Sunday, 2 December 2012

Phew! That's a relief!

I thought that I couldn't run any more!  I was starting to get really rather distressed about this!   I've had a tough few weeks, physically and mentally.  I ended up going to the doctor for some medicine that really didn't agree with me, although it took me a while to realise that it was the medicine that was causing the problem.

Running, for me, is a great source of relaxation.  A time to get outside and think things over, or not think of anything at all apart from the rhythm of my feet as they hit the ground and the beat of my heart as it pumps the blood around my body.  In times of stress my first instinct is to grab my running shoes and hit the road.  So, having hit a rough patch this is just what I did.  Only to find that I could only stagger about half a mile before needing to stop, catch my breath and recover before ploughing slowly on.  Every breath felts as though I were breathing through a marshmallow, and my legs just refused to respond.  2.5 miles into a 3 mile run (and I had to get to 3 miles to pick up the car to come home) I stood by the road feeling absolutely shredded.  I have run half marathons at a much faster pace and felt better after them.  I had no idea what was going on, but was almost in tears about the whole thing!

I'd stopped taking the drugs the previous day, but obviously they were still whizzing round my system. I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to complete a 5km parkrun yesterday morning, so when I remembered that a friend was coming along, and that her 5k time was slower than mine I jumped at the chance to run with her.  She may think that I was encouraging her along, but she was my life line and kept me going.

As it was, the weather was cold and bright - lovely running conditions if a little slippery underfoot.  I was still nervous as the run director completed his briefing and led us all to the start line.  Once we set off the nerves dissipated somewhat, helped by the gentle downward slope for the first kilometer.  I told my friend that she was in charge of the pace and I would run at her speed (all the time thinking "I hope she doesn't go off too fast, I won't keep up and will look a right twit!") but I needn't have worried.  We set off at a nice steady pace.  We hadn't seen each for months, so there was lots to catch up on and, as those who know me will testify, I can talk for NATO!  At the back of my mind I was thinking 'I'm running!  My legs work!  My chest feels fine!'  I could have run the whole way easily!

With only 66 runners I can see how it might be discouraging for slower runners if they were there on there own.  At the first Alice Holt parkrun there were over 150 runners, so that feeling of running alone (and wondering just how close to the back of the pack you were) wouldn't happen.  I am sure that as this parkrun grows in popularity this will cease to be an issue.  As for my friend, when she turned up she told me that her 5k time was around 33minutes, well, she smashed that one yesterday, coming in with a time of just over 31 minutes on a challenging course.  I see a sub 30 minute time in the very near future for her.  She really did dig deep yesterday, pushing herself round.

This morning, the nerves returned a wee bit as I had planned a 9 mile run to meet Husbando and No.1 Son for breakfast.  It was very icy and as I started out I began to notice that my chest was tight.  I also realised I was thinking about work, that I'd spent a lot of recent runs thinking about work.  I decided to consciously think of other things (upcoming films, the amount of Chinese food eaten last night, the content of Seb Coe's autobiography) and the tight chested feeling passed!  It was never going to be a fast run, the road was too slippery to take risks, but it was a beautiful, frosty morning.  A chance to remember that I run because I enjoy running.  That should be reason enough!

(Thanks to Mark Cornwell for the photograph)

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Alice Holt inaugural parkrun

About six months ago I answered a request for people to help set up a new parkrun.  It was all very exciting, planning new routes, meeting new people, setting up new Facebook pages and so on.  Sadly, due to work and home commitments, I couldn't play as active a part in the event team as I would have liked, but I still kept up to date with what was going on (as I have admin rights on the Facebook page!) and was thrilled to hear that the event was starting today.  

I'd run a couple of the proposed routes with Martin Bushell (event director) and other members of the team back in June, but I hadn't even looked to see where the official route would take us.  Alice Holt is far from flat, so I knew we would be in for an interesting run.  

This is now my nearest parkrun, being about 4 miles up the road from me, this meant that I could have a little bit of a lie in this morning, getting up at ten past seven rather than seven o'clock!  I chivied the two younger boys into their shorts and trainers, drank a quick cup of tea, transferred my Alice Holt parking ticket from one car to another, checked I had all the barcodes and bundled the children into the car.  Finding a parking place at 8.30am is not going to be a problem at this venue - there are vast pay and display car parks.  Canny locals tell me that there are free car parks a short walk away, but I'm far too lazy for that!

It was lovely to see so many friendly faces at the start.  There were regulars there from Basingstoke and Frimley Lodge parkruns, Chineham Park Running Club had a huge presence on the day, and I spotted several people from the online running community that is Fetcheveryone.  parkrun royalty was represented by Paul Sinton-Hewitt (it is his fault we are all up early running round parks in the first place) and Danny Norman (of 'The parkrun show' fame).   Event director Martin welcomed us all to the forest and did the first of many very successful pre-run briefings.  If he was nervous it didn't show!  

And then we were off!  The start is nice and wide, with a gentle downhill slope for the first couple of hundred metres.  'Not so fast Freddy' and I fell into step (for a little while) beside a lady with a 50 club t shirt on and we ran and chatted for a while.  We talked about various things running related, and she mentioned that she runs round marathons counting them out in parkruns.  'That's odd,' I said, 'There was a lady on the parkrun show the week before last who said the same thing!'  'That's because that lady was me!' said Louise Ayling! 

The two lap course is lovely, very up and down, but the hills are quite short so you don't notice them too much!  It is a beautiful place to run and I reckon the changing seasons will provide plenty of wonderful scenery.    

It was wet and quite slippery today, Freddy went flying at one point fairly early on, covering his 10 club t-shirt in thick mud.  Strangely (!) he was quite grumpy about the whole thing after that and I really had to cajole/bully/threaten/bribe him round.  On the plus side this did give me time to chat with the wonderful marshals and to take photos!  Another advantage is that if I run it on my own I will easily get a PB!  My other son had run on ahead of us.  

We were only lapped by one person, I do hate being lapped, but was gracious and cheered Danny on!  Danny in turn encouraged Freddy as he passed us (again) on his warm down lap!  I don't think this will ever be a very fast 5k course, even in dry conditions as it is quite undulating with a lot of uneven ground (which was quite 'challenging' for my dodgy foot), but is it a fun course with lots of twists and turns.

Coffee afterwards at The Cafe on The Green was very welcome on a chilly morning.  Lots of chance to socialise, eat cake, discuss the route, eat cake, talk about other parkruns and eat cake.  Actually, the boys both had the 'woodsman breakfast' which was good value at £4.95 each and looked delicious.  The coffee was good too!  

My middle child is planning to do his ESB exam talk about parkrun this year, and was keen to get pictures of all four club T-shirts (and their wearers!) in one place.  Danny (250), Nicola (100),Freddy (10) and an as yet unknown member of the 100 club obliged.  I am very grateful, as is he! 

So, will I change my home parkrun?  Probably not, but I will try to run my local parkrun on a regular basis.  I have one son who loved Alice Holt and one who swears he will never run it again (that'll be because he fell over!) but will happily volunteer!  So to keep everyone, including me, happy (I like a shopping fix after my B'stoke parkrun as well as a gossip with my B'stoke parkrun family) it looks as though we will be visiting Alice Holt occasionally.    If any of my running buddies wants to visit Alice Holt parkrun I am more than happy to meet you there!  

Friday, 16 November 2012

Night running

Last night I went for my first properly dark run of the autumn.  By the time I got home from work it wasn't dusk or twilight anymore, it was just dark. 

I don't like running in the dark, it means that I can't run my normal routes along single track country lanes because there is absolutely no street lighting out there and many potholes!  I am rather fond of having two ankles that function reasonably well most of the time and see no reason to increase the chances of breaking one, or both of them.  Winter evening running means a change of route, I have to turn left, not right, as I leave my road and towards town.  This at least guarantees me pavements and street lighting for most of the route. 

