Sunday, 17 November 2013

Gosport Half Marathon.

I had a lovely curry last night with some lovely friends.  We had been trying to get a date in the diary for months, so the fact that I was running the next day didn't really factor greatly when I booked the table.  I just decided that I wouldn't try anything new and I would not drink too much.  The food was great, the company was fun, I had a couple of beers and we got home fairly early so that I could get a good night's sleep.

I didn't sleep well.  I am normally very good at sleeping, so this was something of a surprise, but I didn't have to get up too early so it wasn't a big deal.  What was a bit more of a big deal was my rather uncomfortable stomach!

The journey down to Gosport was uneventful.  Parking was a bit more stressful as I searched the car for loose change to pay the hefty pay and display charge.  Soon I was making my way, via the toilets, to the race HQ.  I bumped into several friends along the way, sorted out timing chips, dropped off baggage and walked to the start.

I was still feeling a little bit delicate.  But, in for a penny (or about £14 in this case), in for a pound, and once lined up at the start line there is only really one way you can go.  I had no expectations of running a PB, I decided to enjoy my run and just see how it went.  The course isn't hugely interesting.  It is flat, that's true, but with a few exceptions it is a bit boring.  We had a couple of convoluted loops of the airfield which could have been mind numbing apart from the fact that the numerous switchbacks meant that we could see faster/slower runners coming past in the opposite direction.  I spent most of this time spotting friends and shouting encouragement when I saw them.

There were some lovely bits, running along the promenade with the beach to one side and jauntily coloured beach huts to one side was very memorable, and we were lucky to have a virtually wind free day.  I should imagine that it would have been a different story running into a headwind at 12 miles.  The marshals were unfailingly cheerful, and the on course support was good.  Overall it was a very well organised event with a pleasingly octagonal medal and a well filed, reusable goodie bag.

At around 8 miles I got chatting to a girl who was really struggling.  I ran with her briefly, encouraging her as best I could.  I decided that if I couldn't run a PB I would try to help other people make the most of their race.  There was another lad, who at about 13 miles was stumbling along saying 'I can't do this!'  I fell into step with him for a while, and bullied him into pulling his socks up!  I told him to concentrate on how far he had come, and how well he was doing.  He soon pulled ahead of me, and despite the fact that I had lost a few seconds by talking, talking, talking I was just so thrilled to see him cross the finish line with an exhausted smile on his face.  Both these runners sought me out afterwards to thank me for helping them finish their first half marathon.

I ran a good, evenly paced race.  In the final reckoning I finished in 1hr 53mins 05secs.  Less than a minute slower than my PB, which gives me great hope for next year.  It was also faster than my last half which I ran last month.  I'd felt much fitter and stronger then, and have run a full marathon since then.

I did a lot of thinking while I was running.  One set of thoughts were related to teaching and may result in a separate blog post if I get time, the other was about this running nonsense.  I think I have come as far as I can in terms of improvement by myself.  I think I need to join a running club.  I have resisted so far because I'm not sure how well I'll respond to being told what to do and beaded through drills!  I hated PE in school and I really hated PT when I was in the TA.  I was always the slightly uncoordinated one who couldn't keep up with everyone else, huffing and puffing at the back of the group and trying to find every possible excuse to get off games.  I guess I dread feeling like that again, but at the same time I know I have take that risk if I want to improve.

So, now I have to find a running club that has training nights I can get to and who are happy to have me.  Wish me luck!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

The first York marathon

I've been to York lots of times, but I always seem to forget just how far away it is from my house in Hampshire.  This was definitely the case when entries for the inaugural York Marathon opened back in January.  Luckily I remembered soon enough that I would need to book a hotel room.  That was all done way back at the beginning of the year and then, what with changing jobs and a million and one other things to do, I put it to the back of my mind.  When you have five children going away overnight is not a simple matter.  Taking them with you makes any hotel stay rather pricy (especially as all the hotels in York seemed to have hiked up their prices for this weekend), you can't leave a 16 year old in charge of his siblings for that long, so arrangements must be made.  Our arrangements this time saw the two youngest going to stay with my mum (who we met at a service station on the M1 for the handover), the two oldest ones staying with friends, and the middle one coming with Husbando and I.

The journey up on Saturday afternoon was uneventful, and we checked in to a Travelodge near the University campus where the race was to start.  I'm a Premier Inn girl myself, but there was no availability so Travelodge it was.  The beds aren't as comfy in a Travelodge.  After a final carb load at Pizza Express we returned to the room for an early night.  This was a marathon where I'd actually be able to get a lie in as my alarm was set for 7.30am.

We got to the campus at about 8.30am.  It was somewhat confusing walking in as the signage seemed to be set up for the shuttle buses and drivers rather than pedestrians.  We walked through a warren of university buildings, along the way we found a very rare thing - a ladies' toilet with no queue!  Then through a few more warren like bits and we joined the baggage queue - possibly the longest queue I have ever been in and moving so slowly.  I did a rough calculation that there was no way I'd get to the baggage drop before the starting pens closed, luckily I had Husbando and middle child with me, so they could take my bag.  I said goodbye to them and then joined the masses at the start.

I bumped into two fellow Fetchies there - lovely to put faces to names.  I have yet to meet anyone wearing a 'Fetch' shirt who wasn't friendly and happy to chat.  The 9.30am start was a little delayed and took me a few minutes to get across the start line, but it was good to be moving!  The first stretch was down hill.  Quite a steep downhill, which was worrying because I knew we had to come back up that road at the finish.  I tried not to think about it.  We ran into the city centre, through the main shopping centre, passed Betty's Tearooms and York Minster before heading out into the countryside.

The support was amazing.  Not just in the city centre but in all the villages (it isn't every race where you get to high 5 a lady vicar who is standing outside her church in her Sunday best) and at random points on country lanes.  You'd be running along, hoping that you'd reach a point where you could die quietly around the next corner (or dip behind a hedge for a comfort break) only to find a group of people cheering!

This marathon was billed as being a flat marathon.  It is the hilliest 'flat' race around!  The hills were accompanied by unexpectedly dry weather, but it was very windy in places; especially as we ran up a hill past a garden centre called 'Breezy Knees Garden Centre!'  At 20 miles I was starting to wilt.  I had a brief walking break, but it was so hard start running again that I decided not to bother with that again. I did have to slow down to text Husbando so that he knew when to get to a spectator point, much hilarity ensued amongst spectators in the village at 23 miles about me texting while shuffling along.  I said I was calling for a taxi.

It was around this point that I realised I could get a PB if I pushed a bit.  I'd turned up at the start line thinking that this race was about just getting round.  That I'd be happy with 4hrs30mins.  I was only going through with it because I was doing it in Ali's memory and because it was the first.  I was frankly shocked.  I started to push myself a bit more, and was overtaking people all over the place, including people who'd overtaken me when I walked and when I had a 'comfort stop!'

At about 25.4miles I got to 'the hill.'  I was desperate now to get this bloody run over and done with, so I just kept on running,  I don't think my pace dropped at all in that mile, but I was overtaking people left, right and centre, which felt great!  And then we were at the top of the hill and it was about 0.3miles to go.  It was a gentle downhill, but my knees were tired and there was no way I was going to throw myself down the hill at full pace.  I'm glad I didn't as I might have missed seeing Husbando and my son in the crowd.  I did manage a fairly strong finish - concentrating on form as I crossed the line.  One lady near me did one better - crossing the line with a cartwheel!  I'd seen her do several cartwheels as we'd run around the route.  I have no idea how anyone could manage that after 26.2 miles - I can't do one at all!

I'd crossed the line in 4hrs 11mins 40secs.  A new PB!  We filtered through to the finish and collected our goodie bags (medals, tech t-shirt and various other bits and pieces) and I met up with Husbando for the LONG walk back to the car (parked at the Travelodge).

It was a good race with excellent support and beautiful scenery.  If it wasn't so far away (it took 6hrs to drive home) then I'd definitely consider doing it next year.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Royal Parks Half

I very nearly didn't bother.  Travel arrangements were a nightmare, I was tired due to a new job and marathon training, but when you've paid £46 to enter a race you may as well make the effort to run the thing!

