Wednesday, 18 March 2020

What's next?

When running events started cancelling, it seemed that anyone who dared to mention that they were upset or disappointed was subject to criticism on Facebook and Twitter (and probably real life, but I don't get out much so don't get to experience that).  I can see both sides... you've trained for something, planned for something and then it is taken away.  On the other side, Covid-19 is a big deal.  I've lost count of the number of races I have had cancelled - but the only one that really matters is Boston.  Hopefully I'll get to run the rescheduled race in September.

But the cancellation of races, and today the cancellation of parkrun hits hard because it is symptomatic of the fact that so much of what we take for granted is no longer available for us.  This is happening at a time when many of us are losing our normal routine of work.

Friday will be my last normal day at work.  I don't know when we will be back at school and, if I am honest, it is a terrifying prospect.  Logistically it is going to be a nightmare delivering lessons remotely, trying to engage, enthuse and educate children via a laptop in my kitchen, while trying to chivvy my own children into getting on with their school work and not devouring the contents of the fridge within minutes of me getting back from the supermarket.  My first hurdle is getting to grips with Microsoft Team and then scanning all the material so that I can share it...

But the bigger problem is relationships.  I love the teaching part of my job - being in front of a class, doing whatever it takes to get a room full of students to understand the Krebs cycle... I love my colleagues too.  I work with a group of highly motivated professionals who are all committed to the same thing that I am committed to - educating the next generation.  Yes, we may moan about the behaviour of a certain class, whinge about the ever increasing demands from management and have collective a collective grump fest about having to write eleventy billion reports before the end of the week, but on the whole we love it... there is no way we'd do it for the money we are on if we didn't.  I made the mistake of telling a non teacher friend how much I earned the other day... after teaching for 10 years.... I think they are still laughing....

I don't know what the next few weeks will bring.  I know that I am going to miss my students, the drive to work, the routine, the banter in the staff room and the friendships. While we are all working remotely I think it is imperative that we keep in contact, I'm not sure what that contact will look like.  I am concerned that working from home will allow work to take over my life in the way it did when I first qualified as a teacher.  I must strive to remember that the kitchen is still the place where I sit with friends and family to share a few drinks and laughs, it is only temporarily my workplace.  Social isolation cannot last forever.

But first, we have two more days... two days in which we need to calm the younger children down and remind them that it is not a holiday, hold the hands of the yr11 and yr13 students as we wait to find out what will happen with regard to GCSEs and A'levels and spend hours scanning worksheets...

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Oink oink!

I've started a couple of blog posts about races recently but not finished them.  No idea why, but life is somewhat hectic so maybe I was doing something grown up like the laundry, marking books or cooking meals!  Let's see how this one goes...

Those of you who know me in real life will know that I rather like to be on time.  And by 'on time' I mean 'there in plenty of time.'  And by 'there in plenty of time' I really mean 'there so long before the appointed hour that all my friends officially hate me and and, if I am honest, I am a little bit bored too!'  This is the reason that I didn't rush back to sign up for the Hogs Back Road Race - I was still suffering from the trauma of almost not making it to the start line due to the nightmare parking scenario!

However, after 3 days away with my fledgling CCF contingent I needed something to look forward to and my partner in crime had put the idea into my head.  The race was cheap(ish) and local(ish) and as I'd fallen into the exhausted sleep that anyone who has been a lead teacher on a school residential trip will recognise before 8.30pm I was up early enough to get there in plenty of time.  They must have sorted out the parking in the 4 years since I'd last run this event.

They hadn't.  The last quarter of a mile took AGES!  For a big venue (Loseley Park) that must have lots of carparks, getting all the race entrants to park on the muddy crass either side of the drive made for very slow going.  I get that the venue might want to keep its carparks free for the regular patrons, but with a 9am start most of us would be leaving before the Sunday morning rush started.  I gingerly parked my car on the grass, offered a quick prayer to the parking gods that my car wouldn't get stuck in the mud (we'd seen a few people pushing cars that had got stuck already) and made our way to collect our numbers.  I was keen to get to the front of the port-a-loo queue.  I say keen, but really I was suffering after 3 days of army catering - otherwise known as 'how many fried meals can I throw down my throat in 3 days!'  They queues for the loos weren't too bad, mainly because most people were still queuing to park!

