tenth parkrun of 2018 so took no notice!

After a typically stressful journey to Walsall Arboretum, I jogged to the start, saw how many people were waiting to run and positioned myself quite near to the front. I was so near the start, I got a little carried away and made the fatal error of running mile one in a far too speedy for me 8:23.

Walsall parkrun 210718

[Photo: Ron Reynolds]

By mile two I felt incredibly nauseous and was concerned I was going to be reacquainted with the banana I’d eaten a couple of hours earlier. Evidently eating a curry the evening before, and a banana a couple of hours before a parkrun isn’t a winning combination. I’ve no idea how, but I somehow managed to run mile two in 9:06.

The third and final lap wasn’t pretty. Halfway round the final lap I thought I was going to be sick. So frustrating! I walked for about 10 seconds and then started to run again. Whenever I tried to increase my pace I felt sick, so I kind of slowed down and jogged to the finish.

I crossed the line in 27:52, collected a token and then spent a few minutes lying in the shade feeling incredibly nauseous. The walk back to the car for my traditional post parkrun photo wasn’t much fun. Could we have some rain ASAP please…

Traditional post parkrun pose

The journey home in a boiling hot car with no aircon was even less fun. It was definitely worth it because I managed to ‘tick off’ one of my 2018 running goals. I’m just a little disappointed that I completely failed to make myself run faster.

10 parkrunsAfter a quick lie-down, I nearly pulled a muscle removing my sweaty sports bra. My second shower of the morning made me feel a lot cooler but unfortunately did nothing to shift the nausea. I got dressed and headed into Sutton to collect a birthday presents for my niece Jessica Being the unorganised aunt that I am, I left this until the last minute. I got back from Sutton, wrapped Jessica’s presents and headed across to my brothers house. The journey in mum’s convertible was quite literally refreshing and helped to clear my head.

Bad hair day

My sister-in-law makes amazing cakes and the four cupcakes I consumed definitely aided my recovery. I’m not sure drinking two cans of cider was sensible, but I couldn’t face drinking wine after I accidentally consumed a bottle on Tuesday evening.

I think it’s safe to say that I slept quite well after parkrun, loads of fresh air, cupcakes and cider.

On Sunday morning I walked across to Ellen’s house and we headed into Sutton Park for a run and to catch-up. Although it didn’t feel too hot, it did feel incredibly humid. The first walking break to take some photos was definitely needed.

Sutton Park 1

As was the second…

Sutton Park 2

It was an incredibly relaxed and enjoyable run, just what we both needed. Sometimes I think it’s important to forget about pace and times and to run for fun. As you can imagine, I was over the moon when Ellen spotted an ice cream van near the Jamboree Stone. My emergency £10 – let’s face it buying a couple of ice creams was definitely an ’emergency’ – was put to very good use.

Sutton Park ice cream

I discovered that I can eat an ice-cream and run two miles without any issues, happy days.

The rest of Sunday was as chilled out as our run in Sutton Park and ‘may’ have involved a walk around the Four Oaks Estate, some thinking time, some tears, another curry and a couple of pints.

Four Oaks Estate

After receiving some devastating news on Thursday evening, a quiet, slightly boozy and calorific weekend was just what this doctor ordered.

As I know most of the people who read this blog are parkrunners, which parkrun did you do? Now that I’ve started my half marathon training, my Saturday mornings are going to feel a little empty.

Does the amount you eat ever surprise your family? I’m not convinced mum was overly  impressed when I ate cupcake number four. Never mind!

A weekend in Wallingford and a spot of parkrun tourism

Good morning. As always, I hope that everyone had an awesome weekend. My weekend was a little different. Most of you know that I like to travel back home on a Friday. When I discovered that Oxford station would be closed due to engineering works, I decided to spend the weekend in Wallingford.

After arranging to meet up with a couple of colleagues on Saturday, I escaped from the office, walked back to my shared house, had a nap and researched my weekend running options.

My preferred option was to get up early enough to make it to Didcot for a spot of parkrun tourism. Unfortunately, thanks to the incredibly unreliable bus service between Wallingford and Didcot, this wasn’t guaranteed.  A Sunday morning run with the Run Wallingford group was another ‘safer’ option.

So what happened? Did I pop my parkrun tourism cherry? Did I join up with Run Wallingford for a longer Sunday run?

On Saturday, one of my house mates woke everyone up at 06:30. I’ve no idea what he was doing in the kitchen, but he was incredibly noisy. I wasn’t too fussed as I’d got 8 hours’ sleep. I’d set my alarm for 07:00 so could live with the loss of 30 minutes sleep.

