Monday, 24 November 2014

Just saying...

This is not a blog about running.

I will not be posting a link on my Facebook page.

It is just something I need to get off my chest.

Today, at work I spoke with a student about how no one should make her feel uncomfortable and outlined the steps she should take, given that someone she worked with was repeatedly sending her unwanted text messages.

I spoke to the whole group (boys and girls) about what it meant to respect oneself and to stand up to sexist/racist/homophobic behaviour.

I patted myself on the back as I drove home.  I told myself I was making a difference.  I was helping the next generation become stronger, helping them to realise that belittling women was wrong.  I was feeling smug.

A few hours later I was at the pub.  It was one of those 'class parents get together' type events where you are supposed to be on best behaviour while enjoying indifferent food and overpriced alcohol.  And to add to the fun a 'sporting activity' (well, okay - skittles) was added to the mix.

It was all going well until my second attempt at knocking down the skittles.  As I bent over to pick up the balls one of the dads groped my arse.  It wasn't accidental.  I was horrified, I was mortified.  I said and did nothing.  I was embarrassed.  I watched him for the rest of the evening.  His wife was in the same room.  I wasn't the sole recipient of his attentions.  I couldn't believe that I was the only person who had noticed his behaviour.

I started to listen to my inner monologue.  'I can't say anything because his wife is so lovely and she'd be horrified.'  'I wouldn't have been upset if it had been X as we always have  a bit of risqué banter going on.'  'Oh, heavens - he's just smacked her bum as well - how is no one else noticing?'

How damning is it that a loud mouthed woman in her mid forties does not feel comfortable about saying stop to a man who doesn't respect boundaries?   How unacceptable would a man's behaviour have to be for me (or one of the other women there this evening) to have turned around and asked him to stop?

What hope is there for teenagers who are only just coming to terms with their own identities?

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Three Molehills

There is a reason I don't do team sports.  I don't want to be the person who lets the team down by being, you know, a bit crap.  This is the reason I like running.  The only person who I am letting down if I have a bad day is myself.  Running is perfect.  So obviously when I saw a Facebook post asking if anyone was free to make up a relay team I ignored it didn't I?  Obviously… not!

Part of the appeal was that it meant I didn't have to get out at sparrow fart to travel up to London with Husbando - one of my team mates offered to pick me up at 8am, which gave me a lie in.  A group of runners had arranged to take part in The Three Molehills and a member of one of the teams had dropped out through injury.  The upshot was that I found myself travelling to Dorking to meet a load of new people.  What could be better?  Hills and people I don't know - two things I find stressful.  Just to add to the sense of joy it was raining.  Not a gentle drizzle or a light misting of rain, but proper miserable rain.

We arrived at Denbies near Dorking and were directed to park on a muddy field and walked up the road to the race HQ in the restaurant/cafe/conference place.  One huge benefit of this venue is the proper loos and the restaurant right near the start. We collected race numbers, drank tea, had nervous wees, made impulse purchases (see later) etc. before going outside to listen to the run brief - we sheltered under an overhang to listen to this and to be honest I didn't really listen as I was trying to keep warm.  There were course changes mentioned - due to flooding on the route - and I decided to stick with my road shoes as my leg was on road for all bar 600m.

After this our first runner was off, and the rest of us vanished back into the warm.  I had bought a pair of sleeves after having a bit of a wardrobe crisis.  It was cold out there - too cold for setting off in short sleeves, but I knew I would get too warm if I wore layers.  I've never owned 'sleeves' before and they are a revelation!  I love them.   Hanging around was a bit odd.  You normally turn up for a race and just run… I had to wait for the other 2 members of my team to finish before I got my turn.   I stood under the overhang to watch for my team mate while mentally calculating the shortest possible route to the transition area avoiding as many puddles as possible.

My leg was billed as 2 miles out and 2 miles back - up hill all the way out and down hill on the way back.  It was odd to start a race all by myself.  I found it hard to settle into a rhythm, and boy, was it ever going to stop raining?  I ran up through the vineyard overtaking (yes really) people even though I ran the fist mile in 9.30min/mile pace!  I looked at my Garmin just once and saw how slow I was running and decided not to look again and just do my best.  The course was twisty and turny, not overly steep but relentlessly up hill.  It was almost all on roads or hard paths, and there were some stunning views over Dorking, or would have been if we hadn't been peering through clouds!  We ran past a pretty church where I had to avoid being ploughed down by a shiny black Range Rover whose driver obviously didn't trust his car's ability to deviate from the centre of the road at all!   Then there was the 600m on 'grass!' It wasn't grass, it wasn't even mud - it was a swamp!  I had to walk - in road shoes there was no grip at all!  Then we turned around and it was downhill all the way.  Lovely!

