Race Report: Shenstone Fun Run

Good morning and Happy Tuesday, I’m so pleased it’s not Monday. Yesterday, when I spotted a single magpie during my walk to the train station, I should have gone back to bed. Hopefully, my new job will start to improve ASAP. Anyway, enough moaning and groaning and back to the point of this blog; my first race review since the Royal Parks Half back in October.LogoBefore I launch into a review of the Shenstone Fun Run, I need to rewind back to Saturday evening. Let’s just say a two-hour shopping session – sorry feet – and three pints of beer – sorry head – weren’t the best pre-race preparation. I doubt this pre-race routine will ever feature in Runner’s World et al.Shenstone Fun RunWhen my alarm woke me on Sunday, my head felt a little fuzzy and I was thirsty. A couple of cups of tea and pint of water didn’t do much to alleviate the thirst, not a good sign before a 10k. My pre-race routine went something like; drink tea, nervous wee, make myself eat some Weetabix, shower, get dressed, productive loo visit, drink more tea, another nervous wee, struggle to pin race number to t-shirt, pack bag, have bonus nervous wee and then leave the house. By the time I left the house, I was feeling a lot better and was looking forward to the prospect of taking part in an organised event for the first time this year. The weather was pretty much perfect and my right knee felt completely niggle-free.

I met my running buddy Ellen at the train station, we got on a train and four minutes later reached Shenstone. Quite possibly the most straight-forward I’ve ever had to an event. We walked the short distance to the Race HQ, Ellen collected her number, dropped our bags and then realised we had a lot of time to kill before the start of the run. After spending a bit time chatting and avoiding the drizzle, we decided to track down some loos. Although there was a ladies loo inside Race HQ, there was an impressive queue of female runners waiting, so we decided to have a look around the centre of Shenstone.Waiting to startI spent a lot of time in Shenstone up to the age of 16 because my grandparents lived there. I suspect I bored Ellen to tears with my “that used to be an HSBC”, “that used to be a greengrocers”, “that used to be a chemists” type observations. Even the library had changed; what used to be the children’s books section was now a cafe area with an amazing selection of homemade cakes. We both decided that a cake would make the perfect post-run reward and told the library volunteers we would definitely be back later. As an added bonus, the library had loos with no queues so we both made the most of the facilities.SelfieThe 10k was scheduled to start at 11:00 so at 10:50 we both joined the back of the pack so to speak. After a quick warm-up, we were sent on our way. The 10k route had changed as was advertised as flat and fast so I was a little surprised to find myself running up several short but quite steep hills in the first mile. We headed out of Shenstone past my grandparents’ old house and into the countryside. It took me less than 15 minutes to be reminded of my complete loss of fitness and my fragile right knee. I was struggling to run at Ellen’s pace so slowed down to what was almost a walk. Sorry Ellen!

By the third mile, I felt shattered. I’m not sure if it was the humidity, my lack of food the previous evening, my lack of training or a combination of the three but I was struggling to put one foot in front of the other. I was also struggling a little mentally and started to just want the 10k fun(?) run to end. I’m pretty sure that had the course allowed me to, I would have called it a day there and then.

The second three miles were what I’d describe as undulating. It suddenly seemed to get warm and I was grateful the organisers had provided several water stations. After a quick consultation with Ellen we switched to a strategy of running for four minutes and then walking for a minute. Walking after 5k didn’t make me feel very good about myself but I had to do something to make sure that I actually finished and made it back to Shenstone.

After an hour or so of ‘running’ my temperamental right knee decided to remind me that it didn’t appreciate me running downhill; it was pain-free on the numerous small uphill sections, but very painful on the downhill sections. Awesome, thanks knee! I was not a happy bunny at this stage. Running past a collapsed runner who was receiving treatment gave me the kick up the arse and reality check I so desperately needed. Although I didn’t suddenly turn into Little Miss Happy, I was reminded that I’m lucky to be able to run and that my knee issue was likely to be a temporary setback rather than a long-term injury.

We eventually – sorry again Ellen – reached the bridge next to Shenstone train station, ran past ‘Rocket Ron’ who had his camera with him but wasn’t actually taking any photos. Slightly strange but I suspect he wasn’t one of the official race photographers and was only taking photos of members of his running club. We both ‘sprinted’ towards the finish line, posed for the official photographer, collected our medals and some water and then spotted some of Ellen’s club mates. While Ellen caught up with her club mates, I popped into the medical tent to ask for an icepack for my knee.

