Saturday, 31 December 2016

The last race of 2016

Me:  Fancy a race on New Year's Eve?
Husbando: Where?
Me: Er, dunno, can't be far away 'cos a bunch of the Basingstoke guys are doing it.
Husbando:  Let me think about it.
Me: Great - I've signed us both up...
Husbando: Sigh.....

So that is how I came to be sitting on a bus, with a red wine and curry hangover, en route from a park and ride to Butler's Land Farm near Reading to take part in The Gutbuster.   In my defence I hadn't planned to have a hangover.  I didn't think I'd had that much to drink, I certainly wasn't steaming drunk, or even properly tipsy, so the hangover was both unexpected and unwelcome.  A bit of a headache is no reason not to run, especially when you have paid about £30 for the 'pleasure!' 

There is no parking at the start of the race, hence the coach journey to the farm, where the race HQ was located in a farm shed.  Numbers were collected, timing chips attached to shoes, removal of outer layers of clothing was contemplated and delayed for as long as possible, port-a-loos were visited, all accompanied by the smell of bacon being fried.  I quite fancied the idea of a bacon sandwich - but decided that waiting to the end of the race would be a good idea as my stomach was somewhat delicate!
After the run briefing, during which I wondered why I had thought the 10 mile option was better than the 10k option we were off.  The first section was very muddy - I dread to think what it was like by the time the 10k race got to start - and we bimbled along as a group of about 8 or 9 of us.  But we soon got separated.  I was running with Husbando, all was Ok initially - we clocked a 7.40min/mile for the second mile - and then my right quad started to hurt.  It had given me a bit of trouble earlier in the week, so I decided to take it easy and let Husbando go on.  There was no point in pushing myself too hard.  

The route was mainly on trail, the famed ford had run dry meaning that we didn't have soaking wet feet too early in the race, but the mud was claggy.  It stuck to everything, at times it felt like running on an ice rink with heavy weights (mud) attached to my feet.  It was demoralising - it felt like I was putting in an awful lot of effort for very little return.  The course was well marshalled, signposted and followed an interesting slightly undulating route, with supporters dotted along the route cheering us on.   I wasn't feeling the love though, my head hurt and I was on my own.  Yes, I was chatting a bit with people as I passed them or they passed me, but I knew that there was a big group of my friends behind me who were no doubt having a ball and encouraging each other and that Husbando was too far ahead for me to catch.  I thought about stopping to wait for the others, but didn't know how long I'd have to wait and didn't want to get too cold, so I plodded on.  
The first 5 miles seemed really long, I was beginning to lose the will to live and thought about calling it quits, but didn't, miles 5 to 8 went by a bit faster (in my mind if not in reality) but the last 2 miles were incredibly tough.  Zig-zagging through muddy fields, being able to hear the finish and not see it, then see the finish but know that there was a fair bit of zigging and zagging still to do.  My watch beeped to tell me I had run 10 miles, but I still wasn't at the finish - I estimated about 400m still to do, and not a lot of time if I wanted to get home in under 1hr 40mins.  I put on a burst of 'speed' turned a corner through a gate and ran up a muddy, slippery, hill (overtaking a few people on the way) to throw myself over the finish line in 1hr 39minutes.  I think it is possibly the toughest race finish I have ever encountered.  

Husbando was waiting by the finish - he only beat me by about 8 minutes, and whisked me away to pick up bags and get the bus back to our car before I could remember that we'd been promised mince pies and mulled wine at the finish!  

So, that's 2016 done.  10 marathons completed, not bad for someone who was going to quite running marathons at the end of 2015, and 1800 miles run in total, not many PBs, but lots of fun.  Looking forward to more of the same next year.  

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Rocky Pub 2 Pub Race

A few days ago a friend posted on Facebook about a race being run by Portsmouth Joggers' Club.  It was cheap to enter and in aid of a good cause - the Rocky Appeal, so I shouted upstairs to Husbando and asked if he fancied a 7.5 mile road run.  He shouted down to ask when, I shouted back to say 27th at 11am, he shouted down to say where, I repied Horndean, he shouted back again where!  At this point one of the children told us to embrace the 21st century and just text each other like normal people as we were disturbing their TV watching/PS 4 marathon.....

That's how we ended up in Horndean on a frosty December morning.  We were very glad to find that the race HQ was in a toasty warm village hall and not in a draughty tent. we grabbed a cup of tea and some biscuits and bought some raffle tickets while we waited, avoiding going out in the cold for as long as possible.  But out into the cold we had to go, at least by 11am it had warmed up a little.  It was a beautifully sunny and clear day, which meant that there was nothing to obscure the view of the hill that marked the start of the race.