I’m pleased to report that the 07:50 bus towards Oxford got me to Didcot in plenty of time for parkrun. We had to swap buses in Brightwell-cum-Sotwell – what an awesome name – but still reached Didcot at 08:30. I successfully navigated my way to the rather low key start area, took a terrible parkrun selfie, and got chatting to some local runners. I also met a few people who were collecting their ‘D’ as part of the parkrun alphabet challenge.

Didcot parkrun start

Didcot parkrun selfie

I was a good parkrun tourist and attended the pre-run briefing where we were informed we had to complete three laps around a small park and then a longer straight section to the finish. We were also asked to get into a group for a sensible group photo.

Didcot parkrun group 1

[Photo: Lewis Cousins]

We were then asked to strike a pose for a second group photo…

Didcot pakrun group 2

[Photo: Lewis Cousins]

It seems it was a case of different parkrun, same old Emma. I set out at a slightly ambitious pace and started to struggle with stitch during the first lap of the park. I slowed down and started to feel a bit better during the second lap of the park, and by the final lap, I finally started to enjoy myself. Three laps of the park complete, I left the park and headed into the unknown.

Didcot parkrun lap 2

[Photo: Lewis Cousins]

I thought we’d run a short distance along the perimeter of the housing estate and then finish. After what felt like several minutes heading in the wrong direction and away from the start, I started to feel a little concerned. Although by this stage it was incredibly warm, I could see goosebumps on my arms and felt cold. I knew I needed to stop running ASAP and to get myself in some shade. Let’s just say I was incredibly relieved when we finally turned right and started to head back towards where I assumed the finish was.

We were directed onto some energy sapping grass and I finally spotted the finish area. I’d like to say I put on an impressive sprint finish but I simply staggered across the line, collected a token, had my barcode and token scanned, and then found some shade. Most people didn’t appear to be hanging around – I’d timed my tourism with the one week the local football club wasn’t available for post-run drinks – so I found someone who knew where they were going, and walked with them back to Didcot station.

I made it back to Wallingford at 11:00, got back to my shared house, had a quick shower and then headed back to bed for a powernap as I didn’t feel quite right. Fortunately, a lengthy powernap seemed to do the trick, and I felt much better when I woke up.

I spent a couple of hours chilling out in my room and then walked into Wallingford to meet up with a work colleague. After a quick discussion, we decided to walk the shortish distance to the Waterfront Cafe located on the banks of the River Thames in Benson. The walk to Benson introduced me to what would be an amazing run through Wallingford Castle Gardens towards Benson Lock. I’m a little frustrated I was so busy talking I forgot to take any photos as the area around Benson Lock was stunning.

We reached the Waterfront Cafe and found a table outside close to the Thames. We ordered a couple of pints of draught beer and then spent ages checking out the menu. After debating the pros and cons of various options, I decided to order the rather grand sounding Waterfront Caesar salad and my colleague ordered the prawn and smoked salmon salad.

The Caesar salad looked amazing when it arrived but contained a little too much lettuce for my liking. It was very much a case of I wish that I’d ordered something else! We finished our salads, ordered a couple more pints of beer and waited for another work colleague to arrive.

Saturday evening

I think it’s safe to say we were both a little tipsy by this stage, so we were relieved when our colleague arrived and we could check out the dessert menu. The menu was a little limited so I decided to play it safe and ordered the luxury ice cream – the choice was either vanilla or vanilla ice cream – with strawberry sauce, and a fourth pint of beer. Our colleague unfortunately couldn’t stay for long so we chatted some more, drank some more, paid the bill and then walked back into Wallingford.

I’m not sure who suggested we stopped off at the Boathouse pub for pint number five but I didn’t say no. By the time I got back to my shared house it was almost midnight. I knew there was little chance of me feeling well enough or getting up in time to join up with Run Wallingford for a training run.

I think I’d describe Sunday as quiet and steady. When I woke up at 08:00 I felt far better than I probably deserved to. The hot weather had made an unwelcome reappearance so I decided not to join up with the Run Wallingford group. After a quick food shop in Wallingford, I spent most of the day inside reading and catching up on some blogmin. A slight waste of a Sunday but I needed some time to myself and to chill out.

So all things considered, I had a great second weekend in Wallingford.

Did you have a good weekend?

Do you think the heat wave is ever going to end?

A parkrun, some sun, a fun run and a BBQ

Happy Monday! I hope that everyone had an awesome weekend and enjoyed the sunshine. I booked Monday off work so I’m enjoying another extra long weekend.

Most of you will know my Friday afternoon routine now. I left the office at 15:00 and arrived back home in Four Oaks three hours later. I spent what was left of the evening getting all my washing done, catching up on a couple of my favourite TV programmes and eating unhealthy food.