The wind was bitter at the start, I kept my fleece on.  There was no pre race brief, no count down, we were milling around near the start and then suddenly we were off!  The first bit was downhill, on the estate roads and then we were on country lanes and it became a bit more undulating.  I used one short, sharp, steep section halfway up a long steady climb as an excuse to walk a few paces and remove my fleece.   The first half is the tougher half of the race, as you can see by the graph below, and I will admit that I may have walked for a few brief sections on that two mile hill climb.

For a road race, I ended up with an awful lot of mud on the back of my legs!  There are two off road sections and the recent rain had ensured that there were plenty of lovely muddy puddles to splash through.  But at least it was predominantly downhill for the second half.  At 9km my shoe lace decided to come undone.  That has never happened before and I know I double tied it as normal.  Trying to tie a shoelace with gloves on is tricky, but I double knotted it, cursed about the fact that two women I had worked hard to past had snuck past me again and set out to run the last 2.4km.  I managed to catch both those women up again, so all was no lost.  I finished about 7 minutes faster than the last time I ran this event, which given the lack of sleep and shockingly bad nutrition I am happy with.

I spent most of the race trying to do the mental maths involved in converting 11.4k (or whatever portion I had left to run) into miles.  And failing.  

At 11k I spotted a school friend (as in a friend I was at school with rather than a friend from my current school) who was there to support her husband and some friends.  Just 0.4k to go... I over took a few people on the way and threw myself over the finish line, collecting my medal and getting my chip removed.  The Sun was shining and it was quite pleasant waiting at the finish, until the clouds rolled over!  It took ages to get out of the 'car park' - post race faffing and getting out of the car park took longer than the actual race!  

This is a great race, but it is let down by the poor organisation of the parking. 

Sunday, 27 October 2019

What a week

The first half of the autumn term is always the longest half term.  A nasty shock after the carefree weeks of summer, but the end was in sight, we were on countdown for the half term holiday.  Even picking up a cover lesson in my free on Tuesday didn't dampen my spirits.  Whilst sorting out the cover work I sat down on the chair at the teacher's desk, only to find myself on the floor instead.  The chair was dodgy and I was now on the floor in front of a whole class of students and a teacher who had come in to check that I had everything I needed!  The students were amazing, two of them dashed off to get a first aider and the rest were 'vanished' by a colleague.  I was in pain.  I slipped a disk several years ago and knew that this pain wasn't as bad as that had been, but it still hurt.  I wanted to go and lie down somewhere, but an ambulance had been called and I was told to stay where I was (standing with my back against the wall).    The ambulance crew were lovely, checked me out thoroughly, agreed with my self diagnosis that it was just muscle spasm and told me to go home and rest.  I, of course, asked if they thought I'd be able to run at the weekend and was told that so long as I rested properly and felt as if I could then it would be ok.  I know from experience that keeping moving is better for my back so I was (very) cautiously optimistic.
At the start - weather for ducks

Three days at home led to a certain degree of cabin fever and a 'sod it, I'm going to do it anyway!' mentality, so on Friday afternoon I set off to catch a train to North Wales.  I'd been bullied into entering the Snowdonia Marathon to the extent that I didn't even do the entry myself.  Everyone I know who has run this one raves about it, I was sceptical.  I booked my travel in advance, I couldn't travel up with anyone as they were all driving up early on Friday and I was supposed to be in school. The first after school train would get me to the nearest station at 10.15pm and because I booking in advance it was only a few pounds more for first class - free drinks, snacks and an evening meal would be very welcome.

Up into the hills we go!
I got to Euston just before the shut the doors and stopped letting anyone else in.  There were no trains going in or out of the station due to trespassers on the line.  We were advised that our tickets would be valid on Saturday - but that was no use to me.  The information available seemed to rely on an in-depth knowledge of the rail routes around the UK.  I was somewhat out of my comfort zone.  I hate being late, I'm not a huge fan of relying on other people or of that horrible feeling that you are messing the people you are relying on for a lift at the end of the journey around.  There was a lot of frantic Googling, texting and phoning to work out the best course of action.  When the station reopened I thought that it would be plain sailing, but the first few trains all seemed to be going to Wolverhampton - I am sure it is a perfectly pleasant place but I did not want to go there.   I got on the first train to Crewe, found myself a seat in First Class and then gave up my seat to a frail looking old lady who didn't have a seat.  First Class service was suspended, so no complimentary drinks and snacks, and all the carriages were rammed to the gunnels.