It was chilly when I set out at 6.30am.  The first chilly morning in a long time, but by the time I got to Hyde Park, having parked my car outside a hotel in Hammersmith and cheekily ducked in to use their loos, it was getting warm.  I'd taken the tube up to Knightsbridge, and at one stop a group of 6 Italians got into my carriage.  They had lined up at the start with me either last year or the year before.  I was hoping/planning to meet up with a friend, with a view to running together, but while I managed to bump into Italian strangers I failed to track down my friend before the race.  Facebook/Twitter/text and mobile 'phone messages were just not getting through as 16,000 runners and their supporters were all Tweeting and texting.

I queued to drop of my baggage, I queued for the loo - the nastiest, smelliest, gag inducing loo I have used in a very long time, and then made my way to the start.   It felt like perfect running weather, a slight nip in the air and clear, blue skies.  I had a plan in my head, this was a training run not a target race, and I planned to run 9min/mile pace and finish in 2hrs - 8 minutes slower than my PB time, and, I thought, a bit ambitious given how exhausted I felt as I stood at the start.

Once we crossed the start line I realised I had made the mistake of starting among faster runners.  But I felt good, and the first few miles felt really easy and comfortable, so I just ran.  At around 3 miles I gave myself a strict talking to and made myself slow down a bit, but if felt good to be running well.  Running around London, not having to watch out for traffic is fantastic, especially on a bright Autumn morning. As we came around the bottom of Trafalgar Square before heading through Admiralty Arch to go up The Mall on our way back to Hyde Park the bells at St Martin's in the Field were ringing - truly magical.

The supporters were fantastic.  I ran for UNICEF again this year, and they had teams of supporters at various points - normally just when I was flagging.  They cheered so loudly and enthusiastically that they must have been exhausted by the end of the morning.  As you run back into Hyde Park you hit a wall of noise, with supporters lining both sides of the route - if feels as though they should be cheering you over the finish line, but this is only the 6mile point!   Once back in the park it is a case of looping around to make up the mileage!  I know this park well having lived nearby for years, but if you stopped me at any point in the last 7 miles I'd have been hard pushed to tell you where we were.

The weather had got much warmer.  So much so that it was a relief to find a bit of shade - although I did get hit on the head by a falling conker a one point.  At around 10 miles I got bit disheartened.  I realised that although I was going to come in well under 2 hours I was going to be way over my PB.  I hadn't been planning on getting a PB, but that didn't seem to enter my head at that point.  I wondered if I could up the pace enough to get close - but a brief attempt at sustaining a faster pace soon convinced me that this wasn't going to be possible.   I missed the mile marker at 12 miles, my Garmin was measuring too long so I couldn't rely on that to calculate how far I had left to go and given that a marshall* had told us at 2 miles in that we were 'nearly there' I didn't really trust the marshall who was telling us that we had less than a mile to go!  (*I didn't shove his megaphone up his arse for such a silly comment!) But soon we were making that sharp left hand turn to run back past the Albert Memorial to the finish.  This bit always seems interminable.  You go from running lots of 'twisty turny bits' to a long straight 1km run.  In my mind the race should stop at Alexandra Gate, but it probably goes on for about 700-800m after that.  I saw 3 people collapsed in the last 800m, including one in the last 20m.  So gutting to have got so far and then not to finish.  I guess the weather was just so much warmer than anyone had anticipated.

I didn't have much energy for a final sprint, mainly because I'd upped the pace for the last kilometre, but I did get over the line in, more or less, on piece.  It was the longest distance I had run without any stopping for a very long time, so I was pleased with that.  I clocked in at 1hr 54mins 32 secs, and I was 690th woman to finish (out of 7192 women), not sure where I was in my age category, but I did overtake some pretty young things.

After the race I managed to meet up with my friend.  We'd first met a couple of years ago at the start of the Bupa 10,000m, and hadn't seen each other in person since then.  It was great to chat and have lunch, and laugh at her exploded voltarol tube.  We talked about our race, our children, our jobs, our running shoes - all that girly stuff, over a lovely lunch before she headed back up to the North East.  Hopefully we'll meet up again soon at the York Marathon.

I want to run this race again.  It is a hugely popular race for very good reason (best goodie bag, interesting medal, great race village and food festival in addition to a stunning route) and entry is by ballot.  I've entered three times and not got a ballot place, so have had to run for charity.  Maybe next year I will get lucky.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Farnham Pilgrim Half Marathon

Until yesterday morning I was considering not going for a long run today.  My training plan said that I should run 15 miles, but I was tired and achey.  A new job  and marathon training will do that to you.  The new job is great, but I am still at the rabbit in the headlights stage, where lots of things seem to take longer than normal.  Until this weekend I  hadn't been to bed before midnight since the beginning of term.   Then, at parkrun yesterday morning, we talking about autumn marathons.  'You could do the Farnham Pilgrim tomorrow if you were feeling really keen,' said a friend.  I said, that would be nice but the Farnham Pilgrim wasn't until next week, and I knew that because I was signed up for the half.  Turns out that he was right and I was wrong.  

I don't do trail running.  I like a nice bit of tarmac.  I don't mind hills, but running through mud, dodging puddles, avoiding tree roots is too much like bloody hard work if you ask me!  But... I'd paid £21 to enter the race, and I was supposed to run anyway, so scratching my head and trying to recall why I had signed up, I went to dig out my trail shoes.  My mood wasn't improved by the weather forecast.  Heavy rain and gales.  That made up my mind, this wasn't going to be a race, it was just going to be a run with a medal at the end.   I would wear 3/4 length running tights and a t shirt rather than a club vest and shorts, and take my 'phone with me so that I could stop and take pictures if the mood took me.  

The weather this morning was lovely, but I didn't really take that on board until I arrived at the venue.  I got there early enough to see friends who were running the marathon off on their way.  The start area was well organised, and I met up with various friends and chatted and passed the time for an hour until it was time for the half marathon to start.  The first mile was downhill and on tarmac.  Lovely!  I knew that there were hills aplenty coming up - see my Garmin thingy for confirmation - so I didn't go hell for leather. 

We were soon off road, and uphill!  For lots of stretches it was strictly single file, which was nice as it meant that you could just relax and run at the pace of the guy in front.  There were also stiles and gates, lots of them.  These involved standing in a queue, which was either quite nice because it gave me a chance to get my breath back after a hill, or a real nuisance because I'd just got into a nice rhythm and knew that it would be hard to get going again.  Also, I hate stiles!  Was jealous of the long legged men who seemed to jump effortlessly over them while I struggled.  Running through one village (ah tarmac!) we had the added obstacle of trying to pass a group of riders on skittish horses, and at another point we encountered a group of motorcyclists we had to weave our way around - it seemed that everyone was out to enjoy the sunshine today.

I'd been warned about a hill at 8 miles, that was steep and on sand.  8 miles came and went without much of a hill, but I did see an old friend who was marshalling and managed to lose a contact lens!  Running with only one eye functioning properly is interesting.  The blur is oddly distracting, and loss of 3D vision means that depth perception is non existent.  That's fine on lovely smooth tarmac, but a bit tricky on uneven trails.  This slowed me down a bit. 

Then came The Hill.  I tried to run all the way up it, I really did.  But it was a fairly steep hill (between 9 and 10 miles on the Garmin trace I think) and it was on sand.  I really think that I might have been able to run all the way up the hill, albeit very slowly, had there not been people walking all around me. It was almost as though it was OK to walk if they were.  I didn't loose too much time, and I had time in the bank.  I had a time in mind that I would be happy with.  A friend, who is a much better runner than me, said she had run this race last year in 2hrs 24mins.  I wanted to do better than that time.  (She ran again this year, taking nearly 26mins off that time).   The views from the top of the hill may have been lovely, if I'd had two eyes to see them! 

The downhills were steep and slippery, so no going full pelt to make up time.  The final 2 miles of the race were a steady, but not steep, uphill drag.  The last 3/4m being on tarmac.  I was amazed that I was overtaking people in the last 2 miles.  Running up the road through the village meant dodging some impatient drivers, one of them pulled right across the road forcing me to squeeze myself through an impossibly small gap - I bashed his 4x4 with my water bottle as I passed him.  

