My running goals for 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Photo: Peter Heafield]

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

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

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

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

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

[Source]

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

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

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

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

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

Have you entered any target races?

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

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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!

How I’m rediscovering my running mojo

I’ve lost my running mojo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Photo: Lewis Cousins]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rants and Raves #30

**Disclaimer: I’m writing this post while waiting for my Just Eat order to arrive. I’m feeling quite hungry so may be slightly more ranty than usual.  As always, all rants and raves and moans and groans represent my own views. Other, less negative and far, far superior running and fitness blogs are available**

Rave: The Running Community

I definitely need to start by thanking the online running community. Most of you will know I’ve been raising money for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. Thanks to the generosity of other runners, my fundraising total currently stands at £826. Absolutely amazing! At one stage, I was scared I’d be left donating in excess of £500 to reach my £1000 target!

720359-1004-0020sSo a huge thanks to everyone who read and commented on my training update blogs, who sponsored me, who took part in the ‘guess my time’ competition I organised. Although I’m a little gutted I no longer own a pair of Trekz Air headphones, they made a great prize and helped me raise over £250.

And let’s face it, Christmas is rapidly approaching. A runner can always dream drop a load of unsubtle hints.

Rant: eBay

A couple of weeks ago I listed a load of unwanted bits and pieces on eBay. Some items sold, others didn’t, not a problem. I didn’t relist the unsold items because I knew I wouldn’t be around to post them the following week.

I was a little surprised when I received a ‘bid received’ email on Wednesday. I opened eBay and discovered that everything that didn’t sell had been relisted. As I know I didn’t relist the unsold items myself, I did a bit of research and discovered that a lot of sellers have been having issues with eBay automatically relisting unsold items. eBay also has a trick of lowering prices until an item sells.

Rave: Sturdy by Design

The chilly weather got me researching full length running tights. I’ve mentioned the difficulty I have had finding running tights that are long enough before. I own a lot of ankle skimmers. I asked for help on Facebook, and was told to check out a brand I hadn’t heard of before; Sturdy by Design.

When I checked out their website, I discovered they have a whole section of running tights for tall runners. Amazing! I’ve pre-ordered a pair of pups leggings and have signed up to the Sturdy by Design newsletter so I can hopefully buy some paint swirl leggings. 

PS, I did a bit of googling and discovered that ‘RUN15’ gives 15% off all orders.

Rant: The Royal Parks Half Marathon

The Royal Parks Half Marathon cost a slightly eye-watering £57 (plus £3.95 postage and packaging) to enter. Yes I know it was my choice to pay that much to actually enter the race, yes I know it’s all about supply and demand etc etc

I could have just about lived with the cost had the race been better organised on the day. No runner should ever be ‘taken out’ by pedestrians walking across the course. It just shouldn’t happen, except in a real emergency. The lack of places to get changed into dry clothes after running was another letdown.

What really irritated me was the discovery the race wasn’t registered with UK Athletics. When I queried this with the organisers I eventually received the following response:

Hi Emma. We have explored the option of the event becoming a UKA race but as the race is for the benefit of charities it has been decided that the cost of achieving this licence is not in keeping with the ethos of the event. Thanks!

So is the Royal Parks Half Marathon a race or a charity fun run? Don’t the organisers care about the runners? My friend who ran a sub 1:25 time thought she’d qualified for a Championship Entry into London. It turns out she probably hasn’t because the race wasn’t registered with UK Athletics.

Rave: This Works Choose Sleep Gift Set

Don’t worry; I don’t think there’s any danger of me turning into a beauty blogger. Having said that, now I’m nearing 40, I’m starting to get concerned about my complete lack of a skincare routine. Last week, I spent a scary and quite confusing five minutes in the beauty section of my local M&S.

I recently had to spend £35 in M&S to qualify for the Beauty Advent Calendar for £35. I decided to treat myself to this Choose Sleep Gift Set and I must say I’m impressed. Although nothing will ever drown out the noise my housemates make, I have been waking up feeling a little more relaxed.

Rant: Irritating Adverts

Ok, I completely understand that WordPress are a business and therefore need to make money. I also get that the majority of websites are now plastered in adverts. However, what I don’t understand is why WordPress have added an advert to the top of my blog.

UntitledNow as soon as I scroll down, the name of my blog is completely covered up. Not ideal. So thanks WordPress, you’ve finally got me researching alternatives.

Rave: Twitter

There has been so much negatively on social media recently, I’ve cut down how time I spend on twitter et al. However, just occasionally, I see a tweet or a thread of tweets that remind me how amazing social media can be. I’m sure most of you will have read about Florence Ilott becoming the first person to run across Westminster Bridge in 1934, but just in case you missed it, here’s (hopefully) the link to the thread on twitter.  

Next time I’m in London, I’m going to see how long it takes me to run across Westminster Bridge. OK,

Rant: Asics #IMoveMe

And on the same day I read the story about the amazing Florence Ilott, I watched a video Asics shared on twitter. I don’t want to share the link to the tweet, but here’s a screenshot from the video.

IMG_2254While the use of slender young models irritated me, I’ve no idea why Asics thought filming part of the #IMoveMe video on a railway track was acceptable. I mean what a dangerous message to send out to children. What were they thinking? And no, I’m not bitter because I wasn’t selected as an Asics Frontrunner two years ago.

Once again, if you’ve managed to reach the end of my latest random selection of rants and raves, a massive thank-you. After not ranting and raving since July, I hope you think my rants and my raves were reasonable.

Do you buy and sell on eBay? The site is so complicated now, I may just stick to buying!

Do you think all large races should be registered with UK Athletics? I can understand small events not wanting to pay for a UKA licence but I think that events over a certain size should have to be registered.

Race Report: Royal Parks Half Marathon

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

RPHM Logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Race ratings:

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

Royal Parks Half Marathon training week 12

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

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

Monday – 20 mins easy

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

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

Tuesday – Rest

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

Wednesday – 40 mins comfortable

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

Thursday – 30 mins steady

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

One last plea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday – Rest

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

Saturday – Rest

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

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

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

Sunday – Royal Parks Half Marathon

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

Training totals

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

Fundraising total

  • £756.62 (£156.62 increase from last week)

Niggleometer

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

Royal Parks Half Marathon training week 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