But I still want to be seen.  I'd rather not become a hood ornament on a 4x4, so I make sure that I am wearing a neon yellow top with reflective stripes and that I have a head torch.  My new one is rather clever in that it has a red light at the back as well as an exceedingly bright white one at the front.  I don't like wearing a head torch - it feels odd, and my field of vision is constricted to the illuminated beam directly in front of me, but I'd rather be safe. 

Last night's run won't go down as one of my best ever.  I am pretty sure that one shouldn't wheeze while running, but the remnants of the 'flu are obviously still with me.  Still, I'd had a stressful day at work and mentally felt far better after my run than before.

I ran 4 miles and in that time saw four people riding bicycles without lights.  I know that a lot of cyclists complain about inconsiderate drivers, but these four (who were all adults) really do give cyclists a bad name!  I am sure they would be most upset if they were hit by a car.  I was moving a lot slower than a car and almost ran into a cyclist stopped at a junction.  I thought lights on a bicycle were a legal requirement after dark, but maybe I am wrong.  If they aren't required by law then common sense says it is pretty obvious that they are sensible!  Mind you, none of these people were wearing cycling helmets either....

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Running free?

You may or may not have noticed that I quite like running.  I've been through periods where I've not been running well (I'm going through one of those at the moment) but even when this happens I hate not running more than I hate running.  In the 4 years since I started running I seem to have taken the blame for a fair few other people getting the running bug.  I quite often wax lyrical about the fact that running is a cheap activity.  Most of us own a pair of trainers and some sports wear.  All you need to do is lace up the trainers and step out of your front door.  No gym subscription vanishing via direct debit every month (whether you manage to make it to the gym or not) - what could be simpler than that?

But it isn't quite that simple is it?

Once you start getting more involved, dare I say obsessive, about running, you suddenly decide that you can't possibly manage without at least a couple of running outfits.  If you're lucky, you've hit this phase in the summer, and you can pick up a pair of shorts and a tech t-shirt for about £20 each, which makes 'running socks' at £10-£12 look really quite expensive, but you throw them into your shopping cart anyway.  If it is winter, you are probably going to end up with long running tights, long sleeved tops, maybe a running jacket, possibly a hat and definitely some gloves (I have been know to cry tears of pure misery if I've left my gloves at home in the winter).  The cost mounts up and up.

Then there's running shoes.  I've just bought a new pair and it only feels like a couple of weeks since my current pair were shiny and new.  Running shoes last for about 500 miles, and if you run 30 - 40 miles a week, well, you can do the maths as well as I can, the shoes don't last very long at all.  Like most people who run a lot, I don't ever want to find myself in the situation where I have to go on a long run, possibly a race, in new shoes, so I tend to buy a new pair about three quarters of the way through the life of the old pair.  And running shoes tend to be pricey.  Especially if you need shoes that stop you pronating as I do.  I had a voucher for 20% off running shoes today - and still ended up spending £80.  (They are lovely - I can't wait to wear them, but eighty quid for glorified plimsoles....)  Oh, and then someone mentions trail running and trail shoes, so you end up buying another pair of trainers that are destined to be covered in mud in perpetuity, never, ever fully drying out between puddle ridden (but great fun) runs.

Oh, and I almost forgot gadgets.  I do love a gadget!  This could range from a few pence for an add free version of an app on your smart phone to a couple of hundred pounds for a GPS watch and/or heart rate monitor.  If you are running you may as well know where you have been and how fast you were!  It all adds up....

.... and that's before you decide to enter races!  I try to forget how much these races cost to enter as soon as I have submitted my application.  I do know that the Reading Half for next year is £31.50 (for UKAA members) and the Great South Run is £41 (for just 10 miles).  The more high profile the race the greater the cost!  I don't even want to think how much I have spent on entering races in the last few years.

I'd like to apologise to the children and partners of anyone I have encouraged to run for any economies they have been forced to make just so the runner in their family can acquire a must have item (this week's must have item for me was a head torch), you know that running makes them happy don't you? You wouldn't really want them being cranky at home without a nice new {insert currently lusted after running item here} so that you can get the latest X-Box game would you?  Of course not!!

Thankfully parkrun is free!  A weekly running fix that cost nothing (although volunteering at events ins encouraged).  It is also a great way to get some experience of running with other people (in some cases a lot of other people - Bushy Park parkrun has over 800 runners every week), and challenging yourself against the clock and other people!

Sunday, 28 October 2012

You live and learn

(Or to quote the late, great Douglas Adams; 'You live and learn.  At any rate you live.')

I signed up for the Great South Run about this time last year, just after I'd run it.  Looking back I don't seem to have had a good time then, and I'd been ill when I'd run it the year before that in 2010.  It seems that I can do the living bit but not the learning!

Of course, when I signed up for this, and forked over my hard earned cash, I hadn't also signed up for a marathon and a half marathon in the same month.  A sensible person would have looked at her calendar, worked out which races she really didn't want to miss and given a place in one race away.  But I've never really been accused of being sensible.

Having decided to go ahead with all three races a sensible person would have factored in some rest time.  I did taper for the marathon, as in my mind my first marathon was very much the 'A' race, but I did not rest afterwards.  Admittedly I did not run on the Monday after the marathon (I tend not to run on a Monday) and I had a sports massage instead, but I did run on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, clocking up 13 miles in total.   This was a mistake.  I would normally take it easy before any race, and while 13 miles in a week is 'light mileage' compared to recent months it was far too much on the back of a marathon!

I was very glad of the extra hour in bed this morning - even if I did have to faff around with the clock in the car - and even though I had seriously contemplated rolling over and going back to sleep when the alarm went, I decided I had to run this race.  I'd been sponsored to do it for UNICEF and so I had no choice!  The forecast was for cold, wet weather, so I grabbed a t-shirt and capri length tights rather than my usual vest and shorts, ate some porridge, drank some tea and jumped into the car to set off for Portsmouth.  I got there early, because I don't know Portsmouth and hate getting stuck in traffic and panicking about where to park!  Soon after I arrived, armed with some marking to pass the time, I got a call from friends saying there were there too and suggesting we met up.  Much more fun to chat and gossip in the back of the CPRC minibus than mark year 11 biology papers on my own!

It was cold at the start, and we suffered the madness of an organised warm-up session.  When you have over 22,000 people crowded together in the road getting them to jump about is a bit comical!   Luckily I was in the orange wave, so didn't have to wait too long to start.

The race was as crowded as last year, with bottlenecks close to the beginning.  I think I lost my timing chip around this time.  Someone stepped on my foot - it hurt - and I think the chip came off then.  I didn't notice it was missing until much later, around the 8 mile mark so I can't be sure.  I started slow, and stayed slow!  Hitting the perfect pace that would have seen my do much better at the marathon last week!  I knew that this was not going to be a PB race for me, but I was disappointed at just how slowly I was running.  I couldn't run faster, or rather I was very aware that I could run faster but that if I did I was really going to pay for it, either in the later stages of the race or later this week.  And it is half term - I don't want to be suffering during my holiday!  It did seem nice and short.  Once I'd settled into a pace the miles seemed to slip by relatively quickly.  I was at the 5 mile marker before I felt we'd really got going, it was a relief to know I wasn't going to have to run for hours and hours with my tired legs!

The support was amazing!  I hi-fived every child I could manage, almost falling into the crowd as I jumped to hi-5 as toddler on her daddy's shoulders!  Such a difference from last week - there I was running on my own for miles at a time, this week I was dodging other runners for the entire ten miles.