I'd been told, by someone who had not run the race, that it was uphill all the way out and downhill all the way back.   This was somewhat reassuring as we slogged up the hill that made up the first mile of the race away from The Ship and Bell.  Husbando and I had thought that we might run together, but my right quad was so tight that I knew I would not be having the best of runs, I didn't want to slow him down so about half a mile in I told him to go on and watched him vanish up the hill.  The outward leg was predominantly uphill, but not entirely, and there is no fun in running down hill when you know that very soon you are going to have to run back up it!

Before the start of the downhill section I fell into pace with a bloke and we ran together for quiet a way, just before the 3 mile point we saw the first of the fast runners coming back, so we shouted encouragement and greeted people we knew by name.  Husbando came along and looked to be running well.  I told him to make sure he had a cup of tea waiting when I finished.   The turn around point was at the second pub, The Red Lion in Chalton.  The pub missed a trick by being closed when we arrived, I would have stopped for a quick G&T, so we had to make do with a quick chat with the ladies on the water station, and a cup of water before heading off for the return leg.

The weather was lovely, the views were pretty, but the hills were a wee bit brutal.  I told the man I was running with (I think his name was Andy) that when we got to the steep hill I was going to run/walk it.  I knew the hill was about half a mile long, and that while I could run it, it wouldn't be pretty and I would take ages to recover.  So I ran 50 paces and walked 40 all the way to the top.  When I got to the 'top' it carried on going up - I hadn't noticed that this section was downhill on the way out!  Thank heavens for the encouraging marshals - there were plenty of them to encourage us along and make sure we didn't go the wrong way.

The last mile was, obviously, downhill.  And I managed to pull of a fairly good impression of someone who is able to run as I approached the finish.  Husbando was waiting with his camera, having finished hours earlier.  No bling for this race, but a couple of freebies - chewy vitamin pills and a coffee drink.

After getting my breath back we took a seat in the village hall to wait for the raffle to be drawn.  Husbando got me a cup of tea (he is well trained) and we chatted with other runners.  We made out like bandits in the raffle.  We handed back 3 prizes but still had quite a haul to carry home with us!

Thank you to Portsmouth Joggers for putting on this fun race for the 32nd time!  Hope that you raised loads of money.  

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Bovington marathon

Signing up for a marathon in December seems such a good idea in June or July.  The weather is sunny (ish) and dry (ish) and it seems incomprehensible that you could ever need long running tights and gloves while running.  But I had signed up for yet another marathon.   This latest offering from White Star Running was a bit different, the location was on and around the tank ranges at Bovington with a medal that celebrates the 100th anniversary of the tank.

Last Sunday was freezing cold, and I was beginning to panic about a long, cold marathon, yesterday was mild but it rained all day and I began to worry about over 5 hours of running in the rain.  I was not filled with joy at the thought of leaving the house at 6am to drive down to the Tank Museum at Bovington - I was hugely grateful to be given a lift so all I had to do was relax and enjoy the ride, in the fog.

We arrived in good time, even after a McDonald's stop for coffee and loos, we parked the car within about 20 metres of the start, and went to use the loos in the restaurant of the Tank Museum (which looks awesome and well worth a visit) before returning to the start for the race briefing.   There can't be many race briefings where you are told, 'If you see something that looks like a grenade don't pick it up because there is a good chance it is a grenade!'

A little bit of mud to squelch through
And then we were off.  I decided to run with the guys I'd travelled down with.  This running races with another person is quite a novelty for me and I have to say that the miles fairly flew by!  The first few were flat and not too wet - just one river to wade through - or avoid by queuing to go over the rickety bridge.  After that it got a bit bumpy, nothing too steep (although some of the downhills were a little precarious) with all sorts of different surfaces under foot from concrete (not much of this at all) through woodland floors deep in in pine needles and fallen leaves to mud.  Lots of mud.  And puddles.  We christened one area the Lake District as the puddles were so huge and numerous.  We were having lots of fun.  The aid stations were well positioned but, with the notable exception of the Lovestation (more on that later) I didn't think they were quite up to the usual White Star Running standard.  At about 16 miles (I think) we ran down a hill, each of us commenting that we were feeling a bit peckish.  Our spirits listed when we saw an aid station... and mine fell again when I realised that the only food had nuts in.    This was when I regretted my decision not to carry any snacks with me.

The right stuff?
At some point someone had moved one of the signs, which resulted in us taking a little detour.  This meant that we got to meet a load of the half marathon runners who told us we were on the wrong track so we retraced our steps and found the correct route. We ran past Monkey World - and saw monkeys playing on their climbing frame.  They weren't impressed with us disturbing their peaceful morning and shouted us.  We responded by a rousing chorus of 'King of the swingers!'

At 20 miles crossed a road and I heard my name being called out and looked up to see a friend with his camera!  He also had Haribos - what a legend!  20 miles in a WSR event means that you are at the Lovestation - plenty of food, drink and banter, I was famished - I stuffed my face and grabbed a handful of pretzels to take with me and we set off for the last 6 and a bit miles.