Scenery!  Lots of it!
I was confident that it would be simple from now on.  The guard announced that we would get to Crewe at 22.17 giving me 6 minutes to make a connection to Chester which would connect to the Holyhead service.  At 22.10 the guard announced that we would arrive at Crewe 'in twenty minutes!'  I very nearly had a full on melt down!  The train crew told me that whatever happened I would get to my destination - even if they had to put me in a taxi, as it was the connection was delayed at Crewe.  I threw myself on to the overcrowded train just as the doors were shutting and welcomed the announcement that the train I was on would become the Holyhead train, so I didn't need to navigate my way around another station.  I also got a seat at Chester!  I don't think anyone has ever been quite so relieved to get to Bangor in their lives - and at least, at half past midnight, the roads to Llanberis were empty.

Me, actually running
Thankfully a friend had checked into the hotel on my behalf and collected my race number.  All I needed to do was go to sleep, this proved to be easier said than done, but at least my back felt better it was just my hip that was hurting, I think I must have bashed it as I fell as it was somewhat bruised.  I set the alarm for 7.15am, met up with a load of friends for breakfast at 8am and asked basic questions like 'Where is the start?' Answer: 'Just follow us.'  Q: 'What about the bag drop?' A: 'The reason we stay here is that it is closer to the start than the bag drop.'  You can see that I'd really done my homework!

Proof we weren't hallucinating!
The weather looked bloody awful.  I decided to start off with a waterproof jacket.  We made our way to the start, bumping into people we knew, including a couple of fellow Fetcheveryone members I haven't seen since the start of the York Marathon seven years ago!  The first couple of miles went well, although it was undeniably painful.  A pain that intensified when we hit the first hill.  I am not sure that I was believed when I said that I didn't think I would be able to finish this (at 4 miles), but for the first time ever I was seriously considering just stopping.  The consensus was that we should just walk up the hill and see how it felt at the top.  Well, it still bloody hurt, but going down was easier and the scenery was just fabulous.  The support from the locals was terrific and we were now on a 7(ish) mile flat(ish) section that was a mixture of road and farm track.  When we were running we weren't too shabby in respect to speed, but it would get to a point where I just couldn't take the impact any more so we used every single hill as a walk break... and at times I was praying for the next hill!  There are only really three hills, but they are all, with the last one at 22 miles lasting for over two miles.

Possibly the best cup of tea ever!
At the top of the last hill we found the best aid station in the World ever!  A Mad Hatter's Tea Party was in full swing with jam tarts, biscuits, cakes, sandwiches and CUPS OF TEA IN PROPER CUPS! Yes I am shouting!  It was the best thing ever and as we had kissed goodbye to any idea of running a decent time we stopped for tea before hurling ourselves down the hill to the finish.

There had been a lot of rain, and despite the fact that it did stop during the race and the sun even came out briefly, at times it felt as though we were running through a river.  This made running down a steep hill somewhat challenging, but the end was in sight.  I tried to remind myself that I am good at running down hill and that I only had just over a mile of pain left.  As we turned on to the high street and the finish line, while not quite in sight, was just around the corner, we picked up our pace - still in our running jackets as we had never quite warmed up - and got lots of comments about a 'strong finish!'  Let me tell you, it hurt like hell, but I wasn't going to slow down in front of a crowd.

Striding out for the finish line!
We crossed the line in 4hrs 41mins and 53 seconds.  A lot slower than I had planned but, given I was ready to give up at four miles in, I suppose it is an achievement of sorts.  My friends had booked their hotel rooms for next year when they had checked in on Friday afternoon.  I had thought they were mad, but at 6 miles into the race I knew I wanted to come back.  I booked hotel rooms for next year as soon as I got back to the hotel.  I say 'rooms' because I am planning to bully some friends to come too.