And then we were turning into the field we'd started from.  Not quite a sprint finish, but I did up the pace a bit.  As I crossed the line my name was called out - I do like that, makes me feel like a bit of superstar.  At the finish there were lots of people to place medals around our necks, so much nicer than having to dig around in a goody bag to find one.  There were soft drinks, and a vast array of cakes for finishers.  I bumped into the person who, I suddenly remembered, was responsible for me signing up for the race (doesn't take much - just wave an entry form in front of me), he was handing out cakes.   
In addition to a fab medal (on a purple ribbon!) we also got a great t-shirt and mug.   I am still a Road Runner, I am afraid of the woods, and can't say I 'enjoyed' today's little run.  It was a brilliantly organised event though, there were loads of helpful, friendly marshals, more water (and cake) stations than I have ever seen at an event and the Start/Finish area was superbly organised with a great atmosphere.  The countryside is stunning, the entry price is reasonable, I got to see friends I haven't seen for a while.  All in all a good morning out - and it didn't rain until after I finished!

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Run, run as fast as you can!

Saturday was a much anticipated day in our house.  My 9 year old was going to run his 50th parkrun.  He ran his first parkrun in October 2011 and, after a bit of a rocky start, he really knuckled down recently and started coming to every parkrun with me.  Obviously he is dependent on me to get him to parkruns, but on a couple of occasions he has persuaded friends of mine to drive him over and, as his 50th loomed ever closer he got Husbando to drive him to Alice Holt parkrun and run that parkrun with him.

When he ran his first parkrun it took him 43minutes and 37 seconds to complete 5k.  He'd got progressively faster over the 22 months, but we'd been stuck at around 33minutes.  His PB was 32.51, which he set a couple of weeks ago.  As we drove to War Memorial Park we talked about maybe trying for a PB. Wouldn't it be nice to get a PB on this special day?

We lined up at the start.  I was chatting with a much faster running friend who was recovering from injury.  The three of us set off running at a nice, easy pace.  An easy pace for my friend and I, but a little ambitious for the boy wonder, or so I thought.  He just kept going!  He didn't whinge, he wasn't grumpy, he just kept going, and going, and going.  Just as we got to the 'bus stop' (that's what it looks like!) on the last lap I looked at my watch.  28 minutes.  I turned to my friend and asked quietly, so that my boy couldn't hear, whether we could do sub 30.   We thought it was possible, if not probable, so pushed him on a bit.  He powered on through the woods, up hill and along the twisting path, overtaking people as we went.  As he came out of the woods, with the finish funnel in sight, loads of people started cheering.  He shouted out an alliterated phrase that he'd obviously been planning for the entire route and sprinted to the finish - crossing the line in 30 minutes and 1 pesky second! As we chatted on the way home he did point out that if we had started at the front he'd 'easily' have been sub 30.  I said that if he'd started at the front he'd have been flattened!

I'd made cakes to celebrate - cakes and parkrun seem to go together very nicely.  It was lovely to sit around in the sunshine chatting with friends, catching up with a lovely parkrunner who was running her 150th parkrun.  There is no parkrun shirt for 150 runs - but it is a fantastic achievement non the less, and was marked with a certificate made by our Event Director.

I am incredibly proud of my boy!  He has worked so hard and Saturday's run really showed him that a huge factor in running well is deciding that you are going to run well.  He has a real runner's attitude, he will finish a run whatever it takes.  He is always up for a run with me during the week.  He may not be as fast as some boys his age, but he can keep on going, and going and going!  And he will improve over time.  He'll be faster than me one day!

Today saw me heading on up to Bushy Park for the first Run 10 for Mo race. I was glad that I had been to the Bushy parkrun a few weeks ago as it meant I knew where I was going, where I'd park etc.  The event was smaller than the parkrun, limited to a maximum of 500 runners, the entry fee was a very reasonable £5, but every runner was expected to raise £75 for the Farah Foundation.  I would be surprised if there were more than 300 runners.  I'm not sure what happened.  Maybe they didn't raise the sponsorship, maybe the fact that the race was starting at 12 noon in the middle of summer put them off.

A shower of rain at about 11am made me pretty sure we were going to have some nice cool weather.  The clouds vanished just before 12 and the temperature started to soar.  After the usual pre race announcements we were off.  The route was totally flat, and on a mixture of grass, gravel and a little bit of tarmac.  I am not a fan of gravel or grass, and had decided before I set out that would not be getting a PB today.  Doing this of course meant that I was not in the right frame of mind to get a PB.  I ran the first mile too fast, hated mile 2, 3 and 4.  I was doing maths in my head, working out how slow I could run and still finish in under an hour!  (My PB is 49.16).   The heat was sapping, it wasn't a busy race, and the supporters, whilst enthusiastic, were thin on the ground.  I just wanted it all to be over.  I normally feel like this at some point in a race, normally really early on, before I've settled into a rhythm, but that rhythm never materialised today - despite what one of the runners said about my 'lovely, even running rhythm.'  Even with less than half a mile to go it wouldn't have taken much persuasion for me to quit.  Still, needs must, and you can't run a race without a sprint finish.  I managed to put a brief spurt of speed on, and overtook a couple of runners in the final few metres to finish 9th lady and 61st overall.

After getting my breath back and chatting to a few people, I ran back around the course to find a friend and run in with her.  It was lovely to see her and encourage her to the finish - and boy, does that girl have a turn of speed when it comes to a sprint to the line!   (Time 52:38)

We collected our goodie hags - nice quality bag with tech vest, running socks, pencil and wrist band.  No medal, which is a shame, because I do like a bit of bling, but nice to get a vest rather than a tshirt!  Last time I was at Bushy Park I had to dash home, but today I had time to linger and have a late lunch at The Peasantry Cafe.  What a lovely place!  Great company - meeting runners from Reading parkrun, good food, lovely park setting - what more could one want?

Of course, those of you who know me will be aware that I am training for a marathon, and that a 10k/6 mile race does not constitute a long slow run.  So more miles were required.  When I got home I went for a run with my 9yo, then after a short break and an iced coffee, a run with Husbando to take the total mileage up to 13.7 miles for the day.  The last run was really hard.  Alice Holt Forest seemed to have an awful lot of hills, and a lot of gravel.  And my legs were very tired.  Still, I did it.  And a Sunday where I only wear pyjamas, running kit and pyjamas again can't be bad!

Sunday, 21 July 2013


Way back at the end of 2011 I entered a ballot for a race that billed itself as being a 'once in a lifetime event,' and was fortunate enough to get a place in the the The National Lottery Olympic Park Run.  The experience of running around the emerging Olympic Park with 5,500 other runners was amazing.  It did resemble a building site in some areas, but it was a hustling, bustling building site that was full of promise.

A few months ago I got an email or saw a Facebook status (I can't remember which!) that advertised the National Lottery Anniversary Olympic Park Run.  A similar run, 5 miles, finishing in the stadium, to celebrate the anniversary of the start of the 2012 Olympic Games.  This time it wasn't a ballot for places, this time there were 10,000 places up for grabs on a first come first served basis with a price tag of £27 (compared to last year's entry price of £15).  That's quite a lot for a 5 mile race, but the experience from last March was so amazing that I signed up and got Husbando to sign up too - he'd not managed to get a ballot place last year.

We travelled up on the train, when we boarded at Woking we joined a throng of runners that I know and a party atmosphere ensued!

This year, of course, we knew what the stadium would be like, there wasn't the novelty factor that we had experienced last time when we first walked into the stadium.  We had 'been there, done that and bought several souvenir t-shirts' over the course of several visits to the Olympics ask Paralympics.  It was a shock to see how much has been dismantled as we walked to the stadium.  The airport style x-ray security machines were gone and, despite dire warnings to arrive 2 hours before the start of the race, we got through security pretty quickly.   The stadium itself was as imposing as ever, the aquatics centre was still there, but with loads of scaffolding, the Orbit was in place but with a huge pile of rubble in front of it.   The boys were most disappointed to dissever that the MacDonalds had vanished!

We settled the boys in their seats and Husando and I made our way to the start.  After a week or two of really hot weather it was overcast this morning.  We waited at the start area, half heartedly took part, along with 12,500 other runners (2,500 extra places had been released as a ballot) in a mass warm up, and after a short delay Sir Chris Hoy sounded the claxon and there first wave set out.   We were in the second wave, so we had to wait a little longer - watching the big screen to see if we could spot people we knew!  We saw several people stop just after the start, mobile 'phones at the ready to grab a photo of themselves with Sir Chris!

Soon it was our turn to cross the line.  I was raring to go.  The early stages of the route were very narrow with lots of twists and turns, so there was little chance to get into a good pace.  We ran on every kind of surface: tarmac, grass, sand, gravel!  There were lots of runners wearing headphones who seemed to have absolutely no awareness of what was going on around them.  As soon as we started to run we realised that it was actually still rather warm!