Quite a bit of this last section was the same as the bit of the first few miles, but in reverse.  It took in the deep river we'd crossed.  I decided that, as my feet were still fairly dry, I'd take the rickety bridge. It was considerably more rickety and my 2 running partners opted to run through the middle of the water.  They told me that it was 'refreshing' and 'just what they needed' to wash the mud out of their shoes.  I was not convinced.  And I soon discovered that they were fibbing!  We had 4 (or was it 5 or 6) more river crossings - and these did not have bridges.  The water was really cold and deep!

Our conservative pace meant that we were still trotting along really happily, overtaking lots of people who were beginning to flag, and we still felt strong.  Based on prior knowledge of the 'ish' nature of the length of a WSR marathon we got to 25 miles and were debating how much further we might have to run.  We saw the '400m to go' sign (which has a history of being fairly randomly placed in the last mile of a race) and still did not really think that we could be near the end, as that would make it a marathon length marathon!  But, along the path we went, crossed a road and there was the Tank Museum and the finish flags.  It really was the finish line!

We crossed the line together - passing two lovely tanks, to be presented with our fabulous medals and goodie bags (great new buff and a bottle of beer) and to have celebratory photos taken!    An utterly fabulous day out - fun and smiles all the way!

Thank you guys for the company (and the lift).

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

I'm finally going to be a proper runner!

Yes, it is true.  After years of faffing around and running all those marathons that aren't 'proper marathons' I am actually going to run the only marathon that seems to count in the minds of the vast majority of the population... London!

After 7 (or is it 8?) consecutive years of entering the ballot in the spring and getting the 'Sorry' magazine in October I had resigned myself to waiting another year, and anyway I had already booked Paris on the assumption I wouldn't get a place.  When I got my first London rejection, way back when I started running, I thought I'd look into running for a charity, but the fundraising total seemed eyewateringly high, so I discounted it as a viable way to get to run.  I thought about getting a GFA (good for age) time, but let's face it my times aren't good for any age.

And then, this year, there was a glimmer of hope... My running club had 2 places for the club ballot and, as a one off, a draw was to be held for 2 people, who were prepared to find a charity place, to benefit from a sizeable fundraising pledge so that worrying about raising a huge some of money is reduced.  I did a little mental maths.  We have just over 100 members in the club, not all of them would want to enter the ballot for one of the 4 places.  This was my best chance every to get to London!

Time passed.  I got wrapped up in work - the end of term is alway stressful (and I have just remembered another admin task that I should be doing right now rather than typing this...).  Then, on Monday, while year 8 were doing an end of topic test on 'Atoms and Elements' I sneakily checked my email on my 'phone.... An email to say that I had won a charity pledge!  I smiled so much that one of the boys asked if I was OK!  All I had to do now was secure a charity place.

I thought this would be easy.... after all, when you get the 'Sorry' magazine it is stuffed full of charities begging you to sign up to raise a squillion pounds for them.  I checked the website.  Charity after charity said that all their places had gone.  I was beginning to panic.  Then I decided to think local - there is a wonderful school for physically disabled children just up the road... I wondered if they had any places, so sent them an email.  This was 9pm in the evening, so obviously I was going to have to wait for a reply.  

I didn't have to wait long.  During period 2, while my year 11s were working on their BTEC assignments, I noticed that I'd forgotten to turn the emails off on my 'phone (I normally don't get my email on my 'phone because it is annoying!) and decided that it wouldn't hurt to just flick through and see if there was anything interesting.  I actually did a little dance when I saw the email confirming that they had a place for me.  My yr11 are lovely and used to my eccentricities by now - but they do struggle to understand that anyone could be excited about the idea of running 26.2 miles!

So now the hard work begins!  I still have a sizeable chunk of money to raise and I will be running 2 big city marathons 2 weeks apart.  I'm not sure if I should look on London as an enjoyable recovery run after Paris, or regard Paris as my last long run before London.  Running London seems far more overwhelming than Paris, even though there are fewer runners.  It is going to be harder to get to the start line given the useless transport links on a Sunday morning.  I guess I am going to have to start thinking about logistics pretty soon.

Huge thanks to Fetcheveryone Running Club and Treloar's for making my dream come true.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

On accidental first marathons and irresponsible dog owners.

Okay, so who was taking bets on me falling over during today's race?  Who had a side bet that it would happen within the first mile and involve man's best friend?  If you had money on this you'd have made out like a bandit today!  We were pootling along at a nice easy pace, a lady I know was about 20' ahead of us and I heard her say a cheery 'good morning' to a walker with a dog on a lead.  We didn't hear a reply.  As we approached I said 'good morning' and Husbando that there were about 100 runners coming along.  No reply, we thought nothing of it and ran on around a corner, Husbando a few paces behind me.  Next thing I know the dog is running around my ankles - he'd been let off his lead.  I had two choices, stop quickly or drop kick the dog over the hedge and into the field.  I chose to stop quickly and in doing so ended up twisting my knee and falling over.  I thought that this was end-ex for me - it was that stabbing, sick making pain that could be really nasty.  Lots of runners stopped to see how I was as I stood, crying and swearing, by the side of the path.  The dog owner walked off without a backward glance.