This is a stupendously fabulous marathon, brilliantly organised and wonderfully supported by the locals.  The atmosphere amongst the runners was awesome.  At one point I complained that my left leg was fine and I was just fed up of the right side of my body.  It was suggested that I hop on the left leg.... we were on the final up hill.... but I gave it a go.  And a couple of kind people caught up with us to ask if I was OK!  The views are epic, even in cloudy wet weather!  I think there were 12 of us out for supper that evening, all in good spirits reliving our epic day, celebrating three first marathons in our little group and catching up with a friend I haven't seen for far too long before toddling off to our beds.  A beer or two and a gin and tonic or three may well have been consumed.   And the good thing about taking it easy yesterday?  Well, apart from the painful hip/back thing the rest of me feels fine!

Monday, 21 October 2019


I don’t remember when we signed up for Amsterdam, or even really why we signed up for Amsterdam – but we must have thought, at one of our many hugely unproductive ‘planning meetings’ that it was a good idea!  Initially all five of us had signed up for the half marathon, as some of us were already committed to a marathon just a week later, but one of our number had decided to bite the bullet and bag the bigger bit of bling on offer for the full marathon.  We booked flights and hotels, worked out the logistics of how we would get to the airport etc. and then pretty much forgot about the whole enterprise until about a week beforehand!  
JB, carb loading
I waved Husbando off at 4.30am on Friday morning as he and three friends made their way to the airport and happily went back to sleep for an hour, only to wake up with the worst headache ever!  I survived two whole lessons at school before admitting defeat, as I felt so sick, and coming home.  I was panicking about the fact I had an evening flight from Gatwick.  I could barely keep my eyes open as the light drilled into my head, how on Earth could I negotiate a train journey?  I went home, took a load of drugs and went to bed for a couple of hours.  Thankfully I woke up feeling a lot better, not 100% - in fact I still have a headache now (Monday lunchtime), so set off to the airport.
An uneventful journey and a very easy train journey into central Amsterdam saw me arriving just before last orders in the hotel bar.  A surprise ‘extra’ friend was waiting there too – he was over for the marathon and came to meet us in the evening before returning to his hotel.  

In our enthusiasm, whenever we’d booked this weekend, we had signed up for a 6k ‘city run’ on the Saturday morning.  On reviewing the information about the run we decided that a lie in would be better for us!  The city run was selling itself as a ‘fun’ activity, where we would run at a gentle pace in groups of 10-15 between various Amsterdam landmarks.  I’m not a fan of enforced fun plus, as we sat sipping complimentary champagne with our breakfast, it looked really cold and windy outside!  Much better to spend a lazy (ish) Saturday buying stuff at the expo, eating nice food and drinking cold beer!  
Sunday morning saw Monsieur Faffinage toddle off to the start of the full marathon (9.30am start) while four of us sat eating breakfast (no champagne today – we thought that would be silly).  The half marathon start time was 1.20pm – which put us all in a bit of a quandary about what to eat and when and had necessitated Husbando getting the hotel to agree to a very late checkout.  At the start we posed for photos, did a bit of a warm up, grumbled (I did anyway – I still had a headache and now felt a bit sick again) thanked whatever deity we cared to thank for the dry weather.  My target was to run sub 1.50 – I haven’t run that time since 2015.  A little bit of me hoped I might be able to get close to my PB (1:44).  JB ‘joked’ about running it in 1:43 – which is silly because I would need to run 7:50min/mile pace.  That is about my average parkrun pace!  
Can we get any closer to the start
It was crowded at the start, but we were in the first starting pen, so got over the line fairly quickly. I started ‘too fast.’  I kept telling myself to ‘slow down.’  I ran the first couple of miles with Husbando, JB meeting up with us just before the 5k marker at just under 24 minutes.  At around this time we started to overtake the occasional marathon runner.  Not an issue at this point, more of an issue was the sheer number of runners who had just enough speed to overtake and then immediately cut in front of us.  I may have sworn rather loudly at some of them…
We ran together (in our matching vests!) for a few miles, before Husbando pulled slightly ahead.  I said that I would like them to be waiting for me with a beer at the end.  JB wasn’t falling for it.  And I knew he wasn’t going to fall for it anytime soon.  If I dropped the pace (in an effort to get away from having to work so hard) he eased off too and then gradually picked up the pace so that we were back where we needed to be.  He is very good at this pacing lark, realising that trying to distract me with conversation would probably end up with me biting his head off!  He fetched my water at each water station (Eliud K couldn’t have asked for better) although this was rather ruined by my inability to drink from open cups while running – it was more of an exercise in repeatedly waterboarding myself!
The route was almost pancake flat, with a couple of gentle inclines going over bridges.  It wasn’t the most scenic race I’ve run, but running over the Amstel, past the Rijks museum and through the Vondelpark was really lovely, and there was plenty of music along the route.  As we got further along the route we encountered more and more marathoners and avoiding them became a bit of an issue – especially on the narrower parts of the route.   It had been announced that there were 250 British runners taking part – I think we saw all of them, including overtaking someone I knew who was doing the marathon. 
JB wasn’t letting up on the pace.  I was trying to do running maths in my head so knew I was on for my target of sub 1.50, but couldn’t get the maths straight in my head to work out if I was on for a PB.  I said at one point, ‘If I do 10 minute miles now I’ll get sub 1.50’ but I wasn’t allowed to ease off.  The fact that I couldn’t feel my right arm and my vision was a bit screwy (I may not have mentioned that to JB) wasn’t an excuse.  He set me a target of overtaking a woman in red shorts and a black top, and to be fair I was slowly gaining on her until I tried to scupper the whole deal by hitting a tram track at just the wrong angle, the angle that meant my right foot slid right away from underneath me as I pushed off resulting in me nearly hitting the floor!  This was at about 18k, but it shook my confidence and hurt a bit.