MedalI guess it should be a case of what goes on in the medical tent, stays in the medical tent. However, I wasn’t very impressed with the rudeness of a runner who hobbled in for treatment, I’m going to call this person Runner x. Runner x had injured her ankle before the 10k – I remember seeing her sprawled on the floor – but decided to run anyway. I know that I’m not one to judge, but why would you attempt to run a 10k on a damaged ankle? Anyway, Runner x was incredibly rude to the St John Ambulance person treating her. Apparently, the ice packs weren’t cold enough and the lady treating her was useless. I was quite relieved when another runner came in seeking treatment for a nosebleed and I was able to escape from the medical tent.

And then, once we had collected our bags, it was time for the highlight of the morning, tea and homemade cake. Luckily, the library was still open and there were plenty of cake options. I played it safe and asked for a slice of sponge cake and a cup of breakfast tea. As we didn’t want to ruin everyone else’s tea and cake enjoyment, we decided to sit outside. The homemade cake tasted amazing and I regretted not buying a second slice to take home with me. Tea and cake consumption completed, we hobbled the short distance to Shenstone station and a short train journey later were back in Four Oaks.

Tea and cake

This isn’t a food blog so I’ll stop talking about cake now.

Would I recommend the Shenstone Fun Run?

Yes, I would, but I think the organisers need to consider bringing the start time forward an hour to 10:00. The fun run would also benefit from a few more loo options at the start; the queues were some of the longest I’ve seen. I personally preferred the old, slightly longer than 10k route but that is just my personal opinion.

And finally, the positives which most definitely outweighed the negatives. The organisation was pretty much flawless; I entered well in advance so my number was posted to me. Ellen had to collect her number on the day; this took less than a minute. The organisers provided a secure baggage area, this was well organised and there was no chance of people’s bags getting mixed up. Although I personally didn’t like the new course, feedback from other runners was positive. Every single race volunteer I was out on the course was incredibly supportive, the cowbells and music were definitely impossible to ignore and gave me a much-needed boost. The run was chip timed so results were available the second we crossed the finish line.

Race ratings:

  • Cost: 5/10 (£20 but a proportion of this went to local charities)
  • Course: 5/10
  • Medal: 9/10
  • Race t-shirt: n/a
  • Goody bag: 2/10
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Overcoming a slightly irrational fear and a run in Sutton Park

As always, I hope that everyone who reads this blog had a great weekend. I really must come up with a different introduction for my Monday morning blogs.

For once, I had an interesting weekend, however, I have a feeling I tried to fit too much in. I also failed to catch up on some much-needed sleep. Thanks to the early morning bedroom window bird choir and my ‘wonky’ internal alarm clock, I was wide-awake at 05:30 on Saturday morning. By 07:00 I was making the most of the lack of sunshine and was washing my friend’s car.

Following my slightly too early for a Saturday morning car washing session, after several years of avoidance, I had my first experience of parkrun timekeeping. To say that I felt a little concerned when I was handed a stopwatch is a huge understatement. I’m a massive over-thinker and I was concerned that I’d make a mistake and for the first time in the history of Sutton Park parkrun, everyone would end up with a time of 59:59. I know that parkrun is free and this wouldn’t have mattered, but I’m a runner and I know how disappointed I’d have been with an inaccurate time. Rob did his best to calm me down…Sutton Park parkrun

[Photo: Peter Heafield]

With the exception of a couple of runners who pretended they were part of parkrun but were just park runners, I don’t think there were too many major mistakes. Having said that, I don’t think I’ll be asked to be a timekeeper again 😉

The rest of my Saturday was thankfully more what I’d describe as mundane and included several hours in the garden. One of my Four Oaks friends has been having a tough time recently, so I treated them to lunch in Mere Green. I’m sure you can predict where we ate and what I ordered. One day I’ll be brave and will eat at a different restaurant and will order something different. I think I’d used up all my ‘brave’ points at parkrun. 

Early on Saturday evening, I headed into Birmingham as I wanted to see if TK Maxx had any shoes trainers suitable for work. I’d also heard some rumours about a possible yellow sticker sale. I didn’t find anything suitable for work but somehow found myself buying a running top, running vest, cotton t-shirt, pair of Crocs, mud shampoo, two bars of fancy soap, SiS tube of effervescent tablets, and sports bra. Not a bad selection of goodies for less than £60.

I do love the randomness of TK Maxx. And yes, I’m looking forward to wearing the Crocs around the house, I don’t think I’d get away with wearing them in the office 😦 Shopping failOn Sunday morning I did something I hadn’t done for far too long; I met up with Ellen and headed into Sutton Park for a morning run. It wasn’t fast and it definitely wasn’t pretty. As we are both returning from injury, we decided to run the uphill sections and to recover on some of the flat and downhill sections. This approach seemed to work quite well and we got to the end of our four-mile ‘run’ feeling niggle-free.Sutton Park selfieSunday afternoon looked something like this; shower, lunch, emails, some blogmin, a nap, some gardening, a lot of ironing, TV, dinner, more emails, food prep, work prep and an early night. Not very exciting!