I woke up well before my alarm on Saturday which was a little bit frustrating as I wanted a lie in. I hadn’t originally planned to head to parkrun but when my friend offered to drive me I felt that I couldn’t say no.

Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy parkrun very much and kind of wish that I’d stayed in bed. I set out at a slightly ambitious pace, struggled in the humid conditions and seriously considered dropping out after the second lap.

Parkrun lap 2

[Photo: Ron Reynolds]

I gave myself a serious talking to, completed the final lap and finished in 28:14, a time I would have been over the moon with a year ago.

The short walk back to the car park felt like a marathon and I don’t think I’ve ever ended a 5k run with such a red face. The camera really doesn’t lie; sometimes I wish that it did!

Emma the beetroot

I also don’t think I’ve been so relieved to sit down for a couple of minutes after a run. I felt so nauseous, there was no way I was risking getting straight back into a boiling hot car.

A well placed bench

I’ve no idea why but I felt quite peaky for a few hours after parkrun and had zero appetite, definitely most unlike me and not ideal the day before a challenging 8.5 mile run.

Fortunately, a quick afternoon nap seemed to do the trick and I woke up feeling reasonably ‘normal’ again. As parkrun had left me feeling slightly dehydrated and I had a headache, I made myself drink a couple of glasses of orange flavoured Nuun.

The rest of my Saturday was quiet and relaxing, just what I needed. I made sure that I drank loads of water, avoided the local Chinese takeaway and the local weather forecasts. I went to bed at the not so rock and roll time of 22:00.

A combination of bright sunlight, heat and noisy birds woke me far too bright and early on Sunday morning. Not ideal when I desperately wanted a lie in. The fun run didn’t start until the incredibly late time of 11:00 so I had almost too much time to faff around before I set off on the short walk to the local train station.

My running buddy Ellen spotted me walking to the train station and kindly gave me a lift. We met up with Ellen’s friend Ruth and arrived in the centre of Sutton Coldfield with plenty of time for a couple of pre-race toilet visits. We entered the start area at 10:30 and spent the next 45 minutes or so getting hotter and hotter. I don’t think I’ve ever been so relieved to watch the sun disappear behind some clouds.

GMFR 2018 start

Nervous at the start

The run started and it was so crowded it took me almost a mile to get into my stride. I don’t enjoy running in hot weather and felt incredibly nauseous so decided to slow down. Somewhere between the first and second mile I noticed that my Garmin had switched itself off, not ideal but I managed to get it working again. To make matters worse my dodgy right calf started to hurt, a lot. We entered Sutton Park, I stopped at a drinks station to grab myself some water and never really got going again.

I told Ellen and Ruth to run on without me and walked for a couple of minutes to assess my calf. Walking didn’t help and I decided to switch my focus from getting a decent time to having a good time.

I power walked up the numerous uphill sections and ran very slowly down the downhill sections. I soaked up the atmosphere as I ran through the centre of Sutton Park near Town Gate and stopped for a quick chat with a teacher I hadn’t seen for several years.

Cardiac Hill

I reached the bottom of Cardiac Hill and spotted Matt in the distance dressed as an Oompa Loompa. I caught up with Matt and we successfully negotiated Cardiac Hill together. We reached the top, grabbed some much needed water and headed back towards the centre of Sutton Coldfield and the finish.

Miles three to six of the run were shockingly slow and I was embarrassed when I looked at the stats on Strava. The final couple of miles were slightly more respectable – probably because they were more runner friendly i.e. down hill – and I had plenty left in the tank to sprint to the finish line.

I crossed the line, collected a medal from an old school friend, grabbed some water and then spent 15 minutes trying to track down Ellen and Ruth. We were eventually reunited at the train station.

GMFR 2018 medal

I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the sunshine, drinking beer and enjoying my first BBQ for years. The perfect way to take my mind off a somewhat disappointing Great Midlands Fun Run. Next year, I’ll make sure I’m on the other side of the barriers enjoying a pint of beer and supporting the runners.

My next race is the Aldridge 10k on Sunday. I’ve literally got everything crossed that the weather is a little kinder; I’ve had enough of running in the heat.

Do you enjoy running in the sun? If it’s boiling hot on Sunday I suspect the Aldridge 10k will be a DNS as it doesn’t start until 11:00.

Do you have any sun cream recommendations? The P20 I wore smelt terrible and wasn’t very effective.

An awesome weekend of running

I hope that everyone had an amazing weekend. Thanks to the flexi system we have at work, I’ve got the day off.