About a kilometre from the end we could hear the crowds in the Olympic Stadium.  Apparently.  Or so I am told!  I was too busy cursing and swearing to hear anything!  There was a 500m to go sign, I couldn’t believe it and it did seem a long way from there to the track – then there were signs every 25m from 175m down to the finish.  I pondered slowing down and soaking up the atmosphere – for a nanosecond – all I wanted to do was get over the line so I could stop running.    
Hanging our at the airport
As I ‘sprinted’ down the finishing straight the clock was ticking up – I saw 1.44 on the clock and knew I safely had a new PB, but still pushed on – crossing the line in a gun time of 1.44.15 – a second  inside my PB, but I hadn’t taken into account the time it took me to get across the start line and our chip time was 1.42.34!  I was overjoyed and exhausted.  I told JB I was never talking to him again, said a brief hello to Husbando (who had also clocked a PB of 1.41.49) and then sat down before I fell down by the barrier.   I told the first aider who dashed over to check on me (did I really look that bad?) that I just needed 5 minutes… he told me that I had 5 seconds – so, swearing under my breath, I got up and moved on! And started talking to JB again.  I’m fickle like that!  I couldn’t believe he’d got me a PB, let alone by well over a minute.  I couldn’t believe his generosity in giving up his run to pace an irascible old fart with a tendency to talk herself out of putting maximum effort into anything around a half marathon.  I just hope that he doesn’t expect me to run that fast up a mountain next week!
Finishing in the 1928 Olympic Stadium was fabulous.  Unbeknownst to us a friend was watching from the stands and managed to snap some photos of us collecting plastic sheets and looking as though ‘we were shopping for bedlinen at the market!’  After collecting our bags we had some chips while we waited for the final member of the gang to finish before dashing back to the hotel for the quickest set of post race showers ever and thence to the airport – transport in Amsterdam is wonderfully easy!  Duty free was purchased, drinks and food were consumed in the airport lounge and we were all safely home and tucked up in bed in plenty of time to get a good night’s sleep before work on Monday.

It was, in my opinion, a brilliant weekend, one of the best running related trips ever.  I am so lucky to have such a great bunch of friends and a Husbando who are all as mad as I am!  Where are we going next?  I sense another ‘planning meeting’ may be necessary…..