It was an odd run.  Constantly looking for space to run into, wondering where Husbando was - we were running together, but it was hard to keep track of him as most people were wearing their blue t-shirts, keeping one eye on the uneven surface underfoot while trying to work out where we were in the park and what had been demolished!  We crossed the first mile marker in 8mins 31 secs - so at that point we mentally kissed a PB goodbye.  We just couldn't get a good run of speed, so thought we would just enjoy ourselves.

At three miles we were on an out and back section and we saw a dinosaur running back towards us.  Husbando decided that he was going to 'take the dinosaur.'  I thought this was ambitious, but hey - at this point I was just about hanging on, going through a mid race lull with a foot that was giving me a bit of bother (my 'good' foot which was worrying!)  As we got to the 4 mile marker the 'Asthma dinosaur' was in our sights and we passed him very soon afterwards.  How he managed to run in that costume in today's heat is beyond me - it was hot enough running in a tshirt!  

The end was now, if not in sight, but within contemplation.  I picked up the pace.  I kept thinking that Husbando was ahead of me so speeding up, when actually he was behind me!  The tunnel into the stadium was a sweaty sauna - music blaring out and a 'last lap' bell ringing as we approached the track.

And here we were, back on that track.  Husbando said 'Let's run on the outside so the boys can see us and get photos.'  I was doing some running maths (always a bit dodgy) and figured that there was, miraculously, a chance that I could better my time from last year, so wanted to run on the inside.  I compromised and ran in the middle while Husbando ran nearer the outside.   We'd talked about crossing the line hand in hand, but when Husbando took my hand about 60m from the finish I am ashamed to say I shook him off.  There were vital seconds at stake and I couldn't run holding hands - I said 'Too soon!' and fully intended to grab his hand again as we crossed the line.  I didn't quite manage it, but we did cross the line together.  And I did get a PB!  By five whole seconds!

Paula Radcliffe was still at the finish line, shaking hands and signing autographs, there were also paralympians forming a sort of honour guard that we passed through on our way out of the stadium.  A nice, chunky medal and a goody bag were very welcome, as was the breeze when we left the stadium!

Photos will follow soon.  We had to dash back, have a quick shower and change before going down to Cowdray Park to watch the finals of the polo!  What a day!  The team we were supporting won, lots of champagne was consumed and a jolly good time was had by all!

Monday, 15 July 2013

Wot? No parkrun?

It is a very rare Saturday that doesn't involve a parkrun for me whether as a runner or volunteer.  Until this weekend I think I have missed two so far this year.  One was to take my middle son to a school entrance exam and the other was because I was running a marathon that started at 9am.  This week I couldn't parkrun, or volunteer at parkrun, because I had to travel up to Glasgow and timings of flights meant that I wouldn't get my weekly fix.

Why this madcap day trip to Glasgow on one of the hottest days of the year?  Well, I was attending an interview to be a volunteer at the Commonwealth Games next year.  The journey up there was uneventful, although it entailed a stupidly early start for a weekend and I arrived in Glasgow with plenty of time to have a walk around the city before my interview at 1 o'clock.  I'd never been to Glasgow before and it felt as though I had stepped back in time.  A bit like Portmouth of 20 years ago.  The fact that some areas of the city are having a huge facelift in preparation for the upcoming Games seems to highlight the dichotomy.

My interview was at the shiny new volunteer centre, and the process was very slick and well organised.    We arrived in batches of 10 and were checked in, had our ID checked and then had a brief presentation about the role we were being selected for.  Now I don't know about you, but when I first thought about volunteering I thought I'd get given a big foam hand and a megaphone and be pointed in the direction of streams of members of the public and tasked with getting them in and out of venues in a relatively orderly fashion.  The role I was interviewed for was a bit more complicated than that.  'Sports Services' involves several different areas, but could include checking accreditation, liaising with athletes and teams about training venues/times, checking entries for events and much more.  I have no idea if I will get selected.  Over 50,000 people applied to be volunteered and 25,000 will be interviewed.  This will take some time and they are not planning to let people know until 'November at the earliest.'

In other news, Husbando took our 9 year old to our nearest parkrun, Alice Holt, which is somewhat hilly, and knocked 3 whole minutes off his PB.  It was a rare treat for Husbando to parkrun as he is normally stuck in his shop.  This is only his third parkrun, and his first away from Basingstoke, but I think he finally 'gets' why I love parkrun so much.  Thank you to the Alice Holt people for making him feel welcome.  We'll try and get back again soon.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Brackenwood Festival Place 5k

Why are we paying to do a 5k race when we have a perfectly good 5k we can run for free every Saturday?  That was a question a few parkrun regulars were asking as we gathered in Festival Place for the start of this unusual race.  The reason we were prepared to pay was, I reckon the fact that it was a) local, b) reasonably priced and c) a bit of a laugh!

With a maximum of 200 runners, it was only two thirds of the size of Basingstoke parkrun and a larger, wider starting area meant that the start felt much less busy.  We started level with the edge of Pizza Express and ran straight through the double doors into Festival Place shopping centre!  We hared past Debenhams, Fat Race and Waterstones before making a u-turn outside M&S (and passing some lions) to come back past Next, H&M and BHS before leaving Festival Place via the bus station exit.  After that I was, quite frankly, lost.  I just followed the person ahead of me on what seemed to be a predominantly uphill slog.  We went under some roads, and I just followed the excellent directions of the marshals.  It was lovely to see marshals that I knew - and all the marshals were cheerful and encouraging.

It was surprisingly hot out there - for a race that started at 9am!  I was glad of the shade as we came into Eastrop Park (which I know having run 5 laps of it dressed as Santa Claus!  This race only called for one loop of the park and then back under another road and across the finish line near Nandos.  As I did a u-turn under the ring road the marshal there informed me I was 6th lady!  I knew 4 of the 5 ladies ahead of me, I knew exactly where the 5th lady was and knew I had no chance of catching her, but I had no idea where the 7th lady was, and I was not going to let her catch up with me!  I knew by now that I wasn't on for a PB, but I wanted to try to run it in under 24 minutes - I managed this with 4 seconds to spare!  And the 7th lady did not catch up with me!  In fact I was 45th overall.

The goodie bag is excellent!  It includes a voucher for half a chicken at Nandos - which probably means that I have pretty much got my entry fee back in free chicken.  A nice medal, with a lovely purple ribbon (I am easily pleased!), plenty of water and bananas at the finish all made for a rather nice morning out!

Definitely a race I will do again next year.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

I've changed my mind.

It doesn't happen often, so I thought I ought to record it here, but I have changed my mind on something.  Husbando may not believe it is true unless he sees it in print, or pixels, or whatever this is!

Ever since I first started going to parkrun I have been aware of the 'all children under the age of 11 must be accompanied by an adult' rule, but being a very relaxed, laid back mum of 5 children my idea of 'accompanied' is vastly different to the concept as visualised by the mum of many a lone child.  It isn't physically possible to keep all 5 children in my line of sight at any one time and allow them to do anything much more exciting than sitting on a park bench, so my children have grown up with slightly more freedom than a many a child in a smaller family will enjoy.  I make sure that they know where I am, what time they are expected back and what the limits are (in terms of how far they can go, which trees they can climb, etc. etc) and we get along pretty well most of the time.  I have independent, adventurous children who seem to thrive on a system of benign neglect.

When my then 8 year old started coming to parkrun with me we ran together for the first time, so that he didn't get lost, learnt how to deal with faster runners coming along behind him etc. and knew what to do at the finish funnel.  The next week I asked him if he wanted to run with me and he was quite adamant that he would much rather run by himself.  This was fine by me, as I like to treat parkrun as my fast run of the week, and my son likes to run a bit, stop and look at a snail on a leaf, chat to a dog, etc.  But he likes the whole parkrun concept, chatting to people he knows and being part of the parkrun family.

So, when a newsletter came out stating that 'accompanied' meant that our under 11s should be 'within reach' at all times I was not a happy bunny.  Neither was my by now 9 year old.  He didn't want to run with me at parkrun.  We compromised a bit.  I said that if we were at any other parkrun but our home run he would have to run with me, if we were at out home run I would run with him unless we could find someone else he wanted to run with.  This happens quite often - he will run and talk with any number of the regulars there quite happily.