I walked a while, then tried a gentle jog, it actually hurt slightly less to run than to walk, so I knew I would make it to the end of the first lap, but decided that a marathon was out of the question.  I was greatly cheered when I spotted a fire engine, and firemen!  I finished the first lap, swearing all the way and casting aspersions about the size of the dog walker's genitalia (which seemed to amuse a fellow runner and blogger from irunoffroad greatly!) and ate a handful of painkillers when I got to the aid station.  The painkillers, along with industrial quantities of sweets, seemed to do the trick and I set off for an experimental second lap.  Husbando was brilliant, staying with me rather than running on, we settled into a steady pace, where we could chat quite happily.  We passed the dog owner again, I called him a rude name under my breath and felt a bit better.  Later on lap 2 we ran into the firemen again - and they blew their horn at me!  Husbando made smutty comments about hoses and horns - he obviously wasn't working hard enough!

We decided that 3 laps (about 14 miles) would be enough.  Husbando had run 16.4 miles at Timelord on the Thames on Wednesday, my knee was hurting, 14 miles is a respectable distance for a Sunday.  But, we got to the aid station and start finish area, changed shoes (and in Husbando's case applied Compeed blister plasters) and thought, 'What the heck, let's do one more!'  After you've faffed at the aid station for a few minutes, eaten sugar laden treats, drunk full fat coke and when you know that the first few hundred metres are downhill it is very easy to go on.  And boy did we faff at the aid stations!  Husbando stopped his Garmin whenever we were stuffing our faces, I left mine running - over the course of the race we spent 30 minutes not running!  This is testament to the friendliness of the race organisers, the support of other runners (Husbando is very grateful for the Compeed) and my greediness when faced with a box of Haribos!

At the end of lap 3 we didn't ring the bell, we'd decided to see how we felt after a wee rest.  On the 4th lap we pretty much decided that we were going to run 6 laps (28 miles).  This would be Husbando's first marathon.  He hadn't even begun his marathon training programme, and I hadn't run a marathon since September.  We really were not respecting the distance!  Towards the end of lap 5 I heard words that I never thought I'd hear 'I'm struggling to keep up with you!' I switched us to a 9min run/1 min walk strategy, although I blatantly ignored it if we were on a downhill when we should be walking!  We hit 26.2 miles in 4hrs 43 (or 4hrs 20 actual moving time) and celebrated with a hug and a 2 minute walk break before resuming our plod to the finish.

The course was gently undulating, running around Staunton Country Park in Havant - only 1,500' of elevation over the entire marathon, but the little hill at the end of each lap got steeper and steeper!  We had walked up it on lap 5, but ran it on the last lap - just to show the hill who was boss!

We rang the bell and collected our medals and hugs from the race director.  My knee had got to the stage where it hurt so much it no longer hurt... well - that's what I was telling myself as we hobbled back to the car!  Husbando had just run his first marathon and I am very proud of him!  It is the first time I have run an entire race with someone else - and we didn't kill each other!

Huge thanks to the organisers and the support of all the runners today.  If you haven't done an On The Whistle event BOOK ONE NOW - you'll have to be quick though as they sell out quickly!

Saturday, 26 November 2016

250th parkrun

I heard about parkrun over 6 years ago, but didn't consider going along for at least 6 months because, although I'd been running for a couple of years, I did not consider myself to be 'a runner!'  I didn't want to be the slow one, plodding around at the back with everyone else tapping their feet as they waited for me to finish.  I can't remember what happened to make me change my mind but, on 21st May 2011, I took the plunge and found myself, barcode in hand, in War Memorial Park with a load of strangers.  This was A BIG STEP for me.  I am quite uncomfortable in situations that are new and that involve lots of people I don't know.  I need not have worried.  Everyone was very friendly and I wasn't last.  It was the first time I had ever run a timed 5k and I surprised myself by being able to finish in just under 25 minutes.  I ran, got my barcode scanned and drove home.

But I came back the next week and did it again.  By July, I was turning up almost every Saturday and had probably turned into something of a parkrun bore, telling everyone I could about this amazing parkrun thing.  I volunteered a few times, which was good as it meant that I got to know some of the other regulars - this meant I had enough confidence to brave going along for the post run coffee.  This involved meeting more and more parkrunners, and hearing about (and subsequently entering) lots of races I would not have even have heard of without parkrun.  