I unfortunately completely failed to tick off quite a few items on my weekend ‘things to do list’ so I’m going to need to have a productive week.

Is there a parkrun volunteering role you’ve avoided? I don’t think I’ll be rushing to have a second go at timekeeping.

What is the best thing you’ve purchased in a TK Maxx? I think the 2XU tri suit I purchased for £2.00 is the best thing I’ve purchased in TK Maxx, it’s just a shame I’ve no idea where it is.

10 years of MoRunning – enter a 2019 MoRun and be part of the celebrations (Discount Code)

Early bird entries into a race I volunteered at in 2016, 2017 and 2018 – the 10k MoRun in Sutton Park, Birmingham – are now available. Although I enjoyed volunteering and seeing people earn their MoRunning medals, I experienced some serious race and medal envy. It was definitely a case of race and medal #FOMOMORunVisual1-BI’m looking forward to running the 10k on November 16th and earning myself a unique 10th-anniversary MoRunning medal.

It’s not just about the medal. Taking part in the 10k MoRun in Sutton Park also means that I’ll be supporting and raising awareness of an amazing charity; the Movember Foundation.

What is the Movember Foundation?

MoRunning has supported The Movember Foundation since 2009 raising funds and awareness for the work they carry out. The Movember Foundation is the only charity tackling men’s health on a global scale, all year round. The Foundation is addressing some of the biggest health issues faced by men: prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health and suicide prevention.

The Movember Foundation knows what works for men, and how to find and to fund the most innovative research to have both a global and local impact. The Foundation is independent of government funding, so it can challenge the status quo and invest quicker in what works. In 13 years the Foundation has funded more than 1200 men’s health projects around the world.

By 2030 the Movember Foundation will reduce the number of men dying prematurely by 25%.

Take part in a MoRunning event this year

2019 is the 10th year anniversary of the launch of MoRunning. The organisers would love you to join them for this incredible celebration of MoRuns supporting the Movember Foundation.TeamMiltonKeynesI think it’s safe to say that 2019 is going to be a massive year for MoRunning!

With 24 confirmed locations to date, Mini MoRuns for a third year and the option of virtual MoRunning, there will be an incredible month of MoRuns. There’s bound to be a race near you.

November 2nd

  • Aberdeen 5k, 10k & kids 1.5k MoRun – Hazlehead Park – 09:30am

November 3rd

  • Perth 5k, 10k & kids 1.5k MoRun – North Inch – 09:30am
  • Newcastle 5k, 10k & kids 1.5k MoRun – Exhibition Park – 01:20pm

November 9th

  • Edinburgh 5k, 10k & kids 1.5k MoRun – Holyrood Park – 09:30am
  • Cardiff 5k, 10k & kids 1.5k MoRun – Bute Park – 09:30am
  • York 5k, 10k & kids 1.5k MoRun – York Racecourse – 10:30am

November 10th

  • Swansea 5k, 10k & kids 1.5k MoRun – Singleton Park – 10:30am
  • Glasgow 5k, 10k & kids 1.5k MoRun – Glasgow Green – 10:30am
  • Peterborough 5k, 10k & kids 1.5k MoRun – Nene Park – 10:30am
  • Bristol 5k, 10k & kids 1.5k MoRun – Ashton Court – 10:30am

November 16th

  • Liverpool 5k, 10k & kids 1.5k MoRun Croxteth Park 09:30am
  • Poole 5k, 10k & kids 1.5k MoRun Upton Country Park 09:30am
  • Birmingham 5k, 10k & kids 1.5k MoRun Sutton Park 09:30am

November 17th

  • Southampton 5k, 10k & kids 1.5k MoRun MoRun – Southampton Common – 09:30am
  • Nottingham 5k, 10k & kids 1.5k MoRun – Wollaton Park – 09:30am
  • Milton Keynes 5k, 10k & kids 1.5k MoRun – Campbell Park – 09:30am
  • Manchester 5k, 10k & kids 1.5k MoRun – Heaton Park – 09:30am

November 23rd

  • Blackpool 5k, 10k & kids 1.5k MoRun – Herons Reach – 09:30am
  • Ipswich 5k, 10k & kids 1.5k MoRun – Chantry Park – 09:30am
  • Dublin 5k, 10k & kids 1.5k MoRun – Phoenix Park – 09:30am

November 24th

  • Leeds 5k, 10k & kids 1.5k MoRun – Roundhay Park – 09:30am
  • Whitstable & Herne Bay 5k, 10k & kids 1.5k MoRun – Hampton Pier – 09:30am
  • Belfast 5k, 10k & kids 1.5k MoRun – Stormont Park – 09:30am

November 30th

  • London 5k, 10k & kids 1.5k MoRun – Greenwich Park – 09:30am

2016-Leeds-StormtrooperVirtual Race November 1st to November 29th

Once again, there is also the option of taking part in a Virtual Race. Be part of MoRunning 2019 and take part in a virtual 5k, 10k or kids 1.5k MoRun supporting the Movember Foundation.