We were lucky with the weather.  The threatened rain held off and it was warm enough once we got going.  Even as we came onto the seafront for the last 1.75 miles it was alright.  This is the third time I've done this race and I've been very lucky.  Seasoned Great South Runners talk about the 'icy blast' that comes off the sea, but I've not noticed it!  I'd noticed by now that my chip was gone, and was a bit cross, this meant that I would be marked DNF (did not finish) in the results, and I wouldn't get an official time.  I must have looked a bit despondent, at around 800m a supporter of the Chase Hospice team shouted 'Come on UNICEF!' and that gave me the boost I needed to pick up the pace for the last few hundred metres.

As I crossed the line I looked up and saw that the time was 1hr 35mins (and some seconds), I think it had taken me a good couple of minutes to get across the line at the start, so my time should be about 1hr 33mins.  Spookily, I do have a chip time recorded.  Someone must have picked it up and carried it across the line for me - it crossed the line in 1hr 34 min 04 seconds!

After the race and the collection of medals and goodie bags I met up briefly with friends before heading back to the car with its lovely warm heater!

Lots of good running by my friends to day, well done to you all!  Will I run this race again?  Probably, although I haven't signed up for it yet......

Sunday, 21 October 2012

I am a marathon runner!

This morning I had a lie in, compared to last week, but I was still out of bed  by 6am.  A quick cup of tea and a bowl of porridge while checking emails  before I collected my carefully organised kit and jumped into the car.  I'd left my race number on the keyboard last night so that there was no way I'd forget it, which is logical, until I moved it to send an email.  I'd only got 5 miles from home before I remembered and headed back.  No matter, I arrived at my friend's house at the right time, and was welcomed by his gorgeous little boy who had made us paper flowers for luck!

The Abingdon Marathon starts (and finishes) on a track.  It is a smallish race, with only about 1,000 runners.  I had a couple of hopes for the race, one was to finish in a higher position than my race number.  Looking around the assembling runners I began to doubt that this would be possible.  Very fit and fast looking people were running around the track to warm up, while I huddled under my space blanket!  

The race started promptly and we were off.  My aim was to run 10 minute miles, in the hope of coming in at around 4 hours and 20 minutes.  As this was my first marathon, I also accepted that things might not go to plan, and that four and a half hours would be acceptable and, if I'm honest, I'd be happy to finish before the course cut off of 5 hours.

Running conditions were lovely.  Cool and cloudy.  I had only done one short run since last weekend, and I was raring to go.  10 minute miles were proving impossible to maintain.  At about 1 mile in, Rohan came up behind me and told me that I was running at 8.40 minute mile pace.  I knew this, but I couldn't make my legs go any slower.  I needed a hill or something to slow me down.  I ran the first 5k in a respectable parkrun pace, and the first 10k was a season's best time for me.  Oops.  This was not the plan!  I walked through all the water stations in an attempt to slow myself down, and fall back down the field a bit to be running with slower runners.  It worked a bit. 

Around 10 miles I started to get very bored and wondered whether I could be bothered to finish, my foot was sore, but no more so than normal.  With a few notable exceptions (the Fetcheveryone fetchpoint being one of them) there was very little on course support.  The marshals were plentiful and excellent, but compared to big London races, it was lonely out there!  I ran 3 or 4 mile stretches on my own.  As the roads weren't closed MP3 players weren't allowed so I sang a bit in my head to keep myself going.  I also did some tricky maths problems to pass the time.  

The fetchpoint at mile 12 was a huge boost.  I still felt great, but bored, bored, bored!  Here though I got to meet people I've only chatted to online, and two lovely people I don't see often enough!  I was so thrilled to see Colin that I ran across the road to give him a hug. He lifted me clean off the ground!  I also dallied a bit to chat to the lovely Elaine.  You'd be hard pushed to find two nicer people to bump into during a marathon.   I carried on invigorated, and remotivated, but slower.  Which was no bad thing.  

I don't really remember when it started to feel like hard work.  I do know that I was getting slower and slower, looking forward to the water stations as an excuse to slow down, but it was progressively harder to get going again.  At one point I was desperate for a loo.  There were no loos.  I was on an industrial estate, so had to look around for a suitable bush!  Not the high point of my day, especially when I suddenly thought that the industrial park might have more CCTV cameras than the leafy lanes of Hampshire!  The marshals were excellent, encouraging us every step of the way.  Even if they did say, at 22 miles, the finish was 'just around the corner!'

At 25 miles my Garmin battery died.  It was fully charged at the start.  Clearly I need to run faster or get my Garmin serviced.  I hadn't checked my watch for a while so I had no clear idea of what sort of time I was on for.  All I could do was listen to my legs - which were screaming!   My feet had been perfectly dry until I came into the park, where we had to run through a big muddy puddle!  The cold water felt lovely after the initial shock.  

The race ended with a partial lap round the track.  As I passed the '200m to go' sign I decided that I was not content to shuffle over the line and pushed hard for home - a moment that was caught on camera by Colin: 

I finished in 4hrs 23 minutes and 8 seconds, which I am reasonably happy with.  Definite room for improvement, but I feel I can run better and faster if I do this again. 

After the race we collected goodie bags, t-shirts and medals (see below) and had to walk up stairs to exit the track.  At the top of the stairs we were given tea and biscuits, which were very welcome.  The next task was to walk down stairs, carrying a polystyrene cup of tea, biscuit, bag, t-shirt, medal and (in my case) a water bottle!  I think running a marathon was easier than that!  

Meeting up with super speedy friends afterwards, it was reassuring to see the that they too were walking strangely!  We managed to navigate our way to a Pizza Express we had passed during our run where we discussed our war stories and demolished pizzas!

So now I can say that I have run a marathon.  Would I do it again?  Yes!  But I would do it differently. I need to work on getting the pacing right so that I can enjoy the latter stages more.  I am so glad I did do it though!  If anyone wants to sponsor me retrospectively for this (I am fundraising for UNICEF) please follow this link!

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Sunday in the park with Toria

There was frost on the car when number one son and I left the house just before 7am this morning, but the clear skies boded well for a pleasant day ahead.  We had a clear run up to London, with the music being supplied by my son.  He has excellent taste in music, so we had an eclectic mix of old favourites and up to the minute music I hadn't heard before.  We were only driving because trains on Sunday don't start early enough to get into London, rather than try to find a parking space near Hyde Park we dumped the car at Hammersmith and took the tube in to Knightsbridge.

The park was heaving!  It seemed far busier than last year and despite the fact that it was raining last year and sunny this, it was very muddy in the race village.  Despite this, and horrendous queues for the loos, the organisation was great.  We checked our bags, arranged where we would meet up and I toddled off to the start of the half while my son went to wait for the start of the Pulse 3K.

My aim was to treat this as a training run with the added benefit of a medal and a goody bag (and the Royal Parks Half do the best goody bag I've ever had). I should have moved back a starting pen and not started with the 1hr 50min pace runner!  I ran the first 3 miles faster than any parkrun I have run since injuring my foot!

Then disaster struck.  My stomach started to cramp - I needed to find a loo, and I needed to find one pretty fast!  Luckily there were some convenient public loos on the Embankment with the coin operated barriers left open for the day.  There was the inevitable queue, but these loos were much nicer than the port-a-loos at the start of the race.  Sadly this was not the last comfort break I would need to make.  As we turned into The Mall I ducked into the Mall Galleries and cheekily asked to use their facilities, and there were two more stops needed in the park.