Today, however, the children were at a school fete.  I was on my own.  I thought I might just 'go for it' and see if I could get close to my PB.   My PB has stood since August 2011 and it is time I had a crack at beating it.  I moved closer to the front than I have for a wee while, not right to the very front you understand, I didn't want people thinking I was really making an effort!   I got off to a good start.  I was running at a faster pace than my PB pace, and it felt comfortable, not as though I was pushing myself to my limit.  I hit the 1k marker in a smidge over 4 minutes and carried on over the field enjoying the feeling of overtaking people for a change.

As I approached the top of a field I was aware of a child coughing near me.  Suddenly I saw the coughing boy stumble, fall and lie on the floor crying.  I stopped.  What else could I do?  I looked around to see if anyone else seemed to be concerned - they didn't.  I asked him if his mum or dad was nearby, he didn't know.  His dad was 'here' but he wasn't sure where.  He was sobbing and it was not easy to understand what he was saying.  If it had been my child (this one was also 9) I would have known if it was going to be OK for him to carry on, but this child was an unknown - I didn't know if he had asthma or something, so decided that the only option was to go back to the finishing area where I could leave him with the marshals.

We walked back.  I got some funny looks from other runners.  At the finish area the child saw his father and the two were reunited.  'Why did you stop him running?' asked the father.  I pointed out that I hadn't stopped him running, he'd fallen over and was crying and upset and all on his own.  The father was quite rude when I pointed out that children under 11 should be with a parent.  As I ran back to join the runners I shouted 'And thank you so much for looking after my child and giving up your run!'  Petty, I know, but there you go!

So, my 5k run became about 1k more than that!  I couldn't decide how to approach the run when I rejoined it - at the very back of the pack.  I jogged along, overtaking a few people, slowing down to chat with friends, stopping to talk to someone at the playground.  As I approached the end of the first complete lap I picked up my pace a bit, as the fast runners were completing their final lap and they spurred me on.  I was tickled to hear comments from runners (who know me well) about how well I was running and how I must be in the top 4 ladies to finish!  I wish!  I looked at my watch and realised that they thought I was on for a finish time of around 21 minutes, if this was my last lap, which would be over 2 minutes faster than my current PB!  I ran past the finish funnel and on to my final lap, still overtaking people all the way.  I ran the last half mile of my run faster than the first half mile so have decided that I probably should have a serious pop at my PB in the next few weeks.

The dad and child had gone by then.  Just as well, as I now had time to really let rip at dad for being so rude!  Parents running with their children is a good thing!  I wish my son liked running parkrun with me - he loves running with me during the week (he just likes to run alone/with parkrun friends at parkrun) and I love running and chatting with him about his day.  After today I am more prepared to sacrifice my Saturday parkrun for my child.

That said, had someone brought my sobbing child back to me I like to think I might have had the good grace to be grateful and not rude to that person!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

A hidden gem.

I have driven up and down the A316 many, many times, but I had never noticed Crane Park Island before.  What an utter treat it was to discover this wonderful nature reserve virtually under the shadow of Twickenham Stadium and in the middle of South West London's urban sprawl.  This park is the site of a former gunpowder mill, but is now home to kingfishers, water voles and Crane parkrun!

Thanks to some help via the Facebook page I found my way to the park.  Thanks to the most unhelpful dog walker ever, I was merrily heading off in totally the wrong direction.  "Oh yes, this is the way they come from every Saturday, just after 9am!" she said as I wondered if I was going in the right direction, under a bridge on a very narrow path by the river.  Luckily I bumped into a runner I met at the Abingdon marathon, I knew he looked familiar, but I am useless with names and faces so was very relieved when he called out 'MrsBridgewater!' as I approached.  At the start I met another runner I knew from Frimley Lodge parkrun  - the running world is very small!

At the start I put my favourite Gore running jacket in a stranger's back pack.  As you do.  The start is some distance from the finish so the lovely volunteers act as sherpas between the two points.  After the run briefing I tried to decide where to stand in the mass of runners.  I plonked myself towards the back of the middle, if that makes sense.  This was not a great place to start, the path is fairly narrow, and I got a bit blocked in for the first couple of hundred metres.  I was running naked  - i.e. without my Garmin.  Not through choice, but because it was away for repair.  Running without my Garmin at my own parkrun, where I could use other runners I know to gauge my pace, is one thing, running without it with a totally unknown group of people is a different matter!  I was also recovering from a nasty tummy bug, so had not idea how this was going to turn out.

The course is mainly on paths through the park (both compact gravel and tarmac) and is made up of one a three quarter laps.  You leave the park briefly three times - to run along the pavement of two roads.  This seems to be quite a novelty in parkrun terms.  I plodded along, not really sure of my pace, but loving the park!  Loads of bird song, and no traffic noise in the depths of the park - and sculptures, I want to go back and walk around so I can have a proper look.  There are no km markers, and that, along with no Garmin, meant I really did have no idea how I was getting on.  I chatted with a few people as I ran, determined to enjoy myself.  The finish hadn't been set up when I passed it the first time, so I didn't even know where I was aiming for!  I asked one runner I passed how long it was to the finish.  "You just go up that hill, round a couple of corners then up a bit and it is on your left."  Which was exactly what I had to do, but what I really needed to know was roughly how many metres!    You don't get much visual warning either - as it is just around a bend, but for the last few metres you can see the coffee van ahead, which must spur a lot of runners on a bit!

The coffee van being 'right there' at the end meant that a lot of runners stayed to drink coffee, chat and cheer on those who finished after them.  The coffee was very good too!  I met up with runners I knew 'virtually' from the FetchEveryone website, had a bit of a chat, drank my HUGE cup of coffee in the sunshine, before dashing back into London so that I could use the shower in my hotel room before I had to check out!  I've done a lot of inaugural parkruns recently, and they always have a bit of a party atmosphere, same faces, different venue, but turning up to an established parkrun on my own is a different animal.  I get quite nervous about it to be honest, so a huge thank you to everyone who made me feel so welcome.  I'll be back, and may bring small children with me!

In other news
Garmin must be praised for their excellent customer service!  Posted my watch to them on Wednesday, and a replacement was sent to me so that it arrived on Saturday.  This is for a watch that is out of guarantee - but only by a week!  That has saved me a few pennies!

As I was in London I decided to pay a visit to Sweatshop's self styled 'ultimate destination' for runners. I can only say that I was distinctly underwhelmed.  I have shopped at the Sweatshop concession in Harrods for years (and get lovely Harrods points when I do so), but I expected the flagship store to be bigger, better and have a huge range of lovely things for me to buy.  They didn't.  In fact there had been a greater choice in Harrods.  The service was good and friendly, but it lacked the 'wow factor' I'd been led to expect.

And finally...
We didn't know where to stay on Saturday night.  So we went to to  to have a look around.  We discovered their 'top secret hotels' - basically you book a certain star rating of hotel in a specified area, but you don't find out where you are going until after you book.  We ended up at W London - somewhere we would never have considered, but which we absolutely loved.  It feels as though we were living in a bond movie, very stylish and luxurious!

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Kent Roadrunner Marathon

It all started a few months ago, Ian Berry of TZruns mentioned that he was organising a second 'Kent Roadrunner Marathon' and had I thought about signing up.  "Yeah right," I thought, "I really want to run 17 laps !"  I told Ian that I'd run his marathon if he let me have bib number 69.  I'd never heard  of people demanding their own numbers and getting them, so thought I was on fairly safe ground.  How wrong was I?  Ian said yes, and I was signed up.  I wasn't even sure where the race was taking place until someone told me it was 'near Bluewater!'
I travelled down to Gravesend yesterday afternoon, with a brief detour to Bluewater to pick up things I'd forgotten to pack (hair brush, FitFlops), and checked in to a Premier Inn.  As I checked in I asked what time breakfast would be served, 8am!  Far too late for me when the race was due to start at 9am.  Dinner was eaten with friends (who were celebrating their wedding anniversary).  It was a huge amount of food, and after catching up with friends and meeting new people, I toddled off to bed at about 10.30pm.  

Yesterday was surprisingly warm, and I was dreading a hot day today, but the sky was cloudy and the temperature was chilly as I arrived at the Cyclopark and parked my car close to the pavilion building before paying for parking, collecting my race number, timing chip and 16 wrist bands. The wrist bands were to save our poor addled brains having to remember how many laps we had run - a good plan as most runners come equipped with just 2 thumbs and 8 fingers so that counting beyond 10 would involve removing shoes and socks!  The system is quite simple, you start with 16, take one off every time you complete a lap and pass the start line, thus running your very last lap without a wrist band.  Simple really.  