It is quite amazing how quickly parkrun became such a integral part of my life, and how many of my friends seem to have decided that it is easier to go to parkrun than to listen to me extol its virtues!  I've visited 51 different parkruns, mainly because they were near where I happened to be on a Saturday morning, and made loads of new friends.  Obviously I've missed a few Saturdays when I've been involved in Saturday races, have had to work on Saturday or been injured, and several runs have been given up in exchange for volunteering at parkrun, but in the main, if it was 9am on a Saturday, I was to be found in a park getting ready for a 5k!

Which brings me to this morning.  Although my 'home run' is Basingstoke, Husbando struggles to get to that venue as he has to work on Saturday. Alice Holt he can do and make it to work afterwards.  Alice Holt also has a lovely large gazebo for setting out cakes, a cafe and nice loos, and I was involved (a little bit!) in setting it up four years ago - so I decided that it would be the venue for my 250th parkrun.  I set up an 'event' on Facebook and sent out some invitations, thinking that a few people might be interested in coming along, especially if I bribed them with cake and fizz!  A friend I'd met via parkrun sent me a message saying that he was coming along and coincidently running his 100th parkrun - so double the celebration!  I stayed up late baking and icing cakes and arrived at Alice Holt fairly early.  As I laid out the cakes I saw a constant stream of familiar faces emerging from the mist - people I hadn't seen for ages and ages and who had travelled for miles and miles just to run 5k with me!  Some people hadn't even come to run - they'd just got out of bed early on a very chilly Saturday morning to come and watch the rest of us run!

Having run 249 parkruns without ever having forgotten a barcode, my 250th nearly had to be delayed - I realised that my barcodes were not in my pocket (I keep all 7 on a treasury tag and they have vanished).  Panic stations ensued!  Could I get home and back and still run?  Could I ask Husbando to give up his run and go home and print out spares?  Would he know how to do that without a tutorial?  Then I remembered that I am a parkrunner, and a parkrunner always has spare barcodes somewhere in every car.  Crisis averted with a mad dash to the car and a rummage round to find a tatty ziplock bag which had the required barcodes.

After setting a new Alice Holt PB last week, and with a 6 hour challenge tomorrow, I knew that I wasn't going to set any records today.  And I wanted to enjoy my run, not end up gasping for every drop of oxygen I could find at the end of the run.  Husbando and I had a nice, chatty run.  It felt so much easier than last week, but I was 44 seconds slower.  

It was wonderful to chat to so many people afterwards, I am really touched that so many people came to help me celebrate.  I really do love my parkrun family.  Huge thanks to PSH, whose love child parkrun is, to all the event directors, run directors and volunteers who make the many, many parkruns across the globe happen every week.  I'll see you in a park (somewhere) next parkrun day!  

P.S.  Is it wrong that I am wondering if the second 250 parkruns will take more or less time to achieve than the first? 

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Feeling our age!

Husbando and I went for a run this evening.  Nothing unusual in that, I hear you say, but bear with me.

This morning Husbando went to a local sports shop to spend a voucher he'd been given for his birthday, while he was there he found out that the shop was having a 'try on evening' for Hoka trail shoes and Silva head torches.  They were planning a trail run in a local wood that I've wanted to explore for some time now - so it was a no brainer really.

We pitched up at the shop and got ourselves kitted out.  Husbando had brand new Hoka's that he got this morning, and I had a pair already, so really we were just road (trail?) testing the head torches and getting to try out a new route.  It was evident that we were, er, quite a bit older than any of the other runners!  Husbando's sweat shirt was older than any of the other runners!  And at 31 years old I think that the sweat shirt had at least 5 years on most of them.

Once kitted up off we set in the rain.  About a kilometre on the road and then into the woods.   It was very muddy.  I do like a muddy run (but please don't tell anyone that) but I like to take it steady and this was not an option.  The pace was much faster than I would normally attempt in the dark on a trail.  We averaged 9.14min/mile including stopping to regroup, cross roads etc. etc. And it was tough - I didn't love the Silva head torch, it was very light weight but it wasn't as bright as my current torch.  I couldn't help thinking that if one of these youngsters fell we'd be talking green stick fracture whereas if Husbando or I fell we'd probably need an air ambulance and months of rehab!   There was no chatting this evening - just concentrating on keeping up and keeping upright and we really felt as though we'd worked hard when we got back onto the road.  What was interesting was that, back on the road Husbando and I automatically picked up the pace overtaking much of the rest of the group.

We enjoyed our run, it is good to do something different from time to time, and trail running at this pace is different enough for me,  but I think I'll be back on the slopes of Queen Elizabeth Country Park next Wednesday - I like to be able to chat while running!