Lovely to encourage all the other runners as they trudged up the hill.  I couldn't really let fly down the hill - wet concrete paths, covered with wet fallen leaves and a fair amount of mud made for treacherous conditions - add into that some really tight turns and a bit of caution was called for.  That said I made up a lot of time on the downhill bringing my overall pace down to 8.20min/mile.  (6.18min/mile for the last half mile must have brought the average down a bit!)  The marshals were so cheerful and encouraging, it must be really miserable standing for hours in the rain but they just kept smiling.

I didn't pay much attention to the clock as I crossed the line - but knew it was around 1hr 56mins (actually 1hr 56mins 32sec) which isn't too shabby for 15 hilly miles.  I crossed the line, picked up my medal, chocolate bar and bottle of wine before rejoining the everyone in the restaurant, drinking a cup of tea, getting changed into dry clothes and sharing war stories.  The first leg, up and down Box Hill, sounded brutal - with 270 steps to be negotiated.

After every one of my new friends was back in, warmed through and photographs had been taken we went our separate ways.  Four of us stopping for a pub lunch (roast pork with all the trimmings which included Yorkshire pudding) on the way home.

A great day out.  Definitely one I'd consider doing next year - maybe even the individual challenge rather than the relay.  Although if the weather is anything like it was today I may well stay in bed!

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Slippy, slidey mud sections

Last night I went out for supper with friends to celebrate my birthday.  Not just any birthday, but a birthday that takes me into a new age category for parkrun.  My intention had been to run as fast as I could at parkrun to mark this momentous occasion, but I scuppered that idea last night by eating more than I normally eat in a week and drinking enough alcohol to constitute what government guidelines would probably deem binge drinking if I'd shared it with the five other diners… but I didn't share.  I wanted nothing more than to roll over and go back to sleep when the alarm went at 6.30am.  But parkrun beckoned, and I'd made arrangements to go to Horsham parkrun with a friend to meet up with some other friends.  And The Fredster needed run if he was to make his 100th parkrun on target.

So off we set.  Thankfully I was not driving and navigating was enough of a challenge for me.  We got to Horsham Park with plenty of time to spare, parked our car and found the loos and then made our way to the start.  The weather was dry, but the wind was chilly and we tried to keep warm while the small boys climbed a tree.  TheFredster planned to 'run' with a friend who was planning to walk as he is recovering from knee surgery, which freed me up to run.  Great, I thought, what a wasted opportunity - I felt sick and a wee bit fragile!  We listened to the run brief - there were about 200 runners, not bad for the 10th event, and then made our way to the start, where we observed a minute's silence for Remembrance Day.

The start was on a fairly narrow path, which made for a bit of congestion, but we were soon underway with a gentle downhill on a tarmac path.  And then we were off the path and on the grass.  Well, I say 'grass' but it was more of a bog in sections, which made for heavy going and much slipping and sliding!  There was one short, muddy, uphill section that was particularly challenging, with my feet just slipping backwards as I made my way up it.  It was tough going.  I looked at my watch and realised that the pace I was struggling to maintain was the same pace I'd found so easy to maintain for a half marathon last weekend!  Part of this was due to the conditions underfoot, but a lot of it was self inflicted!

Hearing that a parkrun is a three lapper normally fills me with dread, but there was so much going on in the park that it was a really interesting run.  There were children playing football, people being beasted by ex-army PT instructors (who on Earth wants to pay to be shouted at and do press-ups in a wet field?) people riding bikes and a silver sculpture thing!  And each lap seemed shorter than the last - which is odd, because I them all at the same pace!  As I ran I realised that TheFredster was not with the person I thought he'd be with, or his wife, it was only about half a mile from the finish that I caught up with him running with my other friend and her son.  

I ran past them and tried to pick up the pace a bit to make it to the finish.  I still felt ghastly and wanted to stop running more than anything on the planet.  I threw myself through the finish funnel and was convinced that I was about to chunder.  I staggered to a nearby fence and leaned on it while I regained my composure and checked my watch.  24.17 - not bad,  second fastest time this year!

Post run coffee (and breakfast for the boys) was taken at The Conservatory Cafe.  It was lovely to see so many parkrunners chatting and getting to know each other.  The food looked pretty good too!

The results came through pretty quickly - I was thrilled to see that I was first in my new age category, which was a nice start.  I am sure that I will be back to run at Horsham again sometime soon - but maybe I will wait until it is dryer underfoot.  And when I am a little less fragile!

