Sunday, 16 June 2019

Epic, brutal, relentless

Endure 24, 'Glastonbury for runners' - or at least that is what the advertising would have you believe. I've only ever entered as a solo runner because the pressure of running to a timetable would be far too stressful.  I ran this event in 2016 and 2017, but deferred last year as I was recovering from pneumonia.  I'd convinced myself that I'd enjoyed these events, so a little bit of me was looking forward to 'doing some running' and spending time with running friends.

Sadly, the middle of June is one of the busiest times of the year for a teacher, so the build up for Endure24 had involved me staying up until 1am most evening writing reports and marking end of year examinations.  I had done no running at all in the week before Endure.  I felt more stressed than I can ever remember feeling in my life, while running is normally my escape mechanism, couldn't even begin to get my head around the idea of Endure24 this year.  So, preparations involved throwing some running kit into the back of the car on Friday evening (having relied on the lovely MrB to find us a camping plot) and getting a relatively early night.

I arrived at Wasing Park on Saturday morning. the event seemed much bigger than two years ago, found our spot in the 'solo runners' area and sat down to wait for 12 noon.  Mr B had a score to settle with his last Endure experience, but I had no real goals.  I was very aware that I hadn't trained for a 24 hour event.

Endure involves running as many 5 mile laps as you can within 24 hours.  You can do this as a small team (4 runners), large team (8 runners), pairs (male, female, mixed) or solo.  I've heard lots of people ask why anyone would want to run it as a solo runner and my answer is quite simple - if I am the only person running I can run to my own timetable - I don't need to run in a specific time, that and the fact that I don't have enough friends mad enough to be on a team with me!

At 12noon we were off.  The weather was... meh!  Not raining but not great.  We had a couple of major downpours during the first few laps and the ground underfoot was very slippery in places but I was bimbling along at a happy pace... walking up the hills and running the flats and downhills.  Fanstastic to see so many of my running friends and to chat with them.  Everything was going well until about 24 miles when it felt as though I had no power in my left leg and my quads starting telling me that I was an evil person for making them work so hard!  At the end of my 5th lap I stopped for a massage with Steve from North Hampshire Sports Massage which seemed to help and then set out for another lap.  

Finishing that lap, I found that Husbando and child #5 were at Wasing Park - so a welcome stop for food was called for.  We had 'second supper' at the end of my subsequent lap and then they went home.  I did another lap, taking my total for the day to 50 miles, had a quick chat with Mr B's children, another massage and then went to my car for a bit of a kip.  I'd suspected that I had a blister on my right foot since about 10 miles in so decided not to take my trainers and socks off and look.  I reclined the seat, grabbed my sleeping bag and set my alarm.  Three lovely hours of sleep - with only one interruption from my older daughter on What'sApp!

Fifteen minutes after the alarm went off I was out on the course trying to ease my legs into motion.  I'd found an alarming message on the white board MrB and I were using to communicate to say that he had been taken to hospital did wonder if I should do 'something' but in the absence of knowing what to do I decided to carry on 'running.'
I managed a bit of running but, to be fair, I don't think my 'running' was any faster than my walking!  It was also really cold out there.  It may be mid June, but I was wearing 3 layers, plus a jacket, gloves and a hat.  Breakfast, a Twix, a Mars Bar, a packet of salt and vinegar crisps, followed - then another lap - made bearable by walking with Russ from the Run MD team and then my penultimate lap in god awful weather with the very lovely Pauline.  The rain made already tricky conditions absolutely treacherous - I don't think I've ever seen quite so many people fall over in one race - and we didn't take much (any!) persuading to walk rather than run!

On my previous two visits to Endure24 I've managed 70 miles.  I'd love to have done more miles this year and, in theory, I finished 70 miles with more than enough time to go out again.  But everything hurt.  And discretion is, apparently, the better part of valour...I'd run the first 25 miles really easily and happily, but after that it was a battle of mind over matter, even lifting my left leg hurt towards the end.  What would I gain by running 75 miles?  Nothing much.

Given the state of my legs now, 70 miles was probably a mistake (and my feet are covered in blisters), but that is the thing about Endure - it is a mind game as much as anything.  I mean, who in their right mind sets out to run or walk any distance the day after they have run 50 miles?

PS:  MrB is fine.  He was released from hospital after they checked him out - apparently the excitement of seeing a place of freshly cooked chips was too much for him and caused him to pass out!

Thanks to all the marshals on the course, to all the other runners for their support.  Congratulations to everyone who smashed targets, vanquished demons and generally had a good time this weekend.  I'm pondering how I will get my shoes on for work tomorrow morning and wondering what the pupils will make of the fact that I have SOLO written in Sharpie on both my calves.....

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Revenge of the Fifth

I am not a Star Wars fan, I don't dislike it, I've just never watched any of the films and have never really bought into the hype, but I do love an On The Whistle event!  They are never too far away from home, they are always well organised and are full of friendly faces.  

Today is the 29th anniversary of the day Husbando and I met, and out friends' 29th wedding anniversary - so it seemed a good idea to celebrate with a little run.  The plan was that we would all take part, but Husbando was injured so in the end it was just the three of us.  It has been quite a few weeks for all of us.  We all ran Paris, and we all ran at least a marathon distance last weekend, I managed a course PB at Alice Holt parkrun yesterday - it is fair to say that all of us had slightly tired legs...but probably not as tired as the legs of the people who had run at On The Whistle's 'May the fourth be with you' run yesterday!  Nevertheless, none of us are getting any younger, and we felt that we all deserved a bit of a rest this weekend.  

The weather looked glorious from the safety of my bedroom.  Once outside it was clear that it was surprisingly chilly, my decision to wear shorts looked a bit daft, but at least I could skulk in my car until minutes before the start, this did mean I missed out on chatting with friends, but warm legs won out!  