You can find out everything you need to know about the 2019 series of MoRuns here.

2019 MoRunning pricing

Early bird (July 1st – September 15th)

  • Mini MoRun – £13.20
  • 5k MoRun – £18.15
  • 10k MoRun – £22.00
  • Virtual MoRun – £13.20

Standard (September 16th – November 28th)

  • Mini MoRun – £13.20
  • 5k MoRun – £22.00
  • 10k MoRun – £24.20
  • Virtual MoRun – £13.20

Prices including online booking fees. 

**10% Discount Code – MoRun19_Followers**

MoRunners Receive

  • Race chip timing and instant race results
  • Brand new exclusive MoRunning Medal to add to your collection!
  • MoRunning Headband
  • MoRunning BUFF
  • Legend and Superhero medals for best fancy dress and legends of MoRunning
  • Discount of 10% for groups of 4 or more registering the same distance (code for booking MR19-TeamEntry)
  • Yellow Winners Jersey for 1st male and female in the 5k and 10k events as well as a Champion medal and free entry to 2020
  • Professional photos to view and purchase (you can pre-order ahead of your race and save over 60% on the standard price)
  • 10% discount voucher code for online purchases from Up and Running
  • 10% discount voucher for any Go Ape site

Mini MoRunners* Receive

  • Free super cool Mini Mo T-Shirt
  • MoRunning headband
  • Free MoRunning Buff
  • Mo Medal
  • Champion medal for 1st boy and girl
  • Yazoo Drink
  • Loads of high fives

* Please note that it is the responsibility of parents to ensure children are able to run the Mini MoRun unaccompanied. If required one parent can run with Mini MoRunners free of charge.MiniMo_family1-AI’m already looking forward to taking part in my local MoRun in Sutton Park November. Hopefully, it will be a case of fourth time lucky. I’ve already talked some of my running friends into entering; it would be awesome to meet some of you there.

Could you run a 5k or 10k for The Movember Foundation this November?

For loads more information and to sign up please click here.

For more information about the Movember Foundation please click here.

The Movember Foundation is a Registered Charity No.1137948 (England/Wales) SC041981 (Scotland)

**Full disclosure: This post is written in collaboration with MoRunning. All photographs were taken from MoRunning’s website** 

Running goals for 2019: Progress report

I hope that everyone had an awesome weekend and that Monday wasn’t too much of a chore. As it’s now July – seriously, how quickly is this year going? – I thought I’d write a quick (lack of) progress report on my 2019 running goals.

Run 1000km – I started the year with loads of good intentions; one was to run 1000km. Thanks to the combination of injuries, and a complete loss of running mojo, my running has been sporadic. I’ve just checked out my training log on Fetcheveryone. So far in 2019, I’ve run approximately 51km. Not recording all of my training runs was a mistake. I don’t think I’ll get near my 1000km target but that’s okay.Injured runner

[Source]

Complete 10 races – I haven’t completed a single organised race. Thanks to the reasons I gave above I’ve not made it to the start line of every single race I’ve entered this year. I don’t want to think about how much money I’ve wasted on race entry fees!

Complete 15 parkruns – Back in January, I was quietly confident I would be able to complete 15 parkruns. Sutton Park parkrun is just over three miles from my front door; I had visions of relaxing runs to and from parkrun. The reality is a little different as I’ve only completed one parkrun.

Volunteer 10 times at parkrun – Now this is one running goal I’ll definitely achieve. It’s been very much a case of ‘can’t run, can volunteer’.

parkrun volunteering

I’ve checked out my parkrun volunteer stats and so far in 2019 I’ve marshalled 4 times, written the run report once, tail walked once and handed out finish tokens once. This Saturday I’m having a go at timekeeping.

A sub 8-minute mile – I didn’t head down to London for the Vitality Westminster Mile. My official mile PB remains a very beatable 9:09. Perhaps I should focus on short distances during the second half of 2019.

A sub 25-minute 5k – I think it’s safe to say my only official 5k time of 57:04 is a long way from a sub-25 minute time. The way I’m feeling at the moment, I can’t see me ever getting below 30 minutes again.

A sub 60-minute 10k – I’m yet to complete an official 10k race this year. I’m hoping to complete the Shenstone Fun Run later this month; it will be good to get some sort of benchmark.

A sub 2:15 half marathon – I had grand plans of running a decent time at the London Landmarks Half Marathon. However, the reality was a little different. I completed most of my training runs in the lead up to the London Landmarks and then picked up some sort of office lurgy which refused to go away.  The result? Another DNS!