The running itself was tough.  My splits weren't great, I'd gone off far too fast and that dodgy tummy wasn't helping.  I was breaking in new(ish) trainers for the marathon and my feet did feel a bit odd.  They are the same make and model as last time, but it felt as though there was a seam across the ball of my foot.   Support on this run is generally great.  Lots of charities and lots of relatives cheering like mad, but there is a 'dead zone' in miles 9 through 11, which is made up of several, long, straight paths through the park.  This was tough last year, but was soul destroying this year.  To try to overcome my misery, I decided to talk to other people who looked like they were struggling even more than I was.  It worked, a bit!  After the race another UNICEF runner came up to me and said that me saying, as we went down a slight incline 'Let the hill do the work, you haven't got far to go!' really spurred him on when he was about to start walking.

My son, having completed his race 'in about 12 minutes', used the Royal Parks Half App to find out where I was and managed to see me in the final 800m.  With the end in sight, I did manage to up the pace a bit, running the final 450m in 8.12 minute mile pace.  My overall time was 2hrs 02mins and 57 secs - nearly 10 minutes slower than last year!

UNICEF, as ever, put on a great spread for their runners.  The massage was very welcome and much snacking was done by both of us!

I don't feel too achey this evening.  I think the many miles put in over the summer have helped.  Not sure whether it will be enough for the marathon.   I do know that if I have a dodgy tummy it will be impossible!  I don't think I'd even want to start!  I am gutted about my poor performance, while trying hard to be properly pleased (and not just a wee bit jealous) of all my local friends who ran the Basingstoke Half Marathon - they have all achieved FANTASTIC times on a really tough course!

Thank you to everyone who has sponsored me via my UNICEF fundraising page.  In two weeks time I will, hopefully, be tucked up in bed having completed my first marathon!

Friday, 5 October 2012


The thing about training for a marathon is that the hard work starts long, long before you turn up at the start line with butterflies in your stomach.  Every article I have read has stressed that there is no getting around the fact that if you want to run 26.2 miles, and still do something resembling walking the next day, you have to put in the miles in training.

Which sounds very simple.  And would be in an ideal world.

The reality is that your precious Sunday off work is taken up with a three and a half hour run in the rain and the wind.  You get home from work, fit to drop from the most trying of days to be faced, not only by the fact that your family needs feeding, helping with homework, talking to but also the fact that despite the fact that it is raining (again) and starting to get dark, you need to go out and run seven miles.  You fret about the one or two training runs you have missed because, having been on your feet until 9.30pm at work, you just could not face going out for a run in the dark and the rain.  Convincing yourself that if you blow up at 18 or 20 miles on 'the big day' it will because you were at Open Evening helping year six pupils make squeaky pops!  You worry even more when you have 'a bad run!'  One of those runs where everything hurts, you can't find a rhythm, you are slower than a snail and infinitely less graceful!

I am sure it will all be worth it when (note the optimisim!) I cross that finish line.  I do wish I was totally injury free, and had a chance of getting a decent time.  If I was to finish in about 4 hours (which is where I was aiming for before I hurt my foot) I think I might be happy to leave it at that and never run a marathon again.  I suspect that, if I get a poor time I will be tempted to prove I can do better.  We shall see!

In the meantime I have the Royal Parks Half on Sunday - the morning after a ball the night before!  Great planning!!  I'll be happy with 2 hours or thereabouts - much slower than last year, but I don't want to do too much damage!  If you want to sponsor me, and please please do because I am running for UNICEF, click HERE!!

Friday, 14 September 2012

Musings, not necessarily on the subject of running.

I was approached by a colleague in the staff room this week.  Given that I have spent most of the week scowling and hissing at anyone who tries to interrupt me on my trek from the chilly building site of my classroom to the relative sanctuary of the ladies loos or the warmth of the photocopier, she was a brave lady.  She'd heard that we lived in the same area and wondered if I wanted to carpool with her and another local colleague.

They are both lovely ladies, but my answer was 'No thank you!'  I didn't hesitate for a second, or say that I would think about it.  I totally understand that it makes sense to carpool, it saves money for everyone involved, it is the ecologically sound thing to do, the thing a responsible adult should do.  But I can't!  The idea of having to fit in with someone else's timetable is too stressful.  I like to leave the house when I want to leave the house, much earlier than most people, and arrive when there are very few other people around.  More importantly, I want to leave when I want to leave after school.  I suppose I could justify my reluctance to carpool by saying that I need to be able to get home quickly if something happened to any of the children.  But that isn't really true.  Husbando could get to the children from his shop far faster than I could anyway.  And what would happen about the radio?  Would we have to talk to each other every morning?  Would they want to listen to music rather than my beloved Radio 4? My car journey too and from work is a little oasis of 'me time' in a hectic day and I'm not going to share it!

Now this is a running muse.  When I run on a road with no pavement, I run, as mandated in the Highway Code, facing oncoming traffic.  Whenever I have run in a road race, whether or not the roads are closed, we are direct to run on the opposite side of the road.  Why?

There was something else I wanted to write about, but as soon as I sat down in front of the keyboard it vanished from my brain.  Or maybe it vanished in those few moments just as I was sitting down, but before my bum made contact with the seat, when my youngest came in asking me to get a cup for her so she could get some water.  I often wonder how many World shatteringly important thoughts have been lost forever because I have been interrupted by small (and not so small) children.

Anyway, it is parkrun day tomorrow.  There was a time when the between Friday and Sunday was known as Saturday, but it is now parkrun day.  I may be tired and grumpy this week, and I did briefly consider missing (I was going to say skipping - but the image of me skipping for 5k is not a pretty one!) parkrun and staying in bed tomorrow morning.  It won't happen, I'll be there at the start line, trying to remind  my legs that they know how to run a wee bit faster than they have in the last few months!

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Marathon training continues!

Just because I went back to work on Monday I haven't been slacking on the training.  In fact, amid the chaos of returning to a classroom in the middle of a building site, running represents an bit of an oasis of calm.  I tend to run on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, but this week I had to rejig things a bit as we went up to the Paralympics on Tuesday evening after school.  We took the three bigger children and had a fantastic time at the athletics.  Super atmosphere and a great night out.  As I type this the closing ceremony is playing in the background.  We've had such a wonderful summer of sport, it seems very sad that it is ending.  

I was somewhat apprehensive about today's run.  18 miles is a long way, and my previous long run (15 miles) was a nightmare from start to finish.  And 18 miles is further than 15 miles!  When I finished the 15 miler I was so miserable I considered stopping all this marathon nonsense, and quite possibly quitting running altogether.  

This morning we got up early, leaving the house at 4.30am so that Husbando could get to his book fair in London.  I set out on my run at 6am, when it was already 61F.  I'd been chatting with a running friend about the fact that I was going through a phase of not really enjoying running.  He suggested that I should try running a lot slower than I normally would on my long runs.  With this in mind I set off planning to run 10 minute miles.  

It was lovely.  Beautifully blue skies, many roads closed for the Paralympic marathon, and all run at a pace that I felt I could carry in running for ever.  Unfortunately my bladder had other ideas!  Or rather my mind did!  For some reason, the thought popped into my head that it was going to prove impractical to pop behind a hedge if I needed a pee.  From that moment on I needed a pee constantly!  Luckily there were enough Starbucks and McDonald's open!  

I ran along The Embankment, with a detour up to the King's Road (Starbucks!) as far as Wandsworth Bridge and then came back along the South Bank, through Battersea Park and back over Battersea Bridge.  As I turned right coming off the bridge I noticed a runner in front of me who was swaying somewhat.  I knew something was wrong, so sped up a bit to try and catch her.  I didn't manage it.  She fell, falling hard against the iron railings and fell, unconscious, to the pavement.  I sprinted, yanking my 'phone out of my pocket and trying to remember what number to dial to call 999!  I checked her pulse and her breathing, and was about to put her in the recovery position when she started fitting.  I was on the phone by now summoning an ambulance.  My instructions were that we were on Chelsea Embankment, 50m east of Battersea Bridge.  I was asked if I could be more specific!  Er, no!  I don't have an OS map to provide an 8 figure grid reference!  