Saturday, 5 October 2019

Muddy good fun at Havant parkrun

It has been a busy old week - my little sister has been all over the news as she decided to walk from Devon to Downing Street in protest at the way Thomas Cook has treated its former employees.  She covered the 200 miles in just 7 days, an utterly amazing feat!  She was supported by many people along the way who offered a bed for the night, a meal or a drink along the way.  She stayed with us on Thursday evening and we went up to London on Friday evening to meet up with her after she had delivered her letter to 10 Downing Street.  I've spent more time than usual on social media - helping to sort out beds for the night and making sure as many people as possible knew what she was up to! You can read a little bit about her walk here in one of the many articles about her. Work has also been a bit manic, who doesn't love a week with a parents' evening in it?  

Consequently I didn't really want to go too far for my weekly parkrun fix!  This weekend is the 15th birthday of parkrun, so one option would have been Bushy Park, a possible trip to Gravesend had also been mooted, but I didn't want to get up too early and I didn't want to spend all of my Saturday travelling to and from parkrun.  Havant however was reasonably close and I had never run there before.  JB picked me up at a very civilised 8am and we arrived in plenty of time to park and make our way to the start.  The parkrun is in Staunton Country Park - I've run there before during an On The Whistle event but I couldn't remember much about it, although I think there may have been firemen....  I didn't do a lot of research - we only decided on Havant on Wednesday evening and the last two days of the week are hugely busy at work, but I seemed to recall that it was trail and I thought, from comments I'd read on Facebook, that it was hilly.  

The first timers' briefing mentioned a hill and mud.  It is the first muddy run I have done this autumn as there was a short muddy section near the start that we ran through a couple of times.  The course is 1 short lap followed by 2 longer laps, it wasn't flat but the uphill sections were not at all arduous.  Had I been running at full speed I might have struggled with the short, sharp downhill on gravel.  As it was, JB was taking it easy because a) he has the Basingstoke Half tomorrow and b) he walked 30 miles with my sister on Thursday and has the blisters to prove it, I was happy to take it easy as I have to run 20 or 22 miles tomorrow.   I do like a chatty parkrun!  This parkrun is so pretty!  I would gladly come back and run it again.  The marshals were cheerful and friendly and I saw several familiar faces which is always lovely.

After we'd finished we grabbed a drink at the cafe.  It is £1 or a tea of coffee for parkrunners or 50p if you have a reusable cup with you - what a bargain!  Parking charges were steep though - £3.20 for the 2 hours we were there.  Thank you to all the volunteers for a wonderful morning.

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Insanity runs in the family!

Today I should be focussing on a blog about Hazelwood parkrun and I will mention that later, but the last week has been somewhat tumultuous in our family!

At 2am on Monday morning my little sister (she may be in her 40s but she will forever be my little sister) got a WhatsApp message telling her not to come in to work.  She was a cabin manager for Thomas Cook, she had worked for them for 20 years since leaving university.  She gained a law degree from a Russel Group university but, on graduating, didn't really know what she wanted to do with her life, so opted to be a 'trolley dolly' for a couple of years.  She loved the life style and quickly progressed to roles with increasing responsibility, taking a short maternity break and returning to her globe trotting lifestyle with the support of her husband.

To date, nearly a week after the collapse of the company, she has not received any communication from either Thomas Cook or the receivers.  She is one of the 'lucky ones' in that her husband is not a Thomas Cook employee.  So many of her friends and colleagues married fellow employees (I guess it  helps when your partner understands the particular stresses and strains of your job) and now neither of them have a job.  The company collapsed a week before payday.  Three weeks of work and no sign of a pay check yet!

So what did my sister do?  Well, she mopped around the house for 24hrs and then she got cross.  Especially when she read about the bonuses the board had taken out of the company over the past few years.  She has spent the last 20 years being reminded that she is ultimately accountable for her actions when at work... but it seems that this doesn't apply to the bosses at Thomas Cook!

This made her a bit cross (actually - she was pretty livid!) and made her want to do something.  She decided to make a banner, put on her uniform and walk to Westminster to demand some answers.  Which doesn't sound that mad an idea until you realise she lives in Devon and that walk is about 200 miles!  I don't know about you, but I am all for mad exploits - but I like a bit of planning.... Rachel didn't have time for planning - she wants to try to meet up with other Thomas Cook employees for a protest so had no choice other than to go to her jobseeker's interview and then set straight off to walk to London from Newton Abbot!