Listen to my niggles – This is another running goal I’ll definitely achieve. I’ve had so many injuries this year, I’ve now reached the stage I’m almost scared of running. I’m also starting to suspect a lot of niggles are a figment of my imagination.

Improve my core strength – This is another running goal success story. I’m hoping that all the workouts I’ve been completing will start to benefit my running.Clean House Injured Runner

[Source]

Run with others more – Whenever I’ve pulled on my trainers and run, I’ve made more effort to run with others. Although I didn’t get to run with Run Wallingford before I moved back home, I’ve found myself some Birmingham-based running groups to join.

Train consistently – Does consistently training inconsistently count?

Don’t buy any unessential running gear – So far this final running-related goal is more possibly more failure than success. I’ve just worked out how much I’ve spent on running gear, and had a bit of a shock. Having said that, I’ve sold such a lot of unwanted running gear online, I’ve probably ‘made’ more money than I’ve spent.

I think it’s quite obvious that the first half of 2019 wasn’t great from a running perspective. At times I’ve felt like selling all of my running gear. Some people may be questioning the point of this rather negative running goal progress update. I decided to publish this update as I think it’s important to write about the not-so-positive aspects of running.

How are you progressing with your running goals? Hopefully better than I am with mine 🙂

Do you think I should readjust all of my goals or rule out this year and start again next year? I’ve reached the stage I’m about to ‘write-off’ 2019 and will start again next year.

Rants and raves #37

**Disclaimer: I’m writing this post after a not so successful day in the office. I’m also feeling slightly more stressed than normal as I’m still trying to get used to working in a busy office. Apologies if this selection of rants and raves are more moany than usual. As always, all moans and groans and rants and raves represent my own views. Dozens of far less negative running blogs are available, I’m always happy to recommend a few**

Rave: Being back at home

While I think it’s safe to say that I grew to love living and working in Wallingford, I’m enjoying being back at home in Four Oaks. I’m saving a fortune on train tickets and rent, and with my side hustles am managing to transfer a fair amount of money into my savings account each month. It’s just a shame it took me 40 years to start making the effort to save money.

Rant: Commuting

One of the few downsides of living back in Four Oaks and working in Solihull is the commute. My commute into the Wallingford office comprised of a 20 minute walk along a route which included crossing Wallingford Bridge. I loved stopping off at the River Thames each morning.

Four Oaks to Solihull

My new commute takes over an hour as I have to catch a train into Birmingham New Street, walk to Birmingham Moor Street and then catch a train to Solihull. After enduring a couple of overcrowded trains, I’ve decided that although getting up at 05:30 is challenging, missing both the morning and evening rush hours makes it worthwhile.

I’m looking forward to the day the office moves into the centre of Birmingham.

Rave: My Wallingford colleagues

My colleagues in Wallingford gave me the most amazing send-off. My final week was a nonstop marathon of after work meals and drinks. By the final day I was shattered and felt like a beached whale.

The comments in my leaving card made me a little teary and my leaving presents were incredibly thoughtful.  I’m keeping an eye on the internal jobs board for permanent jobs in the Wallingford office.

Rant: Hot desking

Another reason I’m missing working in the Wallingford office is what I’m going to call the joy of hot desking. In the Wallingford office, I was allocated my own desk and as long as it was kept reasonably clear, I was allowed to leave my cup, work etc on my desk when I went home. It definitely made life easier as I knew I had somewhere to sit. It also meant that my chair and monitor etc were set up correctly.

Hotdesking

[Source]

My new office operates a strict hot desking policy. I’m finding having to sit at a different desk every day quite hard to get used to. There is a lot less conversation in the new office. I can see why a lot of people work from home.

Rave: Skid Row Marathon

I watched the Skid Row Marathon documentary last May and wrote the following:

 “I don’t want to give too much away, but if you get the opportunity please, please go and watch Skid Row Marathon. I was in tears before it even started. ..”

Skid Row Marathon

[Source]

For less than the cost of a pint in my local pub, Skid Row Marathon is now available to stream via this link.

Rant: Social Media

I’ve been avoiding social media recently as I find the utter crap that some people write incredibly frustrating. I know that I can just scroll past and ignore the crap, but it’s now so widespread it’s getting difficult.

duty_calls

[Source]

And as for the people who hide behind anonymous social media accounts to dish out snarky comments; please don’t. I didn’t appreciate being called a fat and worthless lazy f**ker, and doubt that you’d have the balls to say it to my face.

Rave: Plogging Sutton Coldfield

I recently ranted about people who litter; I’m now going to rave about a group I spotted on Farcebook.

Since moving back to Four Oaks, I’ve been searching the internet for local running groups. I spotted a page called Plogging Sutton Coldfield and got in contact with James, the local runner who set up the Farcebook page. I’m going to see if I can drum up a bit of local support.