After the race brief I found myself at the front of the runners waiting on the start line and consequently started off much faster than I had planned, but my legs felt ok, so I kept going.  About 15 minutes in I decided that I needed the loo - and as the nearest ones were back at the start area I was quite happy to be moving quickly!  I said hello to old friends and chatted with new faces as I ran.  The joy of an out and back is that you see the same people lots of times.  After a quick loo stop I thought that M (who ran Nohtaram Eht with me last week) might have overtaken me, so looked forward to catching him up. It soon became evident that he hadn't.  My pace was still a little bit too fast for a 'gentle run' but I had fallen into pace with two blokes (one from Gosport Runners) and we were chatting about races and goals etc.  We'd just navigated the one muddy section when I saw a figure running towards us took me a few seconds to realise it was a friend of mine.   I stopped for a chat and then M caught me up - he stopped for a chat too before we carried on together.  
M and I ran the rest of that lap and the next two together, chatting about all sorts of rubbish.  It is amazing how much shorter the laps seem when you are distracted by conversation!  M was adamant that he was only doing a half marathon (i.e. four laps), I'd started the day uncertain of what I wanted to do, but the thought of four more laps on my own (potentially) didn't appeal, so I was happy to stop when he did.  We bought coffees from the Really Awesome Coffee Van and waited for the last member of our group to finish.  

One of the best things about a half marathon is that you can still walk when you have finished, you also have the rest of the day to do stuff in!  You still get a fab medal (today's medal glows in the dark) and the smug feeling of having done some exercise, but without the legs like lead feeling!  

It was great to see so many friendly faces today - some of whom I haven't seen for a while, but I was getting pretty chilly rather quickly so after hanging around for about 45 minutes I decided to go home and get warm!  Thank you to Kiernan, Claire and Del and their team for a great morning - I'm sure I'll be back again soon for more!

Monday, 29 April 2019

Nohtaram Eht

Photo by Craig Wilson of Impact Marathons
We all know that there is only one marathon that counts.  Only one marathon that is 26.2 miles long, and being that long is the longest and toughest race in the whole entire history of the World.  It is a fact, universally acknowledged that London Marathon is the only marathon that matters... or so it seems at times.  It is invariably the one you get asked about the minute anyone knows you have run a marathon.  In fact this morning I was put on the spot in staff briefing when the head asked me to tell the assembled staff how I had got on in 'The Marathon!'  I had to explain that I had taken part in something far more esoteric... Honestly, the lengths I will go to to avoid having to put up with Husbando's pre-race faffing have reached a whole new level!  He did have a place and I was thrilled for him, if a little (lot?) jealous.  I'd run the race in 2017 and have fond memories of the amazing crowds, seeing friends on the route and chatting to lots of other runners and, while I was happy to be there to support other runners I didn't want to totally miss out on the running fun.

I remembered hearing about groups of runners who ran the route in reverse before the official race started.  In previous years this sounded like the stupidest of stupid ideas but not this year.  I had one friend who also thought it might be fun, be we didn't want to run by ourselves - we might get lost or, possibly worse, run out of things to say to each other! I asked some running friends who had heard of such madness but didn't know about anyone doing it this year, so I resorted to Google and Facebook and stumbled across a Facebook group set up by Impact Marathons.  I'd never heard of them, I didn't have time to do much research and what was the worst that could happen if I arranged to meet a group of total strangers in the middle of the night in central London?

After an early supper and a second gin and tonic (a nightcap obviously) M and I retired to our beds at about 8.30pm, telling Husbando to be quiet when he returned to the hotel room and setting our alarms for 1am.  I am not sure about M, but I was still wide awake at 11pm and think I probably fell asleep about 20 minutes before the alarm went.  At which point I was very glad I had gone to sleep in my running kit - it saved a lot of thought.  A quick 'breakfast' and a cup of tea and then we laced up our running shoes, grabbed our ultra vests (stuffed with snacks and water) and headed off along The Strand to meet 'everyone' by Nelson's Column.  What surprised me is that our group included at least two people who had never run a marathon before.

It was cold, bitterly so in the wind, so it was a relief to move towards the finish line on The Mall after a brief welcome from Nick (from Impact Marathons).  We were reminded that this was an informal, unofficial event, that we should respect the security measures in place, not be idiots and to have run (I paraphrase - but that was the gist!)  On The Mall the finish gantry and barriers were in place and I thought that this would be the case for the whole 26.2 miles and that getting lost would be impossible.  We set off at a fair old pace, considering that as a group we were supposed to be aiming for between 5 and 6hrs!  We passed nightclubs where people queuing to get in at 3am - they thought we were mad to be out running.  Our part of the group were probably going a little too fast, hitting 6miles in under an hour and then realising we couldn't see the 'thin blue line' anywhere.  To be fair a broken dark blue paint line is rather tricky to spot on a wet tarmac road at night, but we had no idea where to go now,  no amount of looking at maps on phones seemed to help, so we waited for the others to catch up and then got ourselves pointed in the right direction again.

About this time it started raining.  It was fairly persistent and not terribly pleasant when combined with the remnants of the wind from Storm Hannah, I was very glad of my oversized, cheap as chips, Primark jacket!  The mood was upbeat, there were lots of new people to chat to, lots of interesting stories to hear, for me there were lots of day dreams about traveling to run marathons in exotic locations as I learnt more about the way Impact Marathons work, the pace, being slower than my recent marathon, felt easy and my legs felt good.    My stomach was another matter!  It was not happy about being asked to deal with food and exercise in the middle of the night.

We got properly lost in Canary Wharf...we managed to add an extra two miles to our journey, obviously we were very keen to get our money's worth out of a free event.  Once back on track we were rather more cautious about the route and I managed to stay on track from then on.  We met up with more runners at the half way point, just before crossing Tower Bridge - an opportunity for photos that could not be missed.  The roads were surprisingly busy, but the pavements were quiet!  We saw the occasional reveller wobble their way back to the night bus, had several shouts of 'You're going the wrong way' and 'You're too early' from passing cars and, from time to time, saw other groups of runners who were also enjoying the novelty of running in London at night.

Once south of the river following the route was much more straightforward.  It was starting to get lighter and towards the very end the stewards were starting to populate their marshal points.  Some of them looked at us with utter bewilderment, others cheered us on, and I must mention that at one point on the route (I think on the Isle of Dogs) two ladies were out with Jelly Babies supporting runners at 4am!  Was possibly the most delicious Jelly Baby ever!