We assembled for the start, there were announcements for birthdays, 100th marathons and then we were off.  The first 9 miles were fabulous, if a little too fast, but then I developed a shooting pain in my right foot.  I thought it was a blister, so took of my shoe and had a look, but nothing there... It was agony to put my foot down, still, at least it slowed me down to a more manageable speed.  I was ok-ish until about 17.5 miles.  Then it all got too much, it hurt a lot, and the idea of running round and round the track again and again lost its appeal!  Passing the finish line was pure torture - the temptation to stop was huge.  I walked through the water station each time I passed it, I detoured to the loo 5 times, I stopped for a chat with a friend who was marshalling.  "Is it OK if I stop?" I asked, she told me to do another lap and see how I felt, walking if necessary.  So that's what I did. 

Whilst I can't say I'm a convert to laps, they do have some interesting features.  You get lapped, and you lap others.  I was lapped by the first man at 4 miles into the race and the first woman after 6 miles.  It was good to see these speedy runners whizzing past, normally they are so far ahead that mere mortals like me don't get to see them.  Lapping other people was an unusual experience for me - and I lapped some people several times. It was a very friendly atmosphere, lots of banter between runners who knew each other well or had only just met.  My frequent loo stops confused people as I'd suddenly be behind them again and working to catch up!   17 laps also ensures that you become very familiar with every twist, turn and undulation!  A slope that you barely register on lap one becomes a mountain during the final few laps.  

I'd set out today aiming for 4hrs 20mins.  By 17 miles in I didn't care how long it took, I was just going to finish this thing.  I couldn't do the necessary maths to work out how I was doing.  At the beginning of the penultimate lap I worked out that if I could do each of the remaining laps in about 15 minutes I could still get my PB.  So I walked to the water station, had a couple of cups of water and set off at a gentle trot!  I was so thrilled to get rid of my last wrist band that I threw it to some friends in the crowd. Shedding that bit of weight obviously worked and I picked up the pace.  Suddenly I was running at sub 9min/mile pace.  I caught up with a runner who'd left me behind ages ago and we ran together for a bit, before I ploughed on leaving him behind.  I got to the top of the last steepish hill and walked for about 100m, I couldn't run... but my pace still stayed below 9min/mile pace.  I started running again as I turned the corner to the uphill slope to the finish, I kept pushing on, the last quarter mile shows a pace just over 8min/mile.  I've never been happier to see a finish line.  The gun time was 4:16:17, my watch showed 4:16:00 but whatever it was it was a 6+ minute PB after the toughest run I have ever had.  

The medal we were given is HUGE, ostentatious and heavy on a fabulous custom ribbon! I staggered back to the car with it round my neck, it really felt as though someone had moved my car... I'd parked close to the pavilion, but this walk to the car was taking ages!  Then a return walk to the pavilion with wallet to buy lunch and to pay for a massage.  It was lovely to sit around and chat with people I'd met during the run.  

After lunch I said my goodbyes and thanks to the lovely race marshals and to Ian and made my way home.  I did have to pull into a layby for a snooze at one point, but got home safely in the end.  I'm looking forward to seeing the race photos - the photographers were so friendly and encouraging!  As for tonight - an early night beckons!

Monday, 27 May 2013

Vanquishing demons

While most of the UK population was enjoying a Bank Holiday Monday lie in, I had persuaded Husbando to come up to London with me while I ran the Bupa 10,000m.  This meant that we got up at 'normal' time, but that we didn't have the hassle of getting the tribe organised for school, although number one son was travelling as far as Woking with us on the train before getting another train to Brighton for the day.  Porridge with banana and cinnamon was consumed, a final check of race number and timing chip was made and off we set.

London was beautiful this morning.  Despite bumping into a crowd of Chineham Park Runners on Waterloo Station, Husbando and I decided to walk 'our way' to Green Park, crossing an almost deserted Hungerford Bridge.  London was quieter at 8.30am on a Bank Holiday morning that it normally is when I go for a run at 6.30am on a Sunday!

I arrived at Green Park at about 9am.  The voice over the tannoy was exhorting everyone in the red starting areas to make their way to the start!  I still had to queue for a portaloo, untie and retie my shoe laces several times, dither about whether I'd need to keep a t-shirt on until the start, check my bag in at the bag drop etc. etc.  I was no where near ready to proceed to to the start a whole hour before the race was due to start.  I think I got my act together by about 9.20am when the blue wave were being encouraged to get a wiggle on and make their way to The Mall!

Standing in The Mall was a hugely different experience to last year.  Last year it was 27C as we baked in one of the very few hot and sunny days of last year.  This year it was sunny, but the minute the Sun hid behind a cloud there was a chill in the air.  My nerves were starting to build, I'd had a bad time at this race last  year and that, and being injured for a lot of last year had sapped my confidence.  I know that my time does not matter to anyone other than me, but boy does it matter to me!  I set myself a target of getting round in 54 minutes or under, that would be over 2 minutes faster than last year but would mean that I wouldn't have to push too hard on my poorly foot!

Mo Farah went past our start zone, to the accompaniment of a huge cheer.  I gave myself a bit of a talking to.  This bloke has won this event 4 years running, the pressure on him to make it 5 in a row must be incredible.  I was just out for a nice run in the Sun!

Soon we were off.  I started too fast, but thought, never mind, I'll soon slow down.  But I never really did slow down, passing each kilometre marker less than 5 minutes after the previous one.  It wasn't easy, in fact it was possibly the hardest run I have done in a long time, but I thought that I may as well push on.  The support on the course was fantastic, running through Leadenhall Market where a drum band plays loudly is a great treat.  I am not mad on the reverse route though as there seem to be a lot more upward slopes rather than one very short sharpish (not really steep at all) hill and lots of gentle downhill slopes.

The temperature through the City was pretty warm - very sheltered and the buildings reflecting all the heat, but there were plenty of pleasant breezes.  I almost got knocked sideways by the breeze as I passed Horse Guards!  The breeze through St James Park was rather brisk.  Suddenly there were only 400m left!  I picked up the pace, as I turned back onto The Mall and decided it was now or never - I didn't even think about smiling for the cameras, I just ran.   I crossed the line and stopped my watch, then before I could look at it I found I was hanging onto the barrier and trying not to be sick!  I couldn't see a friendly first aider with a sick bag anywhere and I was not going to throw up at this race two years running!

When I did look at my watch I found I had done it!  A new PB!  It had been very hard work, and probably not the best idea 5 days before a marathon, but it is done!

Milling about in Green Park and hearing eveyone's stories of the race was fantastic.  There really is a great atmosphere after this race as runners meet friends and family.  Many photos were taken, and I apologies if the ones I took on other people's cameras are useless but it was so sunny that I couldn't see the screen!

This really is a great race!  It isn't cheap, but if you are only going to do one 10k then this is it.  And if you aren't ever going to do the London Marathon then this race gives you some great sights to look out while you run!

Saturday, 25 May 2013

An unexpected treat!

It is the first morning of the half term holiday, so what happens at MrsBridgewater's house?  Do we all get a well earned lie in followed by a leisurely breakfast?  Of course not!  The alarm was set for 6.45am, which is to be fair 55 minutes later than a week day, and we had a quick breakfast, opened a few birthday presents (my baby girl is 7 today) and then I set off for Brokenhurt's inaugural parkrun.  Just one accompanying child this week, which seems to have become the norm.  He has decided to run with me a couple of times during the week too, and I had great hopes that this would improve his parkrun performance.  We also picked up a passenger on the way, and prepared ourselves mentally for heavy Bank Holiday traffic.

We were pleasantly surprised, the traffic was light and we got there with time to spare.  We weren't the only 'parkrun tourists' making a journey today, there was a knock on my car window before I'd even taken the key out of the ignition and and old friend was standing there.  As I looked around I saw lots of familiar faces from last week at Queen Elizabeth parkrun and overheard the comment that this was becoming a bit of a moveable feast... same faces different venue!  I like this aspect of inaugurals.  I think it must give first time parkrunners a real sense of the type community that their new parkrun will develop into.