Rant: Your parkrun needs you posts

I’m not sure if it’s due to the weather or time of year, but I’ve noticed a lot of ‘Your parkrun needs you’ posts on social media recently.

Your parkrun needs you

 [Source]

The Farcebook page for my local parkrun – Sutton Park parkrun – has almost 1300 likes. Unfortunately, despite several shout outs for help, it was almost cancelled last weekend due to a lack of marshals.

I tried to promote volunteering in the run report  I produced a few weeks ago. I guess the whole point of volunteering is that people don’t have to volunteer unless they want to.

Rave: My new blog header

Now that I have a bit more free time on a Sunday evening, I’m aiming to improve the layout of this blog. I spent far too long debating the pros and cons of changing the name of my blog. I eventually decided to stick with the PhD Runner and invested in a new blog header. I just need to invest in a new theme.

I was about to invest in the blog migration service offered by Pipdig when it all got a bit heated online. However, as I’ve had enough of the irritating advert at the top of the page I’m now researching alternatives. If anyone can recommend an alternative to Pipdig then please get in touch 🙂

If you’ve got to the end of this random selection of rants and raves, then I’d like to say a massive “thank-you”. As always, I hope that you think my rants were reasonable. I feel a little better now that I’ve shared my moans and groans.

Does your office operate a hot desking policy? I’m aware that hot desking is quite popular, I’d love to hear some positive stories.

Have you watched Skid Row Marathon? If you haven’t please consider paying to watch it on Vimeo. I’m not on commission, I just think it’s an amazing running documentary.

Rants and raves #36

**Disclaimer: I’m writing this post after treating a relative to breakfast at the local farm shop. Because I have a full-time job, nine times out of ten I end up treating people. I sometimes wonder how I’m ever going to save enough money to get on the property ladder. I’m going to have to learn how to say no. As always, all moans and groans and rants and raves represent my own views. Dozens of far less negative running blogs are available**

Happy Monday, I hope that everyone had an amazing weekend. I’m working from home today as I need to prepare for a two-day training course in London.

Rave: My 40th birthday

I recently celebrated my 40th birthday. Thanks to the efforts of my colleagues and ‘Wallingford family’ – I knew they were plotting something but had no idea exactly what – I had an amazing day. I’ve included a few photos; I would have included more but don’t want to risk getting in trouble.

Highlights included a huge cooked breakfast at the Old Post Office in Wallingford, lunch at the Waterfront Cafe in Benson, an amazing chocolate cake made by my colleague Sally, and a few too many drinks in the evening. I’m going to miss everyone when my fixed term contract ends next month.

Rant: My 40th birthday

The rest of my birthday was a tad disappointing. I don’t want to complain, but most of my close family didn’t even send me a card. I know I haven’t always been the best daughter/sister/aunt and people have busy lives, but I still felt slightly offended.

Happy Birthday

[Source]

Having to explain to colleagues that I hadn’t seen most of my family was quite difficult. I guess there’s always next week. Once I’d stopped feeling sorry for myself I decided to buy myself some birthday presents. Thanks to TK Maxx, I’m now the proud owner of a new Radley watch and purse.

Rave: Recognition for this blog

I know this has featured as a rave before so sorry if you suddenly experience a spot of déjà vu. When I started writing this blog I had no idea if anyone would actually read it. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve felt like calling it a day but haven’t because I really enjoy writing.

I was over the moon when I recently discovered I’d made it into Vuelio’s top 10 running blogs for a third consecutive year. I was given the opportunity to complete a Blogger spotlight interview and was able to share my favourite running blogs.Blogger Spotlight 2019If you haven’t already, please check out the five awesome running bloggers I highlighted in my interview.

Rant: The Weather

Since my last rants and raves blog, the weather has been a tad disappointing and somewhat unpredictable. I’ve lost count of the number of times it’s rained during my morning walk into the office and at lunchtime. I shouldn’t complain too much as the southeast of England desperately needs more rain. It would be good it if could rain during the night.

Last week, I completed my fifth and final Thames Water Situation Report. After three consecutive dry winters, I have a feeling I’m escaping from a stressful summer. If it doesn’t rain a lot more, my current team are going to be very busy this summer. My new role has the potential to be equally as stressful as I’ll be providing hydrological support to the whole of England. Nothing will go wrong!

Rave: Volunteering at parkrun

I’ve definitely caught the parkrun volunteering bug. My fragile right knee means that it’s unlikely I’ll ever attempt to complete another Sutton Park parkrun. The first half of the course is uneven and the numerous steep downhill sections make my knee twinge. I’ve really enjoyed my recent volunteering stints. Tail walking gave me a completely different perspective of parkrun. It also gave me a what I call a ‘kick up the arse’ photo.