We saw foxes in Beckton - the bravest foxes that I have ever seen, they were only a couple of feet away from us and totally unperturbed by our presence and listened to the dawn chorus, it was all rather surreal!  I had forgotten that the first few miles of the London Marathon are downhill.  This meant that the last few miles of our run were decidedly up hill.  There was a little less chat going on now as we were all knuckling down to get the run finished.  I felt more awake than I have done for a long time, and enjoyed chatting to a lovely lady called Rachel (and eating her crystallised ginger) as we chased down the final couple of miles.  We were so eager to finish that we managed to pull a 7.30min/mile out of somewhere for the last mile!

We couldn't quite get to the start line.  The officials at the start were very pleasant and friendly, but on that they were not budging.  We had to stop about 50m short of the line, it is just as well we had some extra distance in the bank from earlier, I'm not sure running out and backs to make up the distance would have been much fun!  A lot of our group were going on for breakfast after the run, we couldn't join them due to needing to get back into central London and the fact that a breakfast would be wasted on me so soon after running that far!  I was amazed that so many runners were already assembling at the start area.  My friends and family always ridicule me for getting everywhere far too early, but even I wouldn't show up at 7.15am for a race that starts at 10am!  This flow of runners from the station was very useful as we used them to find our way to Blackheath Station, via Costa for a much needed cup of tea.

The small world of running was in evidence again.  We bumped into one friend in the coffee shop and another (who lives in my tiny village) on the way back to the station.

Would I do this again?  Yesterday my answer would have been 'Hell no!'  I was glad that I had done it, but it really brought home to me that a big part of 'the London Marathon experience' is the crowd support.  Running at night was fun, enjoyable, a great way to meet people, but it struck me that vast sections of the route are a bit dull!  Today I am not so sure... I could probably be tempted to give it another go.  It was nice to run with no time pressure, where everyone was happy to stop and wait while we worked out which portaloos weren't locked, and the main aim was to get to the start in one piece!  

Thank you to Impact Marathons for giving me the opportunity to do this mad, mad run.  I'll be looking at your website when I get a few spare minutes and dreaming/planning to join you again I hope.  Thanks also to M for your company.

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Eastleigh parkrun

At supper the other night, one of our many 'planning' meetings where nothing gets planned as we get too engrossed in food and conversation so have to convene another planning meeting and another one before resorting to a series of WhatsApp messages to actually firm up arrangements, MrB and I decided to go to Eastleigh this parkrun day.  We had talked about Portsmouth Lakeside, which could be why I tried to override the sat nav and send us towards Portsmouth.  Luckily MrB and the sat nav won and we headed off down the the M3 arriving at Fleming Park with plenty of time to comment on how windy it was!

Fleming Park was a golf course until 2008 with the parkrun taking place up and down some of the old fairways. The park is now home to a leisure centre and Pavilion on the Park which is where the start and finish of the parkrun can be found.  There is some parking right net to the Pavilion and more by the leisure centre.  The parking by the Pavilion was free - we hope!  We didn't see any machines or signs for payment.  There are loos at the cafe that were open before the start and we decided to take shelter from the wind in the Blackbird Cafe, while reading the menu to plan our post run treats.

After a quick first timers' briefing and a slightly longer run brief (where I had to use my teacher voice because too many people were talking - sorry!) we were off.  I like to listen to the run brief.  In addition to important safety announcements there is often information about upcoming local events - it only takes a few minutes and is just the polite thing to do!  I don't think I could do the role of run director - as a teacher I would want to wait for silence before I started the briefing.... it could make for a very late start.

The course is three fairly flat laps, MrB and I set off at a nice easy pace - he is running that there big marathon thing in London tomorrow and I am running the route in reverse overnight tonight.  We had a chatty run.  I suspect that we were that annoying pair that seems to breeze past you without pausing in conversation or appearing out of breath - sorry for that.  A year ago I would have been thrilled to run 3 miles at the pace I ran today, thanks to weight loss and training it now represents an easy paced run!  The course is just what you'd imagine an old golf course to be... wide open spaces, wooded areas and gently undulating.  It is all on grass or mud paths, I can imagine that it can get very soft underfoot in wet weather, but it was firm today.  You need to watch out for slightly uneven ground though.

I do love a parkrun with a cafe at the finish - and Eastleigh didn't disappoint!  I still think that post parkrun coffee is the most important bit of the morning.  I must remember to pack my reusable coffee mug in my kit bag though as discounts for using your own mug are becoming more common and it is much better for the environment.

Thank you to all the volunteers at Eastleigh today - we had a lovely morning.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Post Paris Prospect parkrun

 It seems like years since I was standing, shivering in the Bois de Boulogne last weekend.  A lot has happened in one short week, not least of which is a total change in the weather.  Today called for shorts, t-shirts, sunnies and sunscreen!  I'm not entirely sure how we decided on today's venue, but Prospect parkrun was chosen, probably because it was fairly nearby and none of us had run it before.

We found our way easily enough, parking in the carpark at a nearby Asda (two hours free parking if you are a customer, so we had to buy some Easter eggs!) and walking/jogging to the start in the middle of Prospect Park.  The park is Reading's largest open space, the name deriving from the views across the Kennet Valley.  These views are best seen from the highest point of the park - the Mansion House - which is now a Harvester.  There are loos available near the start, and should you wish to have a post parkrun game of bowls there is a bowling green for your pleasure.

The first timers'  briefing and the main run brief all take part near the start.  I was surprised to bump into a friend I hadn't seen for ages and ages - a reminder of how small the parkrun world really is.  As you might discern from the photo we wore our Paris finisher shirts with pride, the man in the background in the 250 shirt with the beard had also run the Paris Marathon last Sunday.  The start was wide allowing us to set off at a fine pace....up hill!

The course is two laps, all on grass, neatly squashed into the lower half of the park.  This is fine, as the other half of the park is up hill!  I set off way too fast, so the second and third miles were a case of just hanging on and hoping that the wheels didn't fall off totally.   I know that all parkruns are the same length, but some of them seem much longer than others.  Today was a long one!  Whether it was being tired after last weekend and an emotional week I don't know, but a part of me thinks that parkruns when you can see just how much of the park there is still to run though seems to make it even longer.  On the plus side, it is all relatively flat and, in this weather, nice and firm under foot.  A few bits of uneven ground but nothing to worry about.  I can only imagine how muddy it can get in the wet winter weather - I don't think I'll be back to visit then!  The marshals were friendly and encouraging - especially another friend who called out my name as I ran past!