Although my weekend was disappointingly less food-filled than last weekend, I managed to fit in a couple of awesome runs. Watching Skid Row Marathon must have inspired me more than I realised.

parkrun

[Source]

On Saturday I woke up well before my alarm – odd given my struggles with getting out of bed during the week, and laid out my kit ready for parkrun. I ate a banana, had a shower and phoned my friend to make sure he was willing to drive me to Walsall Arboretum. Although he took a bit of convincing – apparently it was too cold for parkrun – he eventually agreed.

We arrived at the Arboretum at 8:40. This was brilliant as it meant that I had time to warm-up before parkrun started. When I got out the car I realised that the weather was perfect, dry and not too warm or windy. I had no excuses. I jogged to the start and positioned myself a lot nearer the front than I usually would.  I spent 10 minutes or so chatting to another runner and managed to get ‘papped’ with my eyes closed – I must have been deep in thought – by Ron the race photographer.

parkrun start[Photo: Ron Reynolds]

“Three, two, one, go…”

It took me a couple of seconds to start running and I was able to run at sub 9:00/mile pace almost straight away. If anything, I was a little too ambitious and set out a little too quickly for my current fitness levels. I decided to run as fast as I could for as long as I could. Simple.

The first lap was a bit of a blur. I overtook a few people and a lot of people came flying past me. I made sure that I thanked all the volunteers and tried to relax. The only minor irritation was my  pair of new and untested Lululemon shorts which kept riding up.

parkrun lap 1[Photo: Ron Reynolds]

The second lap was physically challenging and my pace started to slow. I was paying for my fast start and was struggling to control my breathing, not ideal for an asthmatic. I tried to find runners to pace me, this tactic was reasonably successful and I spent most of the second lap tucked in behind a couple of male runners. I somehow completely dodged the photographer.

The final lap felt great, probably because I knew the finish was getting closer with every stride. I did some dodgy mental sums, and worked out I’d finish in under my target time of 28 minutes if I maintained a sensible pace. I just needed to avoid walking. I managed to dodge the photographer again, and headed towards the finish. The only minor irritation was getting elbowed by another runner in the final 100m. If anything, the actions of Mr Elbow made me run faster. I sprinted(?) across the finish line, stopped my Garmin, took a finish token, got my barcode and token scanned and then jogged back to the car park to meet my friend.

pakrun finish

I knew that I’d finished in under 28 minutes as my Garmin time was 27:10. I was thrilled when the official results came through a couple of hours later and matched my Garmin time.

parkrun result

So although I’m aware I’ve still got a long, long way to go to achieve my goal of a sub 25 minute parkrun, I’m finally starting to believe that one day I will. I just need to learn how to push myself out of my comfort zone when I’m running.

Yesterday morning, I met up with Ellen for a long overdue catch-up and chilled out run in Sutton Park. After a quick discussion about where to run, I came up with the suggestion of running some of the Great Midlands Fun Run route.

We headed towards Jamboree Stone – I was a little disappointed we didn’t stop at the ice cream van – and joined the Great Midlands Fun Run route at approximately 3.5 miles.GMFR route

We left the Jamboree Stone, headed past Keepers Pool and towards Town Gate. I pointed out the usual location of the 5 mile marker and a drinks station and we embarked on the most challenging section of the Great Midlands Fun Run course, the steep climb past Blackroot Pool and up the infamous ‘Cardiac Hill’.

Anyone who has ever completed the Great Midlands Fun Run will know why ‘Cardiac Hill’ is so challenging. The hill is steep and feels like it will never end. There is an evil turn where you think you have reached the top but you haven’t. We just about managed to run to the top without slowing to a walk and then stopped for a few seconds to work out where we wanted to run next.

As we didn’t want to leave Sutton Park, we headed away from the Great Midlands Fun Run course and attempted to run along the perimeter of the park. We stopped for a quick selfie – I’m not sure why I look so worried – and carried on running.

Sutton park run

After a couple of enforced walking breaks due to virtually impassable patches of mud, we headed out of the park and back into Four Oaks. I asked Ellen how far she wanted to run and we agreed to run until we reached 10k. We increased our pace, made it to 10k and then walked the short distance back to Ellen’s house. I stopped for a couple of glasses of orange squash and some more running related chat, and then headed back home.

The rest of my Sunday was relatively chilled out. I entered the Aldridge 10k and made a few changes to my race calendar for the rest of 2018. I don’t think I’ll be taking part in the Vitality London 10,000 as I can’t get back from London on the Monday. At least I can get a refund on my hotel booking.

Next weekend will be a little different as I’ll be spending the weekend in Wallingford for the first time. If I manage to drag myself out of bed early enough, the plan is to head to either Didcot  or Abingdon parkrun on Saturday. On Sunday morning I’m looking forward to taking part in the Wallingford Thames 10k.

Did you have a good weekend?

Did you made it to parkrun?

Do you ever have to completely rearrange your race calendar?