Marshal briefingSutton Park parkrun tail walker

[Photos: Peter Heafield]

The healthier eating has now started.

This may sound slightly geeky but I’ve got a favourite marshalling location. I love ‘position 10’ as it’s in a busy part of Sutton Park at the top of a longish hill. When people reach me they have completed the most challenging sections of the course and it’s downhill to the finish.Sutton Park parkrun

IMG_3649When I’m feeling brave I may have a go at timekeeping. The Core Team keep telling me it’s easy and that there is always a backup timer.

Rant: Having to leave Wallingford

At the end of 2017 and the beginning of last year I was dreading having to move to Wallingford. I think it’s safe to say I was shitting myself and I shared some of my fears in what became one of my most highly viewed posts.

After a slightly rocky start, I’ve had the most amazing time in Wallingford. I’ve made some amazing friends that I’ll be in contact with for life, and I’m now feeling sad that the end of my fixed term contract is rapidly approaching. I’m incredibly fortunate because I’ve landed myself an amazing new job within the EA, however, leaving Wallingford is going to be difficult. There will be tears on my final day.

Rave: Alysia Montaño

I had heard horror stories about Nike and other top brands dropping sponsored athletes for petty reasons like getting pregnant before. After reading this opinion piece, I now have even more respect for Alysia Montaño.

Rant: Public transport

I’m aware that this is another repeat rant, but I’ve had far too many not very positive bus and train journeys recently. For the amount I pay to travel between Oxford and Birmingham I should as a minimum feel safe. I think all evening trains should introduce compulsory alcohol breath tests before people are allowed to board.

Getting to my new job is going to involve two trains and an hour plus journey from north to south Birmingham. I can’t wait…

And finally, a (sort of) bonus rave. I’ve decided to conclude all of my ‘rants and raves’ posts with a random music recommendation.

Rave: Exposé – Let Me Be The One

I’m a huge fan of 80s/early 90s music so to start with I’d like to introduce you to ‘Let me be the One’ by Exposé.

Expose
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I sometimes wish I could just go back in time to the late 80s, I could listen to cheesy music all day.

If you’ve reached the end of this selection of rants and raves, then a huge “thank-you”. I hope that you think my rants were reasonable. I do feel much better now that I’ve shared my moans and groans with you.

Have your family ever forgotten your birthday? I have a feeling that most other families are slightly more reliable than mine.   

Do you have a favourite parkrun volunteering role? I would love to have a go at barcode scanning but have heard a few too many horror stories.

Returning to running after a knee injury and aZengear compression review

I hope that everyone is having an amazing week; at least it’s almost the weekend. I think I’ve just about recovered from a slightly traumatic interview yesterday lunchtime. I think the expression ‘By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’ quite accurately described what happened.

I don’t want to put some sort of random ‘injury curse’ on myself, but after almost two months of no running and a lot of knee strengthening exercises, I think that I’m ‘up and running’ again.

With apologies for the randomness, this quote sums up why I’ve missed running so much:

“Our running shoes have magic in them. The power to transform a bad day into a good day; frustration into speed; self-doubt into confidence; chocolate cake into muscle.”
– Mina Samuels, author of Run Like a Girl 

Although I’m not a huge fan of chocolate cake, since the day I DNS the London Landmarks Half, I’ve eaten far, far too much unhealthy food. I’ve also developed an unhealthy post-work drinking habit. I was definitely using my injury as an excuse to overindulge. Let’s just say the scales don’t lie. The healthier regime starts once I’ve celebrated(!?) my 40th birthday at the beginning of May. I’m pretty sure that most 40-year-old women don’t pop into McDonald’s every Sunday evening.Unhealthy choicesWhen I was unable to run, I spent a bit of far too much time thinking about all of the running injuries I’ve had. In my first ever post way back in March 2013 I described myself as an incredibly injury-prone runner. I seem to spend most of the time trapped in a running injury cycle. I wasn’t able to find out what happened to Small Town Runner – hopefully, they haven’t retired from running due to injury – but this running injury cycle diagram is pretty accurate.Running Injury Cycle

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If I remember and if people are interested, I’m going to blog about how I went back to basics to hopefully break my own personal running injury cycle. Let’s just say, I was a little embarrassed when I realised that I’d been working a short walk from a sports injury rehabilitation centre since last January. Not one of my finest moments.

Since the beginning of the month, I’ve been running for 15-20 minutes two or three times a week. I’ve left my Garmin behind as I didn’t want to compare my running to this time 12 months ago. Although *touch wood* my knee seems to be coping, I’m not sure I’ll be able to take part in the three 10k events I’ve entered in May.