Thank you to the Horsham parkrun team for a lovely event.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Thames Meander

This time last week I had no races planned until February.  That suited me just fine.  I'd run a good half marathon and was quite happy just to bimble through the rest of the year, having a nice slow start to my training for next year's marathons.  Then someone mentioned that they were running a half marathon in Kingston, and as I had nothing planned I thought I'd look into it.  I almost got no further than that.  The Fredster is due to run his 100th parkrun on 29th November - it has to happen then as a Facebook 'event' has been set up, and that means he couldn't miss a Saturday.  But, but, but… the race started at the same place as parkrun…. could we do this?  Yes we could!  
So, having left it too late to enter online, I emailed the race organisers to check that there would be plenty of availability to enter on the day, persuaded my reluctant 15 year old to a) get up early on the last Saturday of half term and b) run with her 10 year old brother.  I thought it might be possible for me to run both parkrun and the race, but really didn't want to risk having to make a mad dash from the finish of one to the start of another.  We set off this morning with loads of time to spare.  I'd forgotten how hopelessly lost I'd got the last time I tried to get to the venue (Kingston parkrun back in March this year or maybe last year).  Sat nav is great, but not infallible.  I ended up doing a couple of loops of a Kingston before finding the right turning.  Getting lost is stressful.  Being late is stressful. I hate getting lost and I hate being late.  Trying to work out how to get where I need to be at the time I need to be there with two children in the car is very stressful.  Needless to say we got there in the end, and we weren't late but the car park was full, so we had to find somewhere to park on the street and then barrel along the towpath to the Hawker Centre where I registered for the race and bumped into lots of friends.  

I saw the children off on their parkrun, then chatted with people while I waited for them to come back.  It started to rain.  It had been seasonably chilly since we'd woken up and now it was raining.  I patted myself on the back for remembering to bring my hat with me and was a little cross with myself for thinking I would be happy in a vest top and shorts!  While we waited of the parkrunners to return, the Thames Meander Marathon runners set off - to the accompaniment of bag pipes!  

The half marathoners set off at 10am.  It was still overcast and drizzling and, for the first time in a long time, it was cold!  We set off down the towpath from Kingston towards Kew.  This was a flat marathon and it should have been really easy - but the towpaths were uneven - think compacted gravel paths, hugely degraded tarmac paths and sections that were muddy with tree roots and that was most of the path - interspersed with short sections of 'proper pavement' and cobbles!  It was the sort of terrain the looks as though you can just run without thinking, but actually you needed to concentrate to make sure that you don't trip.  Within the first few miles I'd seen someone face plant spectacularly in front of me!   The path was narrow which meant that going was slow at the start unit the field spread out a bit.  It was lovely to chat to other runners and enjoy what was rapidly becoming a very warm and sunny day!  While I was chatting with some other runners (@777epic - who are planning to run 7 marathons in 7 days in 7 continents) I heard another runner mutter 'I won't be beaten by a mother of 5!'  Hmmm… more of that later!
At the halfway/turnaround point I managed to mess up the turn and found myself running through a garden, then scrambling through a hedge to get back on the towpath.   The return leg was  a great opportunity to encourage fellow runners as I saw them.  This return half was much busier in terms of avoiding other towpath users.  Cyclists, walkers, scooter users and dogs (on and off leads) were in abundance.  I'm not a huge fan of dogs - especially when I don't know them and they aren't on a lead - I could feel myself pulling up short every time one got close.    
At around 7 miles I was aware of the man who didn't want to be beaten by an old bird on my shoulder. He was working hard, breathing heavily, as he tried to keep up.  I wasn't working hard.  I decided to change gear and put some distance between us.  Even stopping for a drink at the drink station didn't allow him enough time to catch up with me.  

The sound of bagpipes meant that I was approaching the finish line.  Bagpipes can carry a long distance, but I had lots of energy left, so I out on a burst of speed to finish strongly.   I was looking out for the children as I threw myself towards the line, but didn't see them!  I crossed the line in a chip time of 1hr 48mins 41 secs.  I'd have been thrilled with that a few weeks ago - but today I felt I could have done better.  I didn't need to stop at both the water stations to drink as I had a water bottle with me, messing up the turn about cost me time, as did my trepidation about the uneven ground.  I was gratified to find that I was the 18th woman to finish.  And it is another sub 1hr50 half time so I should be very happy.

There was a little bit of drama after the finish - we couldn't find The Fredster!  He'd gone off to cheer me at the finish, while the 15 year old had stayed in the cafe being a 15 year old grumpy girl!  I hadn't seen him and he had not seen me, so he just stayed where he was, about 300 m from the finish cheering in all the other runners while he wondered where I was!  It was only when a friend from Hatch Warren Runners finished and told us where he was that we managed to locate him!  

The bling is lovely.  There was also lots of cake and biscuits at the finish - which was enjoyed in the sunshine before heading off home.  The event organisation was fantastic!  This is my first Hermes Running event, but it will not be my last.