I didn't realise that Husbando was seconds behind me all the way around.  He was just a bit too far away for me to be able to hear his breathing, and too close for me to spot him behind me as we ran around the corners.  Apparently he tried to catch me, but didn't have it today.  We finished in 29th and 30th places,  I was first in my age category and third lady, just 11 seconds slower than my overall parkrun PB.

After we'd had our barcodes scanned we walked up to the Mansion House for post parkrun tea and coffee.  How lovely to be able to sit outside in the sunshine, and what lovely views!  Thank you to all the volunteers for another super parkrun!

Sunday, 14 April 2019

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

(It strikes me that I may well have used this blog title before, but recycling is all the rage these days!)

This year sees Husbando and I celebrating surviving 25 years of married bliss and me hitting yet another landmark birthday.  What started as a daft idea, around the kitchen table over one too many bottles of wine, became a plan for 6 of us to travel to Paris, do some running, eat some food and see some sights.  Two members of our party had never run a marathon, one swore he'd never run a marathon, but was fairly easily persuaded that it would be great fun.  His wife, the sensible half of the partnership, declared that there was no danger of her ever running more than a 10k, but that she was more than happy to be our bag lady!

As it happened, our non running friend didn't make the trip as her father was unwell, but the rest of us set out on Friday in high spirits, arriving in time to collect our race numbers from the Expo and do a little shopping for 'essential' running kit before heading off for supper at one of our favourite restaurants.  

I'd brought my park run barcode with me and was determined to complete a French park run.  After a week that was light on running there was always a risk that I would run too fast at parkrun, so I was pleased to meet up with an old university friend and enjoy a sedate, but chatty, 29 minute run around Bois de Boulogne parkrun.  The attendance was vastly inflated by the number of tourists, but we were made to feel very welcome by the volunteers and locals.  This is a fabulous parkrun - it has the potential to be really fast, hopefully I can come back one day and run it for a time.

We all got an early night last night.  Our hotel put on an early breakfast for the marathon runners and we discussed how bitterly cold it was outside as we ate our porridge.  Two years ago it had been 26C in the shade at 8am, this year it was 1C!  We were wearing just about all the extra layers we could and procrastinating for as long as we could.  Eventually we could wait no longer.  Off we set.  We were walking down the stairs from the reception of the hotel at 7.15am local time (so 6.15am at home) when Husbando's phone rang.  He answered it to hear that his father had died. Not the news we expected to hear at all.  Husbando was poleaxed - one minute walking down the stairs, the next he was sitting on the floor.  Very quickly we knew that we would go ahead and run - what good would going home do?  We spent most of the journey in to the race start trying to get in touch with family and friends.

We still arrived at the start with plenty of time, dropped off our bags and made our way to the starting pens.  And here there was a HUGE issue.  We could not get in to the pen.  The pavement was packed with runners but they wouldn't open the pen (recommended time to arrive was 8.10am, we were there at 8.10am).  The crowds were huge.  We'd been told that entry to the pen closed at 8.25am (for an 8.40am race start) but at 8.25 we were still waiting to get in.  Eventually a tiny gap was opened in the fence with one person checking race numbers.  It was truly terrifying.  At one point I got pushed over from behind, and as I fell to the floor I could feel the crowd surging forward.  It was really easy to see how things could go very badly wrong very quickly.  I was very lucky, I didn't realise how badly I'd bashed my shoulder until after the marathon and the bruises on my legs will heal, but I was very shaken by the experience.

Once we got running things improved.  We started off together, but a wee stop for me at about 4 miles saw us split up pretty quickly.  Husbando waited for me, but the others went on.  We were making good time and it felt easy.  We made some gallows humour jokes (as one does) and enjoyed the cool weather - I say 'enjoyed' but in reality I was whinging about the fact I couldn't feel my fingers! We ran on together into the Bois de Vincennes, when he decided to take a wee break.  He said that I should carry on and he would catch up.  So on I ran.  We were both on our 'phones a lot as we tried to contact friends and family, and I got a text from Husband saying he thought he'd run past me, so I tried to catch him up.  Further 'phone calls and texts followed and we established that I was probably ahead of him.   Ah well, I eased off the pace a little and kept my eyes open.  The pace felt good, the weather was lovely, the Soreen Mini Malt Loaves were delicious.  The runners were plentiful, the course was crowded - and to be honest when the supporters are on the green 'racing line' you know that the course is considerably narrowed!

From about 20km my tummy was really painful.  I managed to hold it together until I saw some portaloos at 30km.  I trust that the portaloo I used will never be used again.  I was not a well bunny!  While I was 'otherwise engaged' Husbando texted me to say that he had just passed the 30km mark, so it was up to me to catch him up again.  We were obviously both running well as it took me nearly 10km to do this!

I hadn't for one moment thought that getting a good time was on the cards today.  I just wanted to clock a sub 4hr time to prove that February's time wasn't a fluke, but with about 6 miles to go I realised that I could get a good for age time for London if I didn't let the pace slip.  The last 6 miles of a marathon are the longest 6 miles, but I still felt fairly chipper so decided to ignore the voice in my head telling me that I am not capable of running well and just bloody well get on with it!  The course changes meant that the final stages included some long, steady, uphill sections that were really rather tough, but I refused to give up.  With about a mile and a half to go I spotted Husbando ahead and 'sprinted' to catch him up.  We had a little chat and he told me to go on as he was feeling a bit blown, so on I went over all the sodding cobbles!

Running up Ave Foch, glancing at my watch, I found it hard to believe I was actually going to do it.  I was going to get a GFA time for London and Boston.  How did an 'okayish' runner manage this?  Diet and training played a HUGE part!  But if I can do it so can anyone!

There were many tears at the finish.  The four of us who had set out together all ran really well, three PBs and a first marathon time (the first marathon time being faster than any of our PBs!) I had a wobbly moment which involved me thinking I was going to throw up, faint and poop my pants at the same time!  I ended up crouched by the railings crying while the first aiders tried to work out what on Earth the mad old woman was on about!

The medal is... minimalist... but actually not as bad as it looks in the photo.  We made our way back to the hotel (how many stairs are there on the metro?) showered, made yet more 'phone calls before heading out to eat our body weight in steak frites!