Monday, 29 August 2016

Taking things easy at the East Farm Frolic

The doctor had never said that I shouldn't run.  All he had said was that I should 'take it easy,' so after a diagnosis of Whooping Cough and two weeks of not running I decided to give White Star Running's 12 hour challenge a go.  I had entered a few months ago as a solo runner, Husbando and 2 friends had entered as a team of three, so we were looking forward to a jolly day out in the Dorset countryside.  I sent my friend a text a couple of days ago saying 'It will be fun, I can walk a few laps and still get the bling,' but in the back of my mind I knew that I wanted to clock up another marathon - and that would be possible even if I walked the whole way.

After a hot and humid few days, Sunday morning was grey and drizzly.  The weather got worse as we drove down to Dorset (leaving home at 5.15am).  Of course, it was Bank Holiday weekend - so we had no right to expect sunny weather!  I thought back to the end of last summer - when I entered a Bank Holiday race - at least it wasn't that bad this year!  We consoled ourselves by saying that the past few days had been 'too hot' to run!

Arriving at East Farm, we unpacked the car (we had brought everything and the kitchen sink) and set up our table and chairs in the MASSIVE MARQUEE near the start.  Race numbers, timing chips and pink and purple rubber chickens were collected (yes, you did read that correctly!)  We assembled for the race briefing at about 7.45am.  This is quite possibly the only race brief that included a demonstration of how to inflate one's rubber chicken!  Teams were to use their chickens as relay batons.

I set off on my first lap, watching Husbando vanish into the distance ahead of me.  After two weeks of relative inactivity it felt good to be running, but it was hard work on my legs and my lungs.  I knew that if I was to survive I would have to be careful.  I walked the uphills from the first lap.  There were only 2 hills really and the second one was, in normal conditions, a very 'runnable' hill.  It suffered from the fact that you could see its entire length for ages before you got to it.  Anyway - I walked the hills, and they were in the first part of the lap, which meant that you got the worst bit done early on and could enjoy the rest.   As always, the White Star Running 'Lovestation' played an important role - and unlike most races we got to enjoy it multiple times!  The marshals were friendly and cheerful, remembering runners from previous laps and encouraging them to keep going.

At the end of each lap I popped in to the marquee to see who was there and have a cup of tea.  It was a wee bit chilly out on the course in the early stages and I looked forward to my nice cup of tea, I'd also get a bit of a sit down and a chance to gossip.  I met up with friends from parkrun and a lady I met at Salisbury 5,4,3,2,1 earlier this month.

Back out on the route, I kept remembering why I don't like trail running!  All these lovely views and all I was doing was looking at my feet to make sure I stayed upright.  And lots of the views were shrouded in cloud.  And it was raining.  And at the top of a hill where you turned a corner the wind was a bit chilly when your clothes were soaked!  As the day went on it did stop raining, and I changed out of my wet top into a clean and dry one.  The ground underfoot was 'claggy' - we ended up carrying half of Dorset round on our shoes.

After one lap Husbando and I had a lunch break.  A quick trip to the hog roast stand, with me protesting that I couldn't possibly eat a whole roll and then eating the whole thing in record time, washed down with full fat Coke!   Husbando is adamant that I was slower on my lap than he anticipated and his team mate was faster than they had thought she was going to be and that he had to bolt his food, but no sooner had we finished our food than we were off again.  I think that this was my 7th lap - and the one I needed to do to get another marathon done.  About halfway around Husbando and his lunch parted company.  That slowed us down quite a bit, as I was uncharacteristically charitable and waited for him!   Not one single runner passed him without asking if he was OK.

At the end of this lap I carried straight on.  I had the impression that the rest of the team were ready to call it a day and I wanted to get one last lap in before we left.  If the weather had been better I am sure we'd have spent a lot longer there, but the weather was never great!  Anyway - I finished the last lap with a little spurt of speed that surprised the two blokes I was running with at that point (it is easy to put on speed when you have been taking it easy all day) only to find that I could have got a 9th lap in as the team had a lap and a half to go!    Still, 31 and a bit miles were in the bag - not to be sniffed at!

I collected my fabulous medal and goodie bag (lovely biscuits and my very own rubber chicken!) and grabbed another cup of tea.  The weather seemed to be improving at last, or maybe wearing a hoodie to keep me warm was working!  I was pleased to be at the finish to see a lady I'd run with for a while finish her first ever marathon.  I do believe that lapped marathons like this make running much easier.  It is far easier to think of running 7 laps than ticking off each mile.  And I am pretty sure that, left to my own devices, I would just keep on running laps thinking 'oh, I can manage one more' until I got timed out!

We had thought of staying over so that we could take part in the "Chaos Run" on Bank Holiday Monday, but hotel rooms were hard to find by the time we thought about booking and the idea of camping while not well did not appeal, so we headed home after a great day out.

Thank you to the WSR team for another great day out in Dorset.