She left at 12.30 yesterday arriving in Exeter at The Devon Hotel (where they looked after her and charged her a discounted rate) and has now finished her second day of walking (somewhere this side of Honiton) and has assured Husbando that she has somewhere safe to stay tonight.  Most people who set off to walk any distance longer than to the local pub and back spend a bit of time working out routes, where they will stay and what to do when things go wrong!  Rachel knows the route - having commuted from Devon to Gatwick for the last 7 or 8 years - but walking is very different to driving!  

I have shared her story pretty widely, and it has been mentioned on the BBC business news website, but what would be lovely would be if people could look out for her as she walks and maybe walk with her for a few miles.  There can't be that many people walking along in Thomas Cook cabin crew uniform - and I'm sure she'd welcome a bit of company and maybe a hot drink.   Or if you are feeling generous you can contribute to her fundraising page here.

I haven't told her yet but I am so proud of her that I am going to try to get her to come to our school to talk to our students about the whole experience... once she has had a chance to recover from her epic journey!

Here is her route for Sunday:

All this was milling around my head as we ran at Hazelwood parkrun today.  Chosen purely because it was on the way into London and JB had already done Homewood parkrun.  Hazelwood is the home of the London Irish rugby team, so the facilities were fab - toilets near the start, big screen TV showing the Ireland v. Japan rugby match, but I hadn't done my homework (it has been a pretty full on week) and had not done any research, so pitched up in road shoes for a course that was almost entirely on grass.  As it would be around rugby pitches!

The run director gave a great run brief before we walked to the start.  The course is one short lap followed by two long laps.  It is almost pancake flat and could be a very fast course, were it not for the incompatibility of road shoes and grass and the huge headwind on the second lap - I went from 7.15min/mile pace to just over 8min/mile pace along that outward stretch!  JB, major surgery last week not withstanding, ran on ahead.  I assumed Husbando was also ahead, so was surprised when he caught me up at about 4k!  We ran the last k 'together' with him pulling ahead just before the end... but I wasn't having that and overtook him just before we entered the finish funnel!  I was a mere 9 seconds slower than my all time parkrun PB!

Coffee (and bacon rolls for some) in the club house afterwards completed the morning nicely.  The marshals and volunteers made us feel very welcome - so big thank you to them all!

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Running in the House of Mouse.

Some time ago, and without my knowledge, Husbando wrote to my headteacher to ask for a day off for me.  I have long thought that teachers should be allowed to have a couple of days that they could take off, with prior agreement and ensuring that adequate cover work is left, each year so that they can attend important events that take place in term time. Like weddings.  On, in my case, races.  But that isn't the way it works, and I was thrilled when I found out a few days before the trip that Husbando had booked a long weekend at Disneyland Paris for the Run Disney weekend.   Even more excitingly we were going to travel over with a group of friends as part of the very prolonged celebration of my fast approaching significant birthday.

We had a few anxious days before the trip, as one of our friends ended up having surgery on Thursday to deal with some pesky kidney stones, but thankfully the surgeon gave him the all clear to run so long as he took it easy.  He was travelling with his (grown up) children so they were on hand to carry suitcases for him.  The journey over was uneventful and didn't even involve getting up too early, which was nice.

On arriving we went straight to the Expo to collect our bib numbers (A pen for most of us, E for elite for the super speedy family), a whole stack of race t-shirts, look at and purchase yet more running related stuff and sort out photopasses and all that sort of stuff.  We then checked into the hotel, Newport Bay, grabbed some food and then just relaxed before the first race.

The 5k
The 5k race starts at 8pm on the Friday evening.  We all decided to start in the same pen (A) and managed to work our way to near the front.  Our pen closed at 7.40pm and by this time pens B,C and D were filling up very quickly.  A few minutes before 8pm the wheelchair race started.  Now these weren't David Weir style wheelchair racers, a lot of the wheelchairs were pretty standard 'street' wheelchairs being pushed by companions, so they weren't likely to be setting off at a fast pace.  At 8pm the elite runners went off, followed by the 'invited runners' and then we were off.