As road marathons go, Paris is beautiful -but the arrangements at the start this year would make me think very carefully about whether I would do it again!

Saturday, 6 April 2019

The CurlyWurly One!

School is now out for Easter and time is doing that weird thing where it seems like only yesterday that we were on half term, but last weekend (and my trip to Edinburgh) seems like a lifetime ago!  Finishing school at lunchtime on Friday meant that I could head down to Bath with Husbando (who was on his way to a book fair) and still arrive in daylight - much nicer than arriving in Edinburgh at nearly midnight!I've done a fair few parkruns around Bath over the years, so this weekend we had decided on the relatively new Somerdale Pavilion parkrun.  When I say 'we' I don't mean Husbando and me, I mean the motley crew in the photo above!  It was John's 50th different parkrun location and our fancy dress co-ordinator had organised supplies of John's club vest and glasses so we could all be John in the photo - we even had barcodes to prove it!  I did draw the line at wearing the cow bobble hat though!

Somerdale Pavilion is the site of the old Cadbury's chocolate factory (that was closed by Kraft in 2010 and production moved to a factory in Poland), the factory has been sold to a housing developer and lots of houses have been built where previously Cadbury's Creme Eggs and Crunchies were made.The developers have gone some way to maintaining the character of the original site - the central factory has, I assume, been converted to apartments with some food/retail outlets to come soon, and the surrounding housing development looks well planned with lots of open spaces, and this all backs on to sports fields and golf ranges.  It is also now home to the Sham Cross Cyclecross course - which is where parkrun happens!    
I was the first of our group to arrive.  In fact I think I arrived before anyone from parkrun - which gave me plenty of time to worry about which car park I should be parking in, go for a warm up jog, re park my car etc. etc.  I investigated the start location, the cafe and the loos - very nice loos inside the pavilion itself. It was a wee bit chilly and the course is quite exposed, so I wasn't looking forward to running in a vest top!  
Soon we were all assembled at the start as the run director described the course and announced several milestone runs.  The course can only really be described as 'bonkers!'  It is marked out for the cyclocross so there is little chance of getting lost on the 2 lap route, although you do tend to lose all sense of direction as you turn left and right with alarming regularity around some very tight bends!  The famous 'curly curly' comes towards the end of each lap and I must admit to being very glad when we got to the centre and reversed direction to come out again - I was beginning to get a bit dizzy!  

I set off a bit too fast, nearly good a tumble on the uneven ground at the first sharp corner, completing my first mile in a smidge over 7 minutes.  The wind was evil!  And the twists and turns meant that it was only a matter of seconds before it was going to be full in your face again!  I thought I might be first female, but wasn't sure as it was impossible to keep track of who was where!  I thought there were two women close behind me and tried to keep track of whether they were gaining on me or not.  The ground underfoot was uneven but, thankfully, not too muddy.  As I passed my friend who was tailwalking she confirmed that I was first lady, but I had no idea if I could hold on to the lead until the end, so I just kept going.  I didn't look at my watch, I didn't trust myself to look at my wrist and not fall over!  As I crossed the finish line I did look at my watch 22:39 it said - which would not only be a PB( by 2 seconds), but the last number I need for stopwatch bingo.  When the official results came in (very speedily) I think I was more upset to miss out on the stopwatch bingo than a new parkrun PB!  (Official time 22:42).  I was first lady to finish, coming in 11th overall, John finished 4th overall and as we waited for the others I went to fetch the shortbread and ginger cake from my car and John poured the fizz!  

Once we had all finished and after John had been reunited with his car key (that had fallen out near the start) we made our way to the cafe in the Pavilion, breakfast looked good and was very reasonably priced.  We also ate cake and some people had CurlyWurlys too before we all had to go our separate ways.  What was lovely to see was the number of parkrunners enjoying a post run coffee and chat.  This has always been such an important part of the morning to me, but at a few parkruns recently not many people seem to go for coffee.  
As always, a huge thank you to all the volunteers who made this morning possible!  A great parkrun - very unique!  I'd love to have been a fly on the wall when the route was originally proposed - it is utterly bonkers, harder to run than you'd imagine for a flat course, but great fun!  Thank you!

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Edinburgh parkrun - and a bit more running

A mad dash from work to the train station on Friday evening meant that I got to Edinburgh just before midnight to join Husbando, who had driven up for a book fair on Thursday.  I barely registered my surroundings as I collapsed into bed, offering prayers of gratitude to the parkrun gods for decreeing that Scottish parkruns should start at 9.30am rather than 9.00am!  I was still less than overjoyed when the alarm went off on Saturday morning - we'd allowed plenty of time to run the 'six-ish' miles to Edinburgh parkrun.  We had a quick breakfast, checked the directions on our 'phones and off we set.  The skies were slightly grey and foreboding, but the promised rain seemed to be holding off.  

Plodding along at an easy pace we tried our best not to whinge about 'all the bloody hills' we were going to have to run up on our way back into the city after  parkrun, the route we plotted had some interesting bits, through Princes Garden for example, but a long stretch of the route was along the A90 Queensferry Road and through residential areas.  A wee bit dull and we were both thinking that jumping on a bus to do the return journey might be a very good idea.  

At one junction we stopped to check the route on our 'phones.  A taxi driver slowed down and asked us if we were heading to parkrun - we confirmed that we were and he pointed us in the right direction - downhill to the beach!  

Cramond is to the northwest of Edinburgh - Miss Jean Brodie spent much of her 'prime' in Cramond visiting Mr Lowther and one of Ian Rankin's "Rebus" novels was set there too - although I can't remember which one... might have been "Fleshmarket Close."  The beach is home to an 8 tonne carved stone fish, a sculpture created by Roland Rae that used to be on display at Holyrood Park and then at the Falkirk Wheel.  There is also a poignant golden bicycle on the promenade.  A little bit of research suggests that it is part of a scheme to raise awareness of childhood cancer.   I couldn't look at it for very long. 

We made our way to the start, chatted with a man from Tooting/Clapham Common parkrun, listened to the first timers' briefing and then waited for the start.  We thought we were quite close to the front of the pack but suddenly eleventy billion runners appeared from nowhere and we were very much towards to the back of the field.  We weren't too worried - we had 6 miles (and I may have had a few G&Ts on the train the night before) in our systems.  The run briefing was the quietest run briefing I had been to for a very long time, 649 runners listening in virtual silence as we were welcomed to the parkrun.  Milestones (both arbitrary and real) were announced and applauded and then we were off.  