Brockenhurst parkrun is held on the sports fields of Brockenhurst College.  The course details told me that it was a 4 lap course and fairly flat.  All of the course is on grass.  I think I may have mentioned once or twice that I don't like grass.  And I really don't like laps.  I am still wondering what on Earth possessed me to enter a 17 lap marathon next weekend....  After the run briefing we set off towards that back of the pack, we could see the field spread out as the speedy runners pulled ahead.  The weather was sunny but the wind was chilly, so it was a case of baking in the sunny bits and feeling rather cold in the shade!

My young companion had been running splendidly during the week, we'd been for two runs together of 2 miles and 2.5 miles, and he'd averaged 10 minute/mile pace.  I had great hopes that he'd pull a new parkrun PB out of the bag this week.  From the outset he was grumpy.  And slow!  I was disappointed. I love running with him, but I miss having a good, speedy parkrun blast on a Saturday morning.  He got increasingly more miserable (and slower) as we carried on.  He started complaining about achey feet, elbows, shoulders, eyeballs, earlobes etc!  I said he could stop, but he didn't want to stop.  I said that if he smiled he'd feel better, he accused me of lying!  I carried on encouraging him, running backwards to cheer him on.

One of the advantages of running at the back is that you often get lapped by the lithe young men, and get a lovely view of their legs as they race past you.  On today's four lap run we got lapped twice - an unexpected pleasure!  My son was more impressed by watching the passing trains, but each to their own!  One of the disadvantages of running on grass is that you often can't hear the faster runners approaching, so we had to work hard to stay out of their way!

On our final lap we were joined by parkrun show presenter Danny Norman who was running his warm down lap.  He and I chatted about all things parkrun and grumpy socks fell further behind.  Luckily my friend came back and ran with him, which meant I could at least put on a bit of a sprint for the last 100m!  I think the grumpiness may be due to not eating a proper breakfast, he is his father's son after all!  If Husbando is grumpy it is because he hasn't eaten, so maybe I need to make sure we all get a 'proper breakfast' before we leave rather than allowing him to just grab a snack.  He certainly perked up after a post run bacon bap!

A good proportion of the 113 runners and the volunteers descended on Brockenhurt College's internet cafe.  It was an inauspicious looking venue housed in a portacabin, but the coffee was surprisingly good.  Good enough to drink two cups anyway!  It has the advantage of being right next to the finish line, and the lady who runs it is apparently open to the idea of getting 'runner friendly' snacks in... that'll be cake then!

The Brockenhurst venue has free parking, right next to the route, and lovely clean toilets!  Nice toilets are always a bonus, especially if you are travelling a long way to get to parkrun.   This is a lovely little addition to the parkrun family, I really hope it goes from strength to strength.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Exceptionally good coffee!

Another Saturday, another parkrun!  Today marked the inaugural running of Queen Elizabeth parkrun just south of Petersfield.  This is about 4 miles further away from home than my regular Basingstoke parkrun, but the A3 is a slightly faster road than the A339 so it took no longer to get there.  I set of with my youngest boy, picked up a friend on the way and we all arrived in good time for the start.

I love an inaugural parkrun as you can guarantee that you'll meet up with people you like and don't get to see often enough as they now run at different parkruns, or you've only met them once or twice 'in real life' but have spent so much time chatting on line that you feel like you have known each other for donkeys' years.  You also get to speak to lots of people who have never been to parkrun before, but more of that later!

It was quite a walk from the car park to the start.  My friend commented that we were lucky it wasn't raining, as we'd have been soaked by the time we got to the start.  We walked up hill to the start.  The first of lots of up hill bits!  Milling around at the start we chatted with people we knew, discussed how hilly this run would be and plotted future parkrun outings.  Kiernan Easton, the event director,  gave an excellent briefing.  He said he was nervous, but it really didn't show.  He thanked all those involved in the set up and all today's volunteers before describing the course.  Apparently it is a net downhill course!

I started near the back, with my boy, and we stayed near the back!  The sharp uphill start spread the field out pretty quickly, but was followed by a lovely long downhill stretch.  As I was running at 9 year old boy pace (and he isn't fast, his PB is 33minutes) I had lots of breath to talk, so talk I did!  Alongside encouraging my 9 year old (shorten you stride, dig in with your toes on the hill, shoulders back, head up, etc. etc.) I chatted with, or maybe at, other runners.  Lots of them were first time parkrunners who were impressed and bemused by the concept in almost equal measure!  The course is beautiful, lots of lovely views and very well marshalled and signposted.  Much of it is on forestry commission hard packed gravel paths with some sections over grass.  Not my favourite running surface, but as I was taking it easy I didn't mind too much.  There is one short lap followed by one longer lap, which meant that it didn't really feel as though one was running laps!  Going up the steep hill for the second time the boy was flagging, as was a Havant parkrunner who was being supported by her friend.  Her friend grabbed one of her hands, my boy grabbed the other and they pulled her up the hill!  Suddenly he could run again, having had a bit of a whinge prior to that point!

Is it hilly?  Well, yes it is!  Look at the elevation profile!  But it is also very pretty.  My son finished it 6 minutes slower than his PB, but that includes a pretty spectacular tumble as he ran down hill.  The sort of tumble that would have put me in hospital, but he just got up, cried a bit, walked a bit and then carried on running!  He may not be fast, he may not always enjoy running, but he is very determined.  If he is struggling and looking miserable I ask him if he wants to stop, he invariably says no, he wants to finish, so on we plod!  I think he likes the big cheer he gets at the finish.

Coffee and a chat is an important part of parkrun for me!  Today we got to sit outside and drink some really lovely coffee.  'Exceptionally good,' as my friend commented.  So good we had to have another cup.  The bacon sandwiches looked pretty good too.  In best parkrun tradition, the event director had organised cakes.  They looked stunning and, I am told, tasted as good as they looked.  I want to know where to get the special cup cake carrying boxes from!

I look forward to coming back to this parkrun in the future and running it without a child.  A bit more hill training might be in order first.  None of the hills are as challenging as my local steep hill, but I run up that one by myself - no one can see if I am running so slowly that it would be faster to walk.  Still, the only way to get good at running hills is to get out there and run up them!

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Alton 10, undulating, but a PB course!

I really didn't want to run a race today.  I wanted to plod along, in my own sweet time, probably giving myself lots of negative self talk about how useless and slow I was.  But I did need to run today, and it is the day of the Alton10.  If I 'just went out for a run' there would be hundreds of other runners on my route anyway.  It is a cheap race to enter, just £10 if you book in advance and have a UK athletics club registration, and ridiculously easy for me to get to.  I always get to races with loads of time to spare.  I hate being late, and worry about missed connections, bad traffic, getting lost etc.  This race, however, was less than a mile from my front door.  I could have a lie in, do some chores, check my emails, sort out snacks for the children to eat in my absence and still have loads of time to arrive and collect my race number couldn't I?  Well, yes, if I'd bothered to put a watch on and check the time!  We'd been advised to collect our race numbers by 9.45am, at 9.35am I was halfway through pegging out my washing on the line!

I quickly grabbed 'everything' I needed, realising too late that I had left my heart rate monitor band 'thingy' at home, along with my lip balm and a sweat band for my wrist.  I had remembered my sunglasses though.  As I jogged through the village the sun was shining down and it was really quite warm.  I was glad to dump my bag and sweatshirt, collect my number and meet up with various running friends.  I thought back to the first time I'd run this race, back in 2010, how intimidated I'd felt by all the club vests and the sinewy legs of serious runners.  I hadn't known a soul there.  My running life has changed dramatically, mainly due to parkrun, now I think I'd be hard pushed to turn up at a race without knowing someone there.  I don't name names on here - but it was great to see everyone.

I had no expectations for this run.  I set off too fast - running the first mile at a 5k pace, a bit silly, but at least I knew that the first hill would slow me down!  As we approached the first water station, while I was chatting with an ex policeman, a parkrun friend sped past me.  Our speed equalised a bit after that, thanks to me throwing caution to the wind on the down hill, and we ran together off and on until about 6 miles where she very graciously said she was going to let me go on.  She called out 'You're running really strongly - keep it up!' as I pulled ahead.  I can't tell you what a boost that was.  I kept that in mind as I slogged up a hill at 7 miles.  I think I chatted all the way around!  I certainly didn't feel as though I was going hell for leather, but I kept worrying that if I kept up the pace I was going at then I was going to blow up at some point.  I didn't.  I carried on overtaking people right up to the last few feet of the race.  My children came out to the end of my road to cheer me on just after the 9 mile marker - lovely to see them.  They took some properly awful photos of me too!