Monday, 15 August 2016


I approached this marathon feeling poorly prepared.  I hadn't run more than about 13 miles since the Giant's Head Marathon, but I knew that I was capable of plodding around within the generous cut off time.  Then I got a cough.  About a week and a half ago I started coughing.  A nasty, dry cough with accompanying tickley throat.  I didn't feel too bad most days, although I had absolutely no desire to run, but the nights were awful.  Some days, however, I have been feeling really grim.  Thursday last week saw me barely able to get out of bed all day.  There was no way I wanted to run at all - let alone run a marathon!

So, why did I turn up for the Salisbury 5,4,3,2,1 marathon?  Was it because it raised money for a good cause?  Or that I might get to hug a fireman?  Did it have something to do with the promise of beautiful scenery?  No, it was purely because a friend was celebrating running her 100th marathon and I wanted to be there with her.  

Getting to the start was nice and easy - park in the field opposite the fire station, pick up race number from the fire station - simples!  The race started right next to the car park, so I left my bag in there rather than faffing around with the bag storage.  Not too much walking around involved, which was a good thing because, having done a parkrun the day before to test the legs after a week off running, my quads were trying to tell me that they'd already done a marathon!  

Because we were celebrating a 100th marathon there was a theme for the day.  We were all to wear tartan - for a lot of us this meant kilts!  Luckily, cheap, shortish kilts available on Amazon, so it wasn't an expensive option, but it was a rather warm option!  Possibly ok for a midwinter run, but yesterday it was rather warm.  The best thing about my kilt was that it was purple.   That is probably the only good thing about it really!  The flappiness of it annoyed me, as did the chaffiness as it rubbed away around my waist (it was a bit too big for me), but at least it was purple!

As we gathered for the start we posed for silly photos, there are some photos somewhere of us a load of kilt wearing maniacs in front of a fire engine... and yes I did get to hug a fire man!  The ultra race (50k) set off at 9.30am and we left at 10am.  This late start meant that I didn't have to get up at sparrow fart to get there, but is did make me giggle a bit.  We had all received comprehensive pre-race information packs, which included information about precautions to take when running in hot weather.  One of the sensible, and obvious pieces of advice was to run early in the day...  

It was already warm by 10am.  But hey ho, in for a penny, in for 26.2(ish - more of that later) miles!  I decided not to run with a group.  I had low expectations, speedwise, for this race but I didn't want to feel pressurised to run at someone else's pace.  My only aim was to get round in 'about 6hrs.'  This would be a massive personal worst for me - but it was designed to make me take it easy.  I also like the serendipity of falling into and out of conversations with all sorts of people along the way.  

My plan was to walk the hills and run the flats and downhills.  And there were quite a lot of hills, so I did quite a lot of walking.  My chest hurt, my legs hurt, the kilt was annoying me, my key was making a clicking noise in my back pocket.  I was properly grumpy for a lot of the time!  As I ran along I kept thinking 'on my next walk break I will sort that key out and take this kilt off.'  However, as they didn't annoy me when walking I forgot until I started running again - oops!

The water stations were fairly frequent and the marshals were friendly.  I saw lots of familiar faces on my way around and I was not adverse to stopping for a chat with people I recognised at the side of the route.  Anything that stopped me having to run, I also had a chat with all the volunteers at the water stations too.  There were some long old hills, which was great - more opportunities for walking.  There was some stunning scenery, some challenging sections that were tricky underfoot and a bit more road than I had anticipated in a trail marathon.  We ran past the very beautiful Longford Castle and through the surrounding estate - a really stunning part of the route, the views from Combe Bissett Down were also breathtaking - the photos on that link do not do it justice.

Despite the beautiful surroundings and the lovely marshals I was definitely not having a good time.  The smiles were definitely only for the camera!  I began to think that this would be my first ever DNF.  I mean, what was the point in this running lark?  I'd just keep going for another mile and see how it went.  As I crossed one of the stiles, while I had one leg on the stile and one in the air, an impatient runner barged across the stile.  How lovely for him to have such long legs that he can bound across the stile, but such a shame that he had no manners at all.  And then I was at 13 miles (according to the markers and 13.5 miles according to my Garmin) so that was half way as near as dammit, and it may have taken me just over two and a half hours but I was now sure that I would at least finish....  even though I knew I would be even slower in the second half.  My legs hurt, my chest hurt, my voice was not working and it was only going to get harder.   Lots of people around me seemed to be having a tough time too.  Lots and lots of runners  were walking - that made me feel slightly better about shuffling along.