It took forever to get going.  Note to self: get closer to the front of the pack old girl!  The route is an out and back along the promenade.  As I ran the 'out' part I was mildly concerned about how the front runners would contend with the seething throng of runners as they attempted to run back to the start.  I needn't have worried though - a loop at the end of the course meant that this problem did not arise.  Anyway, after walking the first 10m to get past the start line I ran a fairly sedate first mile, overtaking people and watching Husbando almost vanish into the distance, as we rounded the corner the headwind immediately made itself felt.  To be fair, we had been warned about this during the first timers' briefing - it really did take my breath away.  The path was wide and flat, the views over the water were lovely and running felt relatively easy.  I was overtaking people all the way up to the finish - which is always a lovely feeling - but I didn't manage to catch Husbando finishing 37 seconds behind him.  More importantly I was three seconds slower than my overall parkrun PB.  Gutting!  Had I realised what a fast course it would be I would have made sure that I started a lot nearer the front.    The long finish funnel was well organised and runners kept moving down the line to collect their finish tokens and get their barcodes scanned. 

Once we'd been scanned and collected our discarded jackets we made our way to the Boardwalk Beach Club  where I resisted the fantastic array of cakes, settling for a pot of tea, while Husbando inhaled a bacon roll and a cup of coffee.  We chatted with other parkrunners and learnt that there was a slightly shorter and more interesting route back into the centre of Edinburgh.  We thought about it and decided that, as the training plan called for a 12 mile run this weekend - which was unlikely to happen on Sunday due to being stuck in a car all day, we really ought to just get on with it and run back.  

The run back took us back along a cycle path that follows a disused railway line.  Husbando was thrilled!  He was even more thrilled that we passed though two old stations... I hate to admit it, but I don't think I'd have noticed the platforms if he hadn't pointed them out to me.  We encountered many rugby fans making their way to Murrayfield so had to do some weaving to avoid collisions, but following the path was a lot easier than having to keep checking which way we were going.  It was also a lot flatter than the route we had taken earlier in the day.  We finished our run just short of out hotel in Princes Garden - stopping to take selfies with the castle in the background!

Huge thanks to the volunteer team for making today's run happen.  A flat course that has the potential to be very fast - it - I thought it was great.   Thank you one and all.

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Possibly the most fun I've ever had at a race.

My level of planning for this weekend's main event is evidenced by the fact I was surprised when my friends said they would pick me up at 6.15am.  SIX FIFTEEN AM!  It was only then that it dawned on me that the race was starting at 8.30am and a long way away!  I got into the car having observed that it was tipping down with rain and a wee bit blowy - I'd had to go out earlier and move the blown over recycling boxes from the driveway and muttered words to the effect of 'whose bright idea was this?  I only need to run 15 miles this Sunday, why am I running a marathon?'  But I'd paid my entry fee, I knew that the medal would be epic, White Star Running always have great medals, and I have an almost full collection of the 'old style' Larmer medals (the only one that is missing is the 10 mile race), so off we set towards Larmer Tree Gardens.  The wind buffeted the car around a bit, but we could see blue skies ahead.

We parked, collected our numbers, said hello to some friends, visited the loos.  I can honestly say that I have never felt sea sick in a portaloo before today - but the wind was so strong that the loo was rocking.  It was somewhat alarming to note that six of the loos had actually been blown over!  The portaloos weren't the only casualty of the wind, the start was delayed due to a tree having been blown down, but soon we were off.

The first couple of miles were quite crowded and I was quite happy just trotting along.  About a mile in a friend (who I met at the Larmer 20 back in 2016) said hello!  I haven't seen him for absolutely ages, so it was lovely to find that he was running with a group of friends.  I asked what his plan was for the race, his reply was that they wanted to 'extract the maximum amount of humour from the day!'  This seemed like a jolly good idea so I joined them.

From then on we just had a blast!  The wind was epic, it knocked us sideways at times, it made it pointless to try and run when we were going directly into a headwind and, on a few occasions, virtually lifted me off the ground and propelled me forwards!  We walked up the hills, and into the strongest winds and ran the downhills where we could.  The hills, oh my, the hills!  I am not quite sure how I could have forgotten how steep some of them are.  We chatted and chatted, covering all sorts of topics (apologies to anyone who had to listen in), I couldn't believe how quickly the miles were passing!   We stopped for snacks and drinks at well stocked aid stations (I'd brought along mini Soreen Malt Loaves - which I think may be my new running snack of choice) and some people even imbibed schnapps and beers at the Love Station.

I felt no pressure to run fast, I was pretty sure that this was going to be slower than my previous marathon here, but I didn't care.  I felt comfortable and running (when we could be bothered!) felt natural and easy (when it wasn't into a headwind!) and was amazed that the miles seemed to be flying despite the rather large amount of walking we were doing!  The views were stunning, the weather was, with the exception of the wind, relatively kind to us.  We did have a few short bursts of hail - that really hurts and lowers the temperature dramatically.  There was mud, but it wasn't too muddy - last year we were running in the aftermath of the 'Beast from the East' when there was still snow on the ground!  This year all we had to do was avoid falling branches!

Soon we had passed the last aid station, just a flat section (that was much drier than previous years) and a longish uphill towards the finish.  We came out from behind a hedge to run towards the finish, and were hit again by the wind.  Our thoughts of running triumphantly to the finish were delayed somewhat!  We'd start to run at that sign, no, the next tree... We did run to the finish, crossing the line in a happy, laughing gaggle of hugs!  We collected our gorgeous medals and food vouchers before getting a cup of tea (a couple of us had been talk about a 'nice cup of tea' for about 8 miles) and going to collect our food.

Free hot food for the runners is a lovely touch - it also means that you get to hang around with your running buddies and chat about how amazing the race was!  I felt great, I didn't feel as though I'd run a marathon.  I thought that my time must be slower than when I ran in 2017, but looking back at the results I was 17 minutes faster this time.  It wasn't by any means a fast time - but it was a fun time.