Now that I’ve finished complaining about my knee and self-inflicted weight gain, I’m going to quickly review a couple of products I’ve been testing. I hope you all enjoy reading the review and find it useful.

aZengear Compression review

At the start of March, Emily one of the co-founders of aZengear, contacted me after reading this blog. Emily wanted to send me some free samples for review. I agreed as I enjoy working with and hopefully increasing the awareness of slightly lesser known brands. As I already own far too many pairs of compression calf sleeves, I opted for a pair of compression socks and a compression knee sleeve. My right knee was incredibly niggly at the time, so I thought it would be really interesting to see if the knee sleeve helped my knee.

Before I start my review, I’m aware that people may not have come across aZengear Compression (I hadn’t) so here’s a very quick introduction to the brand.

A quick introduction to aZengear Compression

aZengear is a UK startup for compression gear for sports, travel and daily wear. The co-founders mission is to design and manufacture compression gear products that contribute to healthy living and make a difference in people’s lives.

The aZengear product range currently includes:

  • Graduated compression socks for sports and travel
  • Compression calf sleeves for running
  • Plantar fasciitis socks
  • Compression knee sleeves for running, squats, weightlifting and arthritis

The compression socks and knee sleeve were well packaged and arrived promptly. Both items came with a Read Me First card which provides information about a 30 day warranty and bonus, wash and care instructions and contact details in case there are any issues with the product. I wish more brands provided the same information.

Compression Knee Sleeve

According to aZengear’s website, if you suffer from intermittent or constant knee pain, their compression knee sleeve will provide immediate joint pain relief, improved blood circulation and muscular recovery. The knee sleeve is described as being perfect for a range of sports and activities, the infographic below provides more information. knee-sleeve-infographic-900x900

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I think it’s safe to say that my recent knee injury meant that I thoroughly tested the compression knee sleeve. So, first things first, did the knee sleeve fit? I’m pleased to report that for once I managed to send the correct measurements to a compression gear brand. The last knee brace I wore was a far too tight behind my knee and felt uncomfortable after I’d been wearing it for a while. I didn’t have any issues with the aZengear knee sleeve, it felt reasonably comfortable and the material didn’t cause any unwanted skin reactions.

As my right knee wasn’t coping very well with the two mile walk to and from the office – walking down the steps on Wallingford Bridge to the Riverside Park was a painful experience – I wore the knee sleeve five days a week. I found the knee sleeve the perfect length and just the right level of compression. It didn’t slide down my leg and remained in place all day. Finally, I think I need to point out that with the exception of short sprints across main roads, I haven’t run in the compression knee sleeve.

Graduated Compression Socks

aZengear describe their graduated compression socks as being perfect for those who are on the move. The socks are described as being a great fit for a range of people including runners, nurses, hikers, cyclists and those suffering from varicose veins, DVT or recovering after surgery. The socks are described as being reliable, stylish, affordable and most importantly, effective. Once again, I’ve included an infographic in order to provide more information. pink-sock-on-white-900x900

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Once I’d realised that there wasn’t a dedicated left and right sock, the graduated compression socks were fairly easy to put on the first time I wore them. I was little surprised to discover they were so long they almost covered my knees. I have longer than average legs so this made a refreshing change, however, shorter runners may find that the socks are too long.aZengear compression socksI’ve worn the compression socks during and for an hour after the majority of my post-knee injury training runs. I genuinely believe that wearing the socks has helped my gradual return to running. The socks provide a good level of compression, my calf muscles have been completely niggle free and my legs have felt amazing. The only minor complaint I have with the compression socks relates to the thickness of the material they are made from. I guess I’m just used to running in thin socks as these compression socks make my trainers feel slightly too tight.

The washing machine test

I’m repeating myself, again, but one of the reasons it takes me a while to publish my product reviews is that I like to wear and to wash items I’m reviewing several times. Unfortunately, in the past some of my running gear hasn’t coped very well with being washed. I’m still a little traumatised about my first ever Lululemon purchase. Having an injury which has prevented me from running also slowed down the review process! I’m pleased to report that the knee sleeve and the compression socks passed the washing machine test.

The Verdict

So, would I recommend aZengear compression to other runners? Yes, I would. The knee sleeve and graduated compression socks all felt comfortable when I wore them. I think that the knee sleeve helped to support my dodgy knee during my walks to and from work; I genuinely believe that it aided the recovery of my knee. The graduated compression socks appear to have helped my calves as I’ve made a return to running, I’ll definitely be wearing them as I increase my weekly mileage.

**Full disclosure: aZengear compression sent me a knee sleeve and a pair of graduated compression socks for free in return for an honest review. I did not receive any payment for this review. As I wore the knee sleeve underneath my work trousers, I forgot to take any ‘action’ photos. The infographics in this review were taken from aZengear’s website. As always all opinions are my own**