As I crossed the line I think the finishing clock said 1:24:57, the official results are yet to be posted, but even if it is more than that it is a PB (over a minute faster than Paris-Versailles, and two minutes faster than my last Alton10).  I punched the air as I crossed the line and shouted 'P-f*cking-B' and then clamped my hand over my mouth and apologised to the young Scouts who were handing out medals and cups of water (they did an excellent job both at the finish and at the water stations).  I was walking on air!  I bounced around looking for people to talk to.  If I'd been told I had to carry on for another 10 miles I am sure I was so high I could have done it!  As it was, after catching up with a few people, I ran home!

I've been on a bit of a post PB high ever since!  I could hardly wait for Husbando to come home so we could go out for another run.  4.5 miles over part of the same course, at a somewhat slower, but still respectable speed!  It was blooming hot out there this evening.  I have to say the local Scouts did an excellent job - not a sign of a plastic cup at the site of the water station we passed!

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Winchester inaugural parkrun

A new parkrun in the area, or even not quite in the area, is always a good excuse to catch up with old friends and make new ones.  So when the long awaited Winchester parkrun announced that it was starting today I checked my diary (although what else I could possibly be doing on a Saturday morning I can't think) and made plans accordingly.   It was, in fact, open morning at my younger children's school but, as two of the children were happy to go along on their own, I decided that my presence was not required.

I roped in two friends, who blame me for their parkrun addiction, and we set off with my youngest boy.      After arriving and parking in the leisure centre car park we were soon catching up with runners we knew from other parkruns.  Basingstoke parkrun seemed to have dispatched a huge contingent of runners, many resplendent in Chineham Park Running Club shirts,  Frimley Lodge, Alice Holt, Newbury, Poole and Andover parkrun were also well represented.  There were probably many other parkruns represented, and some famous parkrun faces I didn't spot.

The route is flatter than a flat thing that has been throughly ironed, but it has over 40 corners!  Some of them are very tight, including a U-turn that could become 'interesting' in muddy weather.  As there are three laps this needs negotiating 3 times.  There are also 6 river crossings, willow trees, ducks and an awful lot of grass.  There is a weeny bit of tarmac, but the rest is grass playing fields all the way.  This had the effect of taking my back to my school days when we were made to run around the school fields.  There was a river crossing involved in that run too - we called it 'The Jordan' - and I hated running round those bloody fields!

I had intended to run with my boy, but a friend with a pushchair promised to keep an eye on him.  I was wearing layers as the weather was chilly and I had intended to jog slowly round, but there was no time to change, so after the pre-run briefing I set off.  Soon after the start I stopped to check that a boy who had tripped over was OK, I felt guilty about not running with my own boy - but he doesn't like running the whole 5k with me, and I don't really enjoy running quite as slowly as he does.  With all hope of a cracking time out of the window I carried on at a slightly gentler pace.  The marshals who directed us around the twisty course today were excellent, cheerful and encouraging, taking charge of stray jumpers (my son's) and just making the run much more enjoyable.

I crossed the line in 22mins 18seconds - I knew that something wasn't quite right!  I hadn't run anywhere near hard enough to clock that time, moments later I realised that the distance recorded on my Garmin was 2.9 miles so the course was a 5th of a mile short of the magic 3mile/5k.  What had happened?  It seems that the event director had moved the course markers slightly to accommodate the large field (280 runners) today.  This, amplified over 3 laps, meant that the distance overall was too short.  Some magic formula was applied to the results though and times were adjusted.  While it would be lovely to have recorded a 58 second 5k PB it would not have been a real PB and I'd always have known that!  My actual time went down as 24.13 - much more realistic given the pace I ran at!

After catching my breath, stripping off one of my layers and having a quick chat at the finish, I set off on another lap with the boy.  I quite like this warm down lap with him, I get to chat to other runners and encourage them on (and talk to some of the faster runners who are warming down too), my contrary child always manages to put on an impressive burst of speed as the finish funnel looms closer - despite having whinged about tired legs minutes beforehand!

After scanning of barcodes and retrieval of bags we made our way to the cafe at the sports centre for the most important bit of parkrun - coffee!  It never fails to amaze, or maybe that should be dismay, me that sports centre cafes provide such unhealthy food, and that chocolate vending machines are to be found at every corner.  Surely they should be promoting healthy eating rather than peddling high fat, processed food at every opportunity?  That said, the coffee was good and the company better!  I caught up briefly with old friends who used to run at Basingstoke and a runner I met at Abingdon last week.  I have met so many new friends through parkrun, and now regularly see an old friend (now she has given in to my relentless parkrun evangelism, accepting that the only way to get me to shut up about it was to turn up on a Saturday morning).  Plans were made for future parkrun jaunts.  Where will we go next week?  Who is going to the inaugural Queen Elizabeth parkrun?  Can we cope with the hills there after the flatness of Winchester?  Who knows where we'll end up - better watch this space to find out!

Thank you to all of the team who made today's run possible.  Here's to many more successful Winchester parkruns!

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Possibly the prettiest parkrun on the planet!

We got up rather early to set out for my parkrun fix today.  Husbando was exhibiting at a book fair in Oxford, and I decided that a trip to Abingdon was in order.  As I needed to drop Husbando and books in Oxford at 7am we ended up leaving the house just before 6am.  Not a civilised time to be up and about on a Saturday morning.  When we left the house the temperature was just above freezing, so I set out in long running tights.  I did pack my trail shoes 'just in case' but didn't think to take shorts!

The last time I was in Abingdon was for the marathon.  I recognised bits of the town, but have to admit that it looked much nicer in the sunshine and when I wasn't contemplating running 26.2 miles!  Thanks to the wonders of Facebook, I'd been given idiot instructions to get to the right car park, and arrived with plenty of time to spare.  The first person I met as I read the instructions on the pay and display machine was my Facebook contact!   

I chatted to lots of friendly people, and we all remarked on how beautiful the weather was, how awful the events in Boston of earlier this week were, mutual friends we might know, tomorrow's London marathon and all the normal chit chat that runners talk about!

After the run briefing we observed a minute of silence out of respect for those who lost lives, family members or were injured in the bombing of the Boston marathon last Monday.  The odd Garmin beeped, which is probably quite fitting, but silence was observed by everyone.  I noticed a couple, not taking part in parkrun, who were walking their dog a short distance from where we were standing.  They paused and observed the silence too. 

And then we were off!  The course is pancake flat, but has quite a lot of sharp and/or narrow turns.  Running along the bank of the Thames in the sunshine was glorious.  As we thundered past a narrowboat I heard someone say 'there's millions of them!' Possibly not quite what they were expecting to see when they moored their boat on a quiet river bank the night before!  A large proportion of the course is on grass.  The going was firm, but quite uneven under foot.  I thought I'd just take it easy and see how I got on.  I am still nervous running on uneven ground, and my ankle still isn't really strong enough for me to really 'go for it' on such ground.  

We ran two laps of what is possibly the prettiest parkrun ever.  I say 'possibly' because I spent a lot of time looking down at my feet rather than at the scenery!  I really enjoyed my run, despite developing running tourettes as I tried to negotiate some twisty bits of the course and came into intimate contact with a hawthorn bush as I rounded a corner!  I chatted with lots of runners and was surprised with my finish time - 23.46 - and the fact that I finished 40th overall!  (5th lady, and 1st in my age category - woo hoo!)  For anyone who is interested you can see the Garmin thingy here!  I felt as though my third mile was much slower than the first two, and was quite happy with that as I have a long run planned tomorrow, but it seems it wasn't slower at all.  I even managed to overtake a few people as we approached the finish funnel.  

After scanning barcodes and getting my breath back I joined a steady trickle of runners making their way across the bridge to the market square.  Lots of Abingdon parkrunners enjoy their post run coffee at Java & Co!  A huge group congregated in the sunshine near the lovely Town Hall.  My interesting, non running related, fact of day is that on Royal occasions buns are thrown off the top of the Town Hall.  This last happened to celebrate the Jubilee last year.   It was lovely to sit drinking coffee and chatting in the sunshine, I think runners like talking about running almost as much as they like running!

I am so glad that I got up early, and am glad I added Abingdon to my parkrun tour.  Next week I'm off to the inaugural Winchester parkrun.  The boys are coming with me - they have missed their parkrun fix as they were away last week, and it wasn't practical for them to come with me today.