Thanks to Andy and his team for another excellent event.  The weather can't have made things easy - I am surprised that the gazebos stayed in place, and the marshals and people on the aid station were out in the cold for hours and hours!  We really loved all the hills (honest), the route was stunning and the signage was both informative and amusing!  I'm sure we'll back for another event soon.

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Sand, mud, puddles, wind and rain!

 On Friday morning, year 9, in an attempt to delay starting to do any actual work, asked me what I was doing this weekend.  "I'll be at parkrun on Saturday and I have a race on Sunday," was my reply.  Apparently this is the answer I give nearly every weekend, and I guess it is probably true.  It doesn't make it any less enjoyable though!

The parkrun was a new one.  I know that 'inaugural chasing' is discouraged, but I was invited down there by a friend who is local and this weekend was the only one I could make for ages and ages.  I needed a chauffeur though, so took a friend! We arrived early at Mountbatten School parkrun, so had no problems finding a parking place.  Mountbatten School is an 11-16 school that opened in the year I was born and converted to academy status in 2011.  The parkrun is 3 laps around the school playing fields.  I am sure it will become an easier run as the path gets worn by hundreds of feet running the route, but on Saturday it was a really tricky run!  It felt like every footfall was at a different angle, the ground was soft to muddy (and therefore slippery) with some very tight turns and long stretches with a real camber on the path.  I think my left leg is now longer than my right one.  For a flat course it was very slow!  I passed the finish, at the end of my second lap, at 17 minutes - and there was no sign of a first finisher!  I think he came in about 40 seconds later.  The parkrun ran smoothly, barcodes were scanned, results were processed etc. but there was no cafe.  I always feel a bit sad when there isn't a cafe that loads of people go to!  As there had been no cafe announcement (and nothing on the web page) we asked, and were told that they were hoping to be able to persuade a nearby coffee shop to open earlier (than 11am) and that this week the volunteers were going to the Costa in a local leisure centre... so that's where we went.   If I recall correctly, Paul Sinton Hewitt was always very keen on the post run coffee part of parkrun.   This is where the community part of the parkrun magic happens.
Pre race hydration

Saturday night was spent with friends 'planning' our trip to Paris to run the marathon there.  We seem to have a lot of meetings that involve food, wine and maybe about one useful planning decision, but they are a lot of fun - if not ideal in terms of pre race food and hydration!  Paris is my 'target marathon' for the spring.  The one where I want to run a good time - at the beginning of the year that would have been a sub 4 hour marathon, now I would like to get a good for age time for London.  Every year I pick a target marathon and write this on my laminated training plan, the one I have used since my first marathon in October 2012, and then sort of follow it.

Note the Sharpie attached to the laminated sheet
- you can take the teacher out of the school...
By 'sort of' what I mean is that I do the mid week runs, pretty much, work permitting, and make sure that my long, slow run is at least as long as the one in the plan.  And then I get click happy on the internet and enter races, lots of long races, or races that have the potential to be long races.  This year, and in a previous year (2016 I think) my running has been going really well.  The temptation to run all the long races as fast as I can is huge when running is going well.  In 2016 this did not end well, I ended up running the Paris Marathon in 4hrs 01 minute - utterly gutting!  So this year, having run two marathons, one sub 4 hrs, and an even faster paced 20 miler already this year, I have decided to stick slightly more closely to the plan so that I don't arrive in Paris with nothing left to give on the day.  

Today's event was another one from On The Whistle.  I love this company and not just because, being local, I don't have to get out of bed at sparrow fart on a Sunday morning!  They run excellent, low key, multi lap events with a six hour time limit.  The venue today was Hogmoor Inclosure - a former Army tank training ground.  I woke up to rain and wind - thank you Storm Freya - and a little bit of me was hoping that the event might have to be cancelled (we had been told that the situation would be kept under review because no one wants trees falling on them).  It wasn't cancelled.  I had to get ready and get to Bordon.

I arrived and bumped into a teacher I know from a school I used to teach at... I didn't know he had started running and to find that the gazebo had blown over!  The rain was coming at us horizontally, if you could find a sheltered spot out of the wind and rain it wasn't actually too cold, but it is hard to run while sitting in your car!  There were lots of friendly faces out today, but it was hard to recognise people as they hunkered down inside coats and under hats!  Once we got running we felt a bit warmer, until feet met puddles...

The route was an out and back with a small loop at one end which went in a U shape around the Hogmoor Inclosure - we got to see a lot more of the place than we see at parkrun and I am tempted to go back (in nice weather) to explore more.  Lots of the route was on firm paths (with puddles) but there were long sections on sand - of varying degrees of wetness!  I can't over emphasise how sapping running on wet sand, in the rain, with a cross wind is!  Out and back we went.  Six laps would give me 19.8 miles - which was as close to 18 miles as I could get it, so that is what I was aiming for.  At one point it stopped raining, and I thought 'f*ck it - may as well run a marathon,' but then it started tipping it down again so I was happy to stick to six laps!

I had lots of chats with friends.  I knew that one of them was planning to run a half marathon (four laps) and knew that I was slightly ahead of him.  I hadn't seen him for AGES, so thought I would put in some effort and catch him up.  I thought I was on my fourth lap and that he was on his third.  I arrived at the aid station to see him with his medal - I'd got my lap counting wrong!  Oops!  But on the plus side I had finished lap five and only had one more to go!

After finishing and collecting my medal (my younger daughter thinks it is the most adorable medal ever) I peeled off some of my wet clothing and went home via the supermarket.  I was hoping that some of the mud would fall off my legs before I got home (it didn't - the photo shows my legs when I got home).  Standing in the shampoo aisle I suddenly regretted not running the extra two laps, but not for too long!

Thank you to the On The Whistle team for another great event, it was great to see you out on the course today... roll on the next event!

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Osterley parkrun.

 I hadn't planned to go to Osterley parkrun this morning. I had intended to go to Tooting Common parkrun in order to tick off the letter T on my alphabet challenge but I changed my mind.  After looking at several possible locations and working out journey times and the possibility of meeting up with friends Osterley came out as the most likely contender.  