Meanwhile the lady (Lisa) was starting to come round.  She had huge lacerations to her face and was very confused.  I was sitting on the ground next to her, holding her hand.  The woman on the phone was asking me all sorts of questions that I really didn't want to answer with the patient listening, but we got there in the end!  As we waited for the ambulance I dialled Lisa's husband on my phone, so that she could tell him what was going on (she had no phone with her).  It seemed a long wait, but the when they arrived they were efficient and friendly whisking Lisa off to St Thomas's.  I phoned her husband again to let him know where she was going.  I hope she is Ok.  

Then I had to start running again.  That was hard.  I'd already run nearly 11 miles, and then sat on a pavement for ages getting nice and stiff!  Somehow I managed.  I crossed the river again at some point, running along the South Bank as far as Southwark Cathedral, before coming back and crossing over the Millennium Footbridge (a first for me - I wanted to check it was safe before risking it).  At about 15 miles I suddenly realised that I was able to do this!  I could run 18 miles and I was enjoying it!  I could have carried on much longer, so I figure that I will just accept that I am going to run a very slow marathon, and give myself a time to improve on!  

As I ran back along The Embankment I was again on the Paralympic marathon route.  I saw a fair few runners, but not David Weir (it would be greedy to watch him win two medals I suppose).  It was a fantastic atmosphere, with crowds cheering athletes on, and turning to cheer me on when there were no real runners to watch! 

I have just one more really long run to do now before THE BIG DAY!  22 miles in a couple of weeks, but I shall just go out slow and steady and remember that the reason I run is because I enjoy it!  

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Is it all in the mind?

In the absence of anyone I respect telling me that I shouldn't run the Abingdon marathon I have very little option but to carry on training!  When I have spoken to my physiotherapist she has said 'Oh, why don't you just take it easy and see how you feel on the day?'  Hello!  26.2 miles would be pretty foolish to attempt on a 'take it easy' training regime!

So today came the first BIG ONE.  The day when I would run further than I had ever run before.  Last Sunday should have seen me running 14 miles, but I wimped out because my foot had been quite 'ouchy' all week, so I only ran 8.5 miles.  Today's run was 15 miles.  That is 1.5 miles further than I had ever run before.

I'd been dreading this run all week.  Despite having run 19.5 miles, including a speed session, and rowing twice over the course of the week I was worried.  FIFTEEN MILES!  That's a long way!  Not as long as a marathon, but it is the sort of distance that you'd get the car out of the garage for.  Could I do it?  I wasn't sure.  I really wasn't sure.  I almost didn't want to set out because if I didn't try there was no chance of me failing.

This morning I procrastinated.  I didn't get up until 7.30am, and then I spent as long as was humanly possible getting myself organised.  I didn't leave the house until 8.40am, at which point I began to regret all the faffing about and worry about the bright sunshine and wondering how hot it would get!  The route I had chosen to run was a mish mash of two of my regular routes, with the incentive of finishing at Côte.   There was also the opportunity to stop at Alice Holt Forest  to use the loos and replenish my water bottle.

From the outset, it was hard work.  I think I had convinced myself that this was a 'big thing' to do and that I was going to fail, I kept pushing on, running up and up loads of hills (my Garmin gives a total ascent of 960m) and down a few too.  I was slow, but not too worried about that as my aim was just to get to Côte and have a nice cup of tea and some brunch with Husbando, but I did start to worry that I'd get there too late and we'd have to have lunch because they had stopped serving breakfast.

I haven't found a run that hard for ages.  If ever.  I tried to tell myself that I must have found the first few runs I ever did hard work too, but another part of my brain kept telling me that I did Couch to 5k I stopped and walked a lot in the first few weeks.  The temptation to walk was huge, but I only walked on one short bit of rough ground - the last thing I needed to do was twist my bad foot again!

I did run 15 miles this morning, but it has left me wondering if I will be able to run the full marathon.  My training programme calls for an easy week this week (with a long run of only 10km!) building up to an 18mile run the Sunday afterwards.  After that there is the challenge of 22 miles three weeks prior to THE BIG DAY.

I guess if it was easy more people would do this.  Mind you, 30,000 people seem to manage it at the London Marathon every year, and I am only half way through the training programme right now, so I may, hopefully, begin to develop a bit more confidence over the next few weeks.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Can I hit rewind please?

I thought that my foot was almost completely better.  I have been diligently doing all my physio exercises, building up the mileage and not worrying too much about the fact that my running was far from speedy.  Yes it ached when I ran, but not in a 'stop what you are doing now and find some painkillers and an ice pack' type of way.  

On Sunday I ran 13.2 miles, it was hard work, but I did it, even if I did choose to walk across the uneven ground at the edge of the forest.  Again, it wasn't a fast run, but I'd have finished a half marathon in just under 2 hours.  I was feeling fairly confident that I could clock a good time in a race over flat ground with the adrenalin burst that you get in a race. 

Monday was a rest day.  I went up to London with a friend for a bit of shopping.  We had a lot of fun.  I didn't walk far.  Every so often my foot hurt.  I tried to carry on walking normally, but was aware that I was limping ever so slightly.  On Tuesday I took the decision not to go for a run.  I find it quite stressful to 'skip' a training session when I am following a programme, but decided that sitting with my foot up and wrapped in ice was probably a better plan.  I consoled myself with a bit of online shopping for running stuff; new shorts, water bottles and belt thing, compression socks....  

Today I took the children to Legoland.  A fair bit of walking, a bit more pain.  Somehow I still thought that I could go for a run.  I was scheduled to run 6 miles tonight.  I set out with good intentions.  It hurt. I curtailed my run on the road, and ran 2 miles to my gym, thinking that running on the treadmill would be easier than the road.  The 2 miles were slow and not very comfortable.  I got to the gym, took 2 strides on the treadmill and realised that I couldn't run another step.  

My foot and calf hurt, and they hurt a lot.  I am limping when walking, finding stairs a challenge, so running seems like a really silly idea.  I guess I'll have to be sensible and stop running for a while.  

I am not sure how this will affect my chances of running the Abingdon Marathon.  I really want to do it, but it is only ten and a half weeks away, and if I take a break now I am not sure that I'll be able to get enough training done.  26.2 miles is a very long way to run, the furthest I've ever run before is 13.5 miles.  Running that sort of distance without training properly would probably put me out of action for weeks!  

So here I am, back on the sofa, ice pack on foot and feeling sorry for myself!  Wishing I could turn back time to the day before I fell over in the first place.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

How odd...

Saturday is parkrun day, and having not pulled on my running shoes since Monday after a slight mishap during my trail run (I went over on my poorly ankle/foot) there really was nothing for it but to dig out the running gear and head on over to Basingstoke.  The weather was grim, I got drenched as I dashed out of the car to drop off my youngest boy at a friend's house for a birthday trip to Chessington, and with three non running children left in the car I did begin to question my sanity.  The children were hardly going to enjoy playing on the swings in a monsoon!

I don't mind running in the rain, but I do hate standing around waiting in the rain!  Still, stand around in the rain is exactly what we did.  I wasn't sure how I would approach this run.  As I said earlier, I've lost my confidence in my ability to run.  I've done the distances I've wanted to in my training run, but I've often stopped to walk, answer my phone or adjust headphones etc.  Last week's parkrun saw me stop and walk on the downhill bit of the Crabtree course!

Approaching the start I was so busy chatting that I nearly missed the starting whistle! I started fairly near the back as a consequence, and spent the first couple of hundred metres weaving through the crowds.  This meant that I didn't do my usual trick of trying to keep up with the fast boys!  After a while I caught up with a couple of people I knew and settled into a nice rhythm where we could run and chat, and chat and run.  The infamous 'Tennis Court Hill' (a long slope rather than a hill really) was much easier taken at a nice steady pace rather that approached too fast at a speed impossible for me to maintain!