We ran down a short hill to a very sharp right hand turn and into the back of walkers and wheelchairs!    Husbando and I planned to take this 5k easy, but wanted to 'peg it' to the first character so that we could avoid the queues and still get some photos.  We didn't recognise the first character, so didn't stop!  We carried on to the second, but the queue was huge, so we didn't stop... in fact we didn't stop for any of the characters... they were few and far between and nothing that we thought worth stopping for!  We finished in about 22 and a half minutes, collected our medals and made our way to the bar to wait for everyone else.  The bar was near the start and runners were still streaming past.  The last runners must have gone through the start close to 9pm!  And some of them had been waiting since about 7pm.

We toddled off to bed to try to get as much sleep as possible.

The 10k 
A 4.30am alarm is never welcome.  Especially when your first thought on waking is 'Oh my God!  I've got to do this again tomorrow!'  We pulled on our running kit and went down to get some breakfast and a cup of something almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea (as Douglas Adams so perfectly put it).  We were in the pen by 6am, shivering somewhat in the chilly early morning air.  It was the same set up at the start  as at the 5k (and would be at the half) with the same, inevitable, bunching of runners near the start.  Husbando wasn't feeling great, we knew that we had to run again the next day, so we took it easy.  We stopped for character photos and photos with firemen, but again the characters didn't really appeal if I am honest.  I think it was all princesses and lots of them were quite difficult to see from the route, so you'd see them after you had run past.

After the run we went back for second breakfast (surely the best meal of the day), a shower and a day spent in the parks and then an evening dodging the gilet jaunes in Paris to get to a restaurant where the second bottle of wine was possibly an error and the complimentary limoncellos were definitely a mistake!  I poured myself into bed at about 11pm, cursing the thought of yet another early start.

The half
Same drill as the day before!  But warmer this morning.  The first part of the route was around the service areas and then it weaved in, out and around around the park.  This was great as it allowed for loo stops (most welcome) and we stopped for character photos too.  I felt great (despite the hangover) and would have liked to run a wee bit faster, but Husbando was still feeling somewhat below par so we kept the pace down.  I am unusual in that I like the bits outside the park!  There is a nice section in a park that goes around a lake, there are some lovely gentle downhills and bastarding long slogs up the corresponding uphills.

More firemen during the half marathon
At about 15k Husbando stopped for a pee, I ran on slowly, he must have had the longest pee ever because I had almost given up on ever seeing him again when he appeared at my shoulder!  I had found it quite painful to slow down and now struggled to speed up again, but luckily there was a downhill section ahead which helped.  Husbando seemed to have had a miracle recovery and we were now upping the pace.  It felt great.  Until 19k, when we came into the Disney Village, past a MacDonalds and the smell of food hit me.  The smell of fast food is grim at the best of time, when running with a hangover it is the last thing I want to smell.  My stomach churned.  I thought I was going to lose my breakfast.  I told Husbando to run on as I slowed down in an attempt to calm my tummy.  A second wave of nausea hit me as I passed somewhere cooking hotdogs.  Who wants hotdogs before 9am on a Sunday morning?

Once passed the food smells I felt better.  And I was nearly at the end.  Less than 2000m to go.  Could I catch Husbando?  I sped up until I could just about see him ahead, then worked on closing the gap.  I kept pushing, working hard for the first time in the race, but couldn't quite do it.  I finished 26 seconds behind him.  It isn't a PB race, but this is the first time I have run it in less than 2 hours, even though it was 8minutes slower than my half marathon PB from 5 years ago!

After meeting up with friends we made out way back to the Expo to collect the 'challenge medals.'  In addition to the three races you can collect medals for running 31k and 36k (which we did), and if you are lucky enough to have run a Disney half or marathon in America in the same year you can claim the 'Castle to Chateau Challenge' medal.  We then had a mad dash back to the hotel for second breakfast, showers and an 11am checkout.  We mooched around the park for a few hours, ate some lunch etc. until it was time to catch our train home.

We had a great weekend.  I did feel that I didn't see quite enough of any of my friends, but we have all survived to run another day, so there will be many more opportunities for mad running exploits in the future...and the not too distant future at that.