Osterley parkrun in held in the grounds of Osterley House - a Georgian estate in Isleworth.  Walking from the tube station (Piccadilly line) up to the start along a tree lined drive we passed cattle and horses grazing in the parkland - it didn't feel as though we were in an urban area, but. in the countryside!  Apparently Osterley, now owned by the National Trust is one of the last surviving country estates in London.  The house was described by Horace Walpole as the 'palace of palaces' having been designed in the 18th century by Robert Adam for the Child family to entertain their  friends and clients.  

Despite the mist, approaching the start was impressive.  Past a lake with swans, ducks, geese and moor hens, and then the house itself! A very grand portico emerged from the mist and as we were very early we had the place to ourselves.  Soon the parkrun magic started to happen... people in lycra started appearing, a finish funnel was set up and soon we were warming up, listening to the first timer's brief and getting ready to start... right in front of the house.  

The course was on hard paths and flat.  There was a section that felt like it was ever so slightly downhill, but I never found the corresponding up hill, so maybe I was imagining it!  The paths were wide, so the congestion at the start was very short lived.  I found the going pretty hard for the first mile - I didn't look at my watch until the beep told me that I had done my first mile.  No wonder I was finding it hard going my pace was 7.13min/mile.  I eased off for the second mile, but was still kicking along quite nicely.  The marshals were friendly - I tried to thank them all as I went past.   My younger daughter had come along for an outing, she set off after the tail walker with the intention of walking one lap and taking some photos.  About half a mile before then end I ran past her, she told me that I was in 64th place.  At this point I was tempted to let some people pass me so that I could get finishing token 69 for the second week running, but looking at my watch I could see that I might be able to get a sub 23 minute time.

I've only run sub 23 minutes once before - and that was on the old Fulham Palace parkrun course that was short.  My next fastest time was 23.10 at Northalla Fields back in March 2016.  I didn't think it would ever be possible to run faster than my Fulham Palace time... but I was wrong.  By a whole 2 seconds.  Today I ran 22:41 - a brand new shiny PB for me.  Utterly thrilled with that - although apparently I wasn't trying hard enough if I could a) thank the marshals and b) didn't need to cling onto the fence at the end!  

After the run we celebrated with coffee in the cafe.  One of the benefits of being at a National Trust property is that the cafe is great (the cakes looked really yummy and the bacon and egg rolls that my friends ordered looked fabulous).   There are also loos near to the start and parking is free.   Sadly we didn't have time to look around the house today - but hopefully we can come back again, run again and see the house.  

Thank you to all the marshals and volunteers who made today happen!  

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Bramley 20/10

I don't recall ever making a conscious decision to enter this race this year.  I had suggested the 20 mile race to a friend as a good training race for him in preparation for his first marathon, but hadn't really considered running it myself.  Then Husbando said that he thought he might benefit from running it too and suddenly it seemed daft not to take part too.  Being a local race it is quite shocking to realise that I haven't run it for a couple of years.  Especially when you factor in the very excellent hospitality offered by friends who happen to live right next to the start line.  Not only do we get a bit of a gossip, a cup of tea and proper loos we also get to park less than a mile and a half from the start.

The weather was wonderful, sunny, warm with just a light wind.  We took off some extra layers and, at the allotted time - a civilised 10.30am start so not only a local race but a lie in too - we made our way to the start, bumping into lots of friends on the way.  We had a plan.  I almost always have a plan.  I very rarely stick to a plan.  Our plan was to run at 9min/mile pace and to see if we could run the whole thing together.  It would be R's longest run ever, having never run more than 14 miles before and I was still feeling the effects of my marathon the previous weekend.  None of us had anything to prove.  A slightly downhill start made for a faster than anticipated start, but our thinking was that we would 'bank' the time for the hills.  We ran and chatted, I stopped to hug a friend I haven't seen in a long time, ran for a couple of miles with another friend.  The route seemed to feature an awful lot of downhill.  I was beginning to worry about the huge hills I could remember at miles 6 and 8.  When they came they seemed to have shrunk - hopefully this is a reflection on my training and the fact that I live on the side of a hill now.  We came through the 10 mile mark in a 10mile PB time - simultaneously thrilled and wishing that I didn't have to run another lap.  But another lap was what I had signed up for, so off we went.

We passed the bus stop where, in a previous year. I had stopped for a little sob and to phone home (no one came to collect me so I had to run on then) and back around the course - which was considerably less busy than the first time around, we stuck together until about 15 miles.  At this point Husbando told R and I to go on as he was struggling.  R and I carried on together until just after 16.5  miles - and the second ascent of the slope that masquerades as a hill, but I felt I was holding him back.  Despite never running this far he was absolutely smashing the distance, looking light and easy on his feet.  I was beginning to feel the effects of lots of miles and tendonitis in my right knee.  My 18th mile was my slowed mile, but still below the 9min/mile target that we had set ourselves.  I began to think that I might, just might, be able to better my 20 mile PB - which I remembered as 2hrs 50mins and change.  But I was going to have to pull my finger out.  Which was fine as in my memory it was down hill all the way to the finish.  I'd forgotten a sneaky little rise in the last mile, but I pushed on - remembering to smile for the cameras as I passed them.

The finish was not as downhill as I remembered from previous years, but I tried to pick up the pace a bit.  I crossed the finish line and stopped my watch - 2hrs 49mins and 44secs - I'd done it.  My fastest paced long run ever!  I stopped to chat with friends who were waiting at the finish line (thank you to them for the photo) and to wait for Husbando to cross the line - which he did about 45 seconds after me.  After that we collected our medals and goodie bags, found R (conscientiously doing his stretches) and headed back to A&G's for post race scoff and more gossip.

Garmin and Strava have both been playing up today - so it took ages to upload and do the normal post race faffing and checking of splits etc.  Now that I have, and now that I have checked the results from previous years I find that I was comfortably inside my previous PB of 2hrs 52mins 13secs! Still, I am glad I pushed myself - I felt as though I could comfortably have run on for another 6 miles, and even if I had dropped to 9min/mile pace (or even a bit slower) I would have comfortably run another sub 4hr marathon - heck, at 9min/miles I'd have had good for age for London in the bag.  Let's just hope that I can replicate this later in the year.

Thank you to everyone who was supporting on the course, whether they are official marshals, water station volunteers from the ACF, police cadets and Scouts or friends and family cheering us on- your support was much appreciated!