We weren't going to break any records, but two of us were recovering from injury and one hadn't run for a couple of months.  My goal was to run the whole way without slowing down to a walk, and I am pleased to say I did it!  My time was slow, 27:21, which is just under 9 minute mile pace, and a post-injury parkrun PB.

The 'How odd...' of the title to this blog refers to the change since I was at school.  I would beg for a note to get me 'off games!'  I'd almost have been glad of a foot injury like the one I've had to give me the best part of a term, because you know I'd have strung it out for as long as possible, off the dreaded PE lessons!  Now I am chomping at the bit to get out and get training seriously again.  Angry with myself for falling over in the first place and reading up on specialist support bandages for runners with dodgy feet and ankles!

Monday, 30 July 2012

Losing my nerve!

I've neglected this blog over the last few weeks.  When I eventually returned to work, on crutches which is such a good way to try and get around a classroom, I got caught up in the manic activity that accompanies the end of a school year.  We said goodbye to colleagues who were retiring or moving on to new schools.  We stripped our classroom walls so that the builders can come in over the summer and remove all the asbestos.  We made sure we hadn't left anything to personal or too valuable in our desk drawers and had a bit of a tidy up.  We helped out at sports days, voted for 'colleague of the half term' and drank more tea than is probably good for us.

In addition to this (and teaching the few remaining classes of the year) I cobbled together a folder of evidence to prove that I had 'passed' my induction year and went, with trepidation, to get it all signed off by the head.  There is still the small matter of an outstanding lesson observation that couldn't go ahead because I was off sick, but that will take place early in the new school year.  The good news is that I am no longer an NQT (newly qualified teacher), the bad news is that my timetable looks even more busy next year than it did this year!

The first week of the holidays has whizzed by in a bit of a blur.  I've been slowly getting back into running.  The hot weather saw me out of bed before 7am so that I could run without melting.  I achieved my 50th parkrun - with a hobble rather than a sprint - only 50 more runs now until the next parkrun milestone.

My foot is still achey but running, on the whole, doesn't seem to make it worse.  What has happened is that I appear to have lost my confidence.  I don't worry that I am going to fall over again though.  I just worry that I won't be able to run the distance I have set myself that day.  And I know I am a lot slower than I was before I hurt myself.  I guess the 3+ weeks of no running has really set me back a bit.

I have started training for the Abingdon marathon, and while I am able to complete all the runs so far in the training programme, I have real doubts as to whether I will be up to the 26.2 miles on the day - both physically and mentally.  I was hoping for a time of 'around 4 hours' before I injured my foot, but am now of the opinion that finishing will be enough of an achievement for my first marathon.  I was also hoping that marathon training might lead to weight loss, but 30+ miles a week just makes me hungry!

Today is supposed to be a rest day, but the Trailblazers are running locally tonight.  I've run the route we are taking tonight with them before, it is great but my attempts to follow the route on my own meant I got hopelessly lost, so I am hoping that another guided run will mean I remember the path!

Thursday, 21 June 2012

One of those days!

I'd worn my favourite, highest heeled shoes to school.  They are really very high, at least 6" including the platform.  They are also a lovely, shiny pink, and my best ever sales bargain - being reduced from £645 to £45.  They drew many admiring glances and comments at school.  The head did say that, much as she loved them, the school wouldn't be held responsible if I fell downstairs and broke my leg.  I laughed!  Being short I have become very good at wearing high heels.

The day passed off well, taught some lessons, did some marking, attending a meeting or two, and began to get stressed about an observed lesson that was supposed to happen this morning.  I came home to find an excited older daughter getting ready for Race for Life.  If you've been reading for a while you'll know that I said last year that I'd never run it again.  I had no objection to my daughter running it, but I wasn't going to do it ever.  But, come the day I got caught up in the excitement, and my intention of going for a run somewhere didn't last long when I found I could register on the day.

We lined up, fairly near the front, and off we set.  My intention to run with my little girl vanished when I realised she wasn't with me after the third bend!  I did stop and wait for her, but she didn't want me to run with her.  So off I went.  I was doing so well, I was in about the first 20 runners and loving it.  I ran through some trees, carefully avoiding all the tree roots (painted bright pink) at around 1.5 miles and then fell over nothing.  As I went down I knew it wasn't good.  A marshall saw me and rushed to my side.  My pride kicked in, and despite the fact that it hurt I picked myself up and said that I would 'walk it off.'  I walked and hopped-run to the end.  I have no idea how.  Tears were streaming down my face, but I was definitely going to finish.  I finished in 33.45 minutes and limped off to find my girl.  She doesn't do running, and only ever runs Race for Life, but she finished in 24.14!

Husbando met us and took me straight to A&E.  It was looking quite hopeful for a speedy turn around until two road traffic accidents (RTAs) were brought in one after another.  I was given a cocktail of painkillers which didn't do much for the pain, but seemed to cheer me up and stop me sobbing. The tears were more of frustration and anger than anything else.  I was so cross with myself for hurting myself in a race I hadn't really wanted to do.

X-rays revealed no broken bones, I've torn ligaments and can't bear weight until at least Monday.  No idea when I'll be able to run again.  My foot is hugely painful, and at a funny angle.  I can't straighten it,  can't even wiggle my toes.  I've spend most of my day with  my foot up with an ice pack on it.  I ventured to the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea.  I was so proud of myself for working out how to get the milk bottle to the cup and back to the fridge, and then when my lovely cup of tea was made, I realised I had no way of carrying it back to the sitting room, so I stood, on one leg, in the kitchen to drink my tea!!

Please remind me never to run Race for Life again!

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Hotter than a sauna in the Sahara!

With apologies to my lovely friend Maura whose description of today I have paraphrased as the title for this blog!

After not running 2 races already this year due to injury, there was no way I was not going to run the Bupa 10,000m today!  I had no expectations that I would achieve a PB, but I was hopeful that I would finish in a number starting with 5!

I'd stayed in London overnight because Husbando was exhibiting at book fairs, so didn't have the normal early start and train panic that a London race entails.  I got up late (7.30am) battled with the microwave controls in the apartment/suite we had rented and ate breakfast looking out a a clear blue sky, not wanting to know if it really was as hot out there as it looked!  I checked out of the hotel at 8.45am and made the short journey in a very hot tube station to Green Park, bumping into a running friend who happened to be in the same carriage on the underground as I was.  By the time I'd had a quick chat with her in the glorious sunshine and I'd pinned my race number on the announcer was calling for everyone in the red wave to make their way to the starting line immediately!  It was only ten past nine!  How was I going to have yet another nervous wee if I had to go to the start line?  I threw my stuff together, checked my bag and duly headed to the start line on The Mall.  After dire warnings that there were no loos at the start I was relieved to see that there were a few - crisis averted!

Our start pen had absolutely no shade at all!  The thought of standing there for the best part of 40 minutes did not appeal, so on meeting up with a couple  of friends, we found a postage stamp of shade and made use of it.  It was seriously hot by now.  I marvelled at the lady in fancy dress - a guardsman complete with bearskin hat.  I felt like fainting just looking at her.  The atmosphere was lovely, and I reflected on the fact that when I ran this race last year and the year before I hadn't known anyone at the start line at all - this year I knew loads of people!  It is lovely to know so many people who are happy to talk, almost endlessly, about running.

The first mile of the race (I can't think in kilometres yet!) was OK.  I wasn't running very fast, 8.20 minutes per mile pace, but it felt sustainable although I wouldn't have wanted to try to run any faster!  Towards the end of the second mile things started to feel really hard.  Other runners were obviously finding it hard too, I don't think I have ever seen so many walkers so early in a race, even runners with the coveted 'Red A' starting numbers.  But I kept plugging on.  Then I knew I had to be sick.  I've never been sick while running before.  I ducked just off the course and became reacquainted with my breakfast by the McDonalds where we used to indulge in 'eat the menu' competitions when I worked in Clements Lane.  As I rejoined the throng of runners I began to feel very odd.  I was shivering and felt so cold.  My legs were not really responding to the instructions I was giving them.

Somehow I struggled on.  I don't remember much of the rest of the race until I got to the 8km marker and saw someone I knew.  I ran a bit faster to catch Sue up as I just wanted to see a friendly face!  I couldn't maintain the pace though, and fell back again.

The absolute lowest point of the race was when I looked at my watch and saw that it showed '49:59' - the time I'd completed last year's race in - but this year I still had well over 1km to go! (Probably nearer 1.5k/2k, I can't figure those pesky ks out!)

The support from the crowds was much more vocal this year - and there were far more supporters than in previous years, as we came past Horse Guards, with all the temporary seating for the Olympics already in place, the cheers from the crowds really did help me through the final 400m.    Finishing on The Mall is always lovely, with Buckingham Palace as a backdrop, and I have never been so glad to see a finish line.

I don't remember much about after the race, I popped along to see the UNICEF stand, I know this because they gave me a goodie bag, and met up with friends from Basingstoke parkrun and CPRC, I know this because I took photos and photos were taken of me!!  I know I was sick again (because that is hard to forget), but I really was a bit vague about everything else!

I did have nice lunch at Carluccio's - and that seems to have made everything a little bit better!  We did sit outside - which is probably wise, as I smelt so bad I didn't want to near me!!

So, scores on the doors, 56minutes and 41 seconds!  Officially my worst ever 10k time.  Still, it was nice to see The Shard, which looks so much more impressive now than last time I saw it.  And of course, I am now waiting for the email with the link that enables me to enter next year's race a wee bit early as a previous runner.

And now the hard work commences.  I need to get back to being properly fit!  The good thing from today is that my legs felt really good - no niggles or anything.  In fact I was tempted to go out for a run this evening - but my need to plan lessons got the better of that idea!

Saturday, 5 May 2012

It's Saturday so it must be...


So, when Husbando announced that he had to be 'near Exeter' to bid at an auction (he's a rare book seller) today and that we could combine such a trip with meeting up with friends for lunch and popping in to see my sister who moved to Newton Abbot today.  I suggested that if we left early enough I could probably run the Killerton parkrun too. 

This morning we set off at 5am (yes, 5 o'clock in the morning) to make sure we didn't get held up and made it to the start line in time.  We made it with an hour to spare despite stopping for a Big Mac breakfast on the way.  Killerton parkrun is run in the grounds of Killerton House, a lovely National Trust property.  This means that there is plenty of parking and the best parkrun loos I have ever seen!  I asked a local where the start line was and was told that it was 'at the top of that hill!'  Hmm, hills, what's not to like about hills?  Every single runner I saw seemed to be sporting trail shoes.  I don't own trail shoes, because I hate trail running.  I can say that safely having never done any trail running in much the same way that one of my friends knows that she hates ricotta cheese because she has never, ever, eaten ricotta cheese!  

After a short hike to the top of the hill, during which I met parkrunners from Reading and Andover and a runner from Fetcheveryone, run director Simon gave us newbies a comprehensive run down of course and the potential hazards.  Lots and lots of mud, standing water, steep hills, farm vehicles, electric fences and livestock on the loose were promised and encountered!  In fact the first 2 - 400 meters of the run was spent chasing cows out of the way whilst running uphill!  

It was tough going, slipping around in mud over uneven ground.  It may take a while for me to learn to love trail running, if ever!  A McDonald's breakfast, it turns out, is not a great start to a running day and I bitterly regretted eating it many times during the run!  Unsurprisingly there were no buggies in evidence today, and I don't think I saw anyone running with a dog.  I've been 'resting' this week, only running once and that really hurt, so this was a bit of a shock to the system.  I can't wait to be fully recovered from all these niggling injuries.  I kept going, secure in the knowledge that I wasn't going to get anything like a 'good' time.  On the seemingly few downhill bits the wind blew directly head on - joy!   On the finishing stretch, while taking care to avoid the electric fence, I vowed not to run Frimley parkrun on Monday, and seriously consider not doing the Alton 10 on the 13th.  By the time I was drinking coffee and chatting in the café I was telling people that I would be running Frimley... go figure!!!  One lovely lady asked me if I 'used to be a competitive runner!'  Those who know me will know that I haven't been running long, but that I am a highly competitive, just not very competent runner!

Husbando doesn't get to many parkruns (he has to open the shop most Saturdays), but he did say that they always strike him as very friendly events.  Apparently we parkrunners are 'A nice bunch, but slightly mad!'

Thursday, 26 April 2012


On Sunday I ran past the entrance to Alice Holt.  Alice Holt is our local forestry commission woodland.  A beautiful place that plays host to the annual Bolt Round The Holt, picnics with children, walks with dogs and where many a local child has learnt to cycle.  As I plodded, painfully and slowly, towards Farnham I mused that Alice Holt could make a good parkrun venue.  There are loads of paths through the woods, plenty of car parking but the requirement for a place to have coffee left me wondering if the rather basic 'Forest Centre' would be able to accommodate the needs of many ravenous runners.  From looking at the website, it appears that the café has had a bit of a makeover recently, so maybe it would be just the ticket!

Yesterday evening I received my 'parkrun newsletter.'   In it there was a call for people who might be interested in volunteering to set up a new parkrun at Alice Holt.  A parkrun 4 miles away from me sounds ideal!  And being involved in setting up a new parkrun would be very exciting.  But Basingstoke parkrun feels like home to me! I've made so many new friends there and been made to feel part of a community in a way I never imagined possible.  Of course the same thing might well happen at a new venue that I choose to attend on a regular basis, but I'd always wonder what was going on over in Basingstoke.

I think I've decided what I'll do.  I will be enthusiastic about helping to get this parkrun off the ground.  I will tell all my local running friends about it.  I will most certainly run the first run.  After that I will run at Alice Holt once a month, and volunteer there on occasion too (how else will I get to know people?) but keep Basingstoke as my home run.

All this presupposes that I can still run!  After an 8.5 mile run on Sunday, which was painful for almost every step of the way, I didn't run again until this evening.  I had a sports massage on Tuesday and felt really good afterwards.  I was advised not to run on Wednesday (by the masseuse) which was fine as I was out for supper, so tonight was my first run in what seems like a long time.

It still hurts.  In fact my legs seem to be developing more aches and pains than ever before.  I managed 3.3miles - just!  It seems I have made the right decision not to run the Bracknell Half Marathon on Sunday.  In fact, I don't think I'll get a long run this weekend at all, as it is my youngest son's birthday on Sunday.  I may manage parkrun on Saturday, but whatever happens this is going to be a very light mileage week for me.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Not a happy (Easter) bunny

It is Easter Sunday, the weather is cool and dry if a little overcast.  Perfect running weather.  There are no shops open to distract me.  The children are happily occupied with cramming as much chocolate into their faces as they can.  Husbando is doing 'stuff' at the shop and I am free to do what I want.

Or I would be, if it wasn't for a wee bit of pain in my right leg.  I want to go for a run.  I need to go for a run.  But I can't.  I did parkrun yesterday morning and it hurt.  I've not been 'right' since I fell over three weeks ago, and during the week I'd noticed some niggles in my right thigh, but nothing I couldn't 'run through' or so I thought.  But yesterday was different.  Not only did I get overtaken by a man pushing a three year old in a buggy, my leg hurt like hell all the way around.  I should have stopped, but that doesn't seem to be in my nature.  Not only did I finish (poor time of 24mins 57secs), go back to run with and encourage my youngest son to get a new PB, I also ran 2 miles from shop to home later in the day.

This was not the cleverest thing I have ever done!  I've just terrified myself by reading about hamstring injuries on the internet.  I don't want to think about how long it could take to get better.  I have a half marathon booked at the end of this month that I really want to do, and instead of getting a 12 mile run done today I am in bed with an ice pack.  It hurts to walk, it is more painful to run than to walk and I want to wave a magic wand and make it better now.

As I type this, part of me can't believe how upset I am about not being able to run.  That's the part of me that had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, out of the door when I started running 3 years ago.  The part of me that hated PE at school and who would have sold her soul for a note that said I couldn't do PE for 3 weeks!

Monday, 2 April 2012

Running rituals and other musings.

A while back I blogged about running superstitions.  Mainly because Husbando has a habit of running in certain directions, touching various lamp posts etc.  and I admitted to one of my own.  I have since discovered another running ritual.  While waiting for the Olympic Park Run to start on Saturday my friend, who used to compete as a show jumper at an international level, admitted that at many venues she had a 'lucky loo!' She'd wait ages for this loo - even if other loos were free!  She was adamant that I must have some sort of ritual, and she was absolutely right - I just hadn't thought about it as a ritual.

After every race I put my used race number back into my box file of 'running stuff.'  I leave the four safety pins attached to the number.  I only take them off on the morning of the next race when I attach them to the new race number.  I reckon these same four safety pins have been used on every race I have entered.

I'm still on a high after Saturday!  I found some BBC video of the day here that gives a flavour of the event.  My next challenge is the Bracknell Half Marathon.  I had forgotten about this, or not so much forgotten, but put it to the back of my mind.  I certainly haven't been training with it in mind - and have been beset with set backs over the last few weeks.  I need to build my distance so that I can at least finish the 13.1 miles!

With this in mind I did 7.75miles on Sunday afternoon.  Beautiful running weather, sunny but cool!  It was a slow run, but everything seemed to be working and I really enjoyed my hour and a bit to myself in the early evening sunlight.  Today has been action packed.  I wonder how I manage to find time to go to work when there are so many other things that need doing.  I've done loads of laundry, met a friend for coffee, done some food shopping, met up with Husbando and an associate of his for lunch, changed the sheets on the beds, taken a child to a birthday party, picked up Husbando from work, picked up a child from a birthday party, cooked supper for the children and then later for Husbando and me.

In there, somehow, I managed to shoe horn in a bit of exercise!  I ran just over 2 miles to the gym, then did 3.3km of speed work on the treadmill (intervals 10kph/15kph) and then, as I was waiting for Husbando I did another 2.2km of hill work - just to try out the settings.  Hill work on a treadmill is much easier than on the open road - mainly, I think, because you can't see the hill that faces you!

I've come home to relax in front of the TV and try to stretch out my ham string, which is tighter than a tight thing in a tight place!  I have a sports massage booked on Wednesday - it can't come soon enough!

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Olympic Park Run

What a day!  Up early this morning to take Number One Son to the drop off point for his DofE practise expedition, and then back up the A3 to pick up a friend and catch the train to London.  I have to admit that I probably drank rather more than I should have done on Friday evening, a combination of extreme tiredness and euphoria at surviving another term lowered my resistance to temptation and, it being a wee while since I have had a drink I think I felt the effects a bit more than usual.  I was a little tired and emotional this morning, not actually hungover, but very tired!

A lovely late breakfast at Balans seemed to improve my mood, and we headed to the stadium.  The queue to get through security was very long, but moved quickly and we were soon in the Olympic Park with thousands of other runners and spectators.  I couldn't quite believe it.  

The Stadium itself was impressive, but not as pretty as the Beijing Olympic Stadium.  I think it suffers from the cloudy backdrop and would probably look better with a clear blue sky behind it!  And the Orbit Tower is very strange!  A sort of giant helter-skelter!  

 As we walked into the stadium I suddenly started to get really excited!  We found great seats for Husbando and my friend in a position where I could easily spot them as I ran through the stadium.  I couldn't believe I'd actually be running on that  track!  Then the nerves struck.  Regular readers will know that I haven't had the best couple of weeks with respect to running.  This is the first race I have ever started without being absolutely confident that I could actually run for the whole distance. 

I sat and watched the entertainment for a while, trying to calm myself down, but eventually decided that I needed to get myself away and made my way to the start line.  Via the loos of course!  Whoever planned the Olympic Stadium definitely got the loos right, there are far more ladies' loos than men's loos.  There were no queues for the ladies' which was a refreshing change. 

The start was a sea of red shirts, with virtually all runners wearing the race tshirts.  I was in the second starting wave, so had a long wait at the start.  The race was started at 2pm by Princess Beatrice, but our wave didn't go off until 12 minutes later.  Princess B sounded the starting horn for our wave then ran down from the podium to run the race.  The race was congested at the start and, to be honest, the field never really thinned out, it was so strange to be running with everyone else wearing the same thing - that hasn't happened since PE lessons at school!   It was very, very cool to run around the park.  And a great relief to be moving so that I could warm up a bit! 

Some of the Park was still under construction, but we ran past all the various arenas, including running right around the mirrored outside of the Velodrome - possibly my favourite of all the buildings.  It was surprisingly hilly, with quite a few hairpin turns to negotiate.  I set off at what I thought was a gentle pace, taking it easy as I wasn't sure how my knee was going to cope.  It hurt, but adrenaline was keeping me going.  I didn't want to run the race without seeing the sights and enjoying the atmosphere.  Because all the spectators were being entertained in the stadium there was very little support on the course, a couple of African drum bands and bemused looking builders was about all!  I did wonder why they didn't think of positioning speakers around the route to relay the events inside the stadium.  

The mile markers were way off!  I thought this might mean that the fifth 'mile' would be very short, but I suspect that this was quite a long five miles!  The strange positioning of the markers meant that as we approached the stadium I thought that I was almost there, but no!  If you look at the photo below you'll see that it appears that I ran directly across the stadium before running around the track.  In reality we ran through a tunnel underneath all the stands, then into the stadium as 'Chariots of Fire' was playing (I was tempted to run in slow motion!) 

The crowds cheered enthusiastically and the track was beautiful to run on.  At 200m to go I looked up and saw Husbando and my friend waving and snapping away with cameras.  I waved!  Who wouldn't?  I realised that I really wasn't tired at all, I felt great, albeit great with very sore knees!  Crossing that finish line was amazing, my watch said I'd done it in 41min 32secs which was far better than I'd hoped for at the start of the day.  My Garmin took the distance to be 5.1 miles, and watches of those around me said anything between 5.1 and 5.3 miles (depending I suppose on how they accounted for the indoor time).  Those distances would give me a 5 mile time ranging between 39min 10secs and 40mins 40secs, which is where I shall be aiming for if I run this distance again!

 Medals and goody bags were handed out, timing chips were collected and runners were funnelled back to meet with their supporters.   The organisation of this event was fantastic!  Such a shame that this event is a one off as I'd sign up to run it again in a flash.

We made a hasty exit from the Olympic Park after I'd finished as West Ham were playing Reading at home, we didn't want to get caught up in the mass exodus and resultant Tube chaos, that would have taken the gilt of the gingerbread of what was a really brilliant day out!

I think 5 miles is a fantastic distance to race over.  Long enough to get into your stride, short enough (in future, when my knees are better) to really give it some welly.  It is the sort of distance that you can run hard without feeling totally wrecked for the next day!  I'll be looking for more 5 mile races in the future.