At some point the mile markers disappeared.  I think it was at around 21 miles.  Several people had said that the marathon was 'slightly long' but that the 50k was spot on.  I thought, from my earlier Garmin to mile marker comparisons that we were looking at about 26.8miles.  We ran down from the racecourse and back into Salisbury, along the river bank and up to the Cathedral.  The cathedral grounds were very busy with lots of tourists (and maybe even some worshippers - it being Sunday!) so there was a fair bit of weaving around and avoiding small children and dogs and pushchairs and then I was out into Salisbury city centre... with absolutely no idea which direction I was supposed to be going it.  There were loads of people - but they were all 'civilians' - I couldn't see a high viz jacket or a sign anywhere, and I couldn't see any other runners.  I was convinced I was lost and stood looking around for what seemed like an eternity.  Suddenly someone came up to me and pointed me in the right direction - he'd done the half earlier in the day.    At this point my watch said I was over the 26 mile point, but I had no idea how far I still had to go.  Was it half a mile?  In which case I should maybe muster a bit of a shuffle (to call it running would be optimistic).  I was grumpier than grumpy by now.  I just wanted this to be OVER!

I crossed a road and the marshall said that there was 200m left to run.  I didn't believe her (sorry!) but as I turned to the left and there, at last was the finish line!   My watch said that it had taken me 5hrs36mins to run 27.2 miles, so not quite a personal worst for a marathon.

There is a reason that they tell you not to run when you are ill.  It makes everything so much harder.  Today I am paying the price, my legs hurt, I'm coughing up a storm and I am exhausted, but marathon number 15 is done!

I wouldn't have missed my friend's 100th marathon for the world though.  So much laughter, lots of cake, beer and champagne.  There was also pizza later on and a chance for a good chinwag and to meet new people before hobbling home.  Thank you so much for asking me to come along - and good luck for the next 100....

Saturday, 23 July 2016

parkrun de Mandavit

It has been a while since I've run a parkrun.  School events, travel arrangements and races on Saturdays have conspired against me being on the start line at 9am.  The last week has seen me getting up at sparrow fart in an attempt to get something resembling a run done before the weather became too oven like (it hit 107F here on Wednesday).  I've 'run' slowly, with that nagging sense that I'd never be able to run fast again.  It is rather hilly around Saussignac so that might be part of the reason.

Today we got up early, and were in the car by 7am for an hour and a half drive to Bordeaux.  parkrun de Mandavit had been chosen as our destination as the course description sounded more picturesque than the other Bordeaux based parkrun.  We found the car park easily, arriving with plenty of time to spare, asked some men in running attire if we were in the right place for parkrun and they pointed us in the right direction, with mutters about 'the mad English!'  Off we trotted towards the start..... it was 8.45am and there was none of the normal pre parkrun hustle and bustle to be seen.  Were we in the right place?  We trotted off for a little look around, and found some parkrun arrows... but nothing that looked like a start.  We found other parkrunners though... which was as much help as a chocolate teapot as they were also here on holiday too (from Alice Holt, Conkers and Rushmore parkrun amongst others) and were as clueless as we were.  And then, at about 8.55am, a flag and a run briefing.  The run briefing was done in English as the majority of the runners were English, with a very quick check that the French runners knew what they were doing.

And then, after a count down (in English!) we were off.  Two laps through the park, mainly in woodland, mostly on dusty trail paths with the odd tree root to avoid, just a short stretch of tarmac.  Some how the course seemed to be predominantly downhill.  I don't remember running up hill at all, although I kept thinking 'I must hold something back as we are going to have to go up again at some point.'   There was a little bridge that meant I had to slow down to a walk (because I am a chicken about bridges at the best of times and this one was a glorrified plank), but other than that and a missed turning at one point it was quite straightforward.

With only 28 runners there were long periods of time when I was running on my own, but there were lots of other runners in the park.  As I puffed by on my second lap, regretting setting off too fast and desperately trying to hold on to my position as first woman with no idea how close the second lady was, one French gentleman said (in English) 'You can do it!  I am 58 and I can run!'  I struggled with my school girl French to tell him that I have 5 children and I am exhausted!

I did hold on to that first woman place (by 18 seconds), despite coming around the building where I expected to find the finish funnel only to see that it was a lot further to go than I thought.  Husbando, who finished 6 places ahead of me, shouted 'Get a move on, she's catching you!'  which meant that I pushed a bit harder and thought I might just collapse on crossing the line!

At the finish, there was free coffee and BN biscuits.  A bit of chat with the organisers, visitors and some of the local participants and the volunteers followed before we went into Bordeaux for some touristy sightseeing.

It is a real shame that more locals don't take part.  There were loads of runners using the park, but not park running (only 6 of today's participants had run at parkrun de Mandavit before).  Is parkrun seen as something quirkily English?  I don't know, but hopefully more and more will start to take part.

Facilities in the park: convenient free parking (at least I hope it was free, I didn't pay!) remember to remove bikes from the roof though! There is one loo - but it is one of those nice 'self cleaning' ones, so worth waiting for the queue to go down.  There is a typical French pissoise on the other side of the loo building - but I didn't investigate that!

Thank you to the organisers for a great parkrun - I hope that this lovely venue goes from strength to strength!

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Hills, medals, cakes, hills and bells... oh and more hills!

This is the race I said I'd never do again.  It was the first trail marathon I had ever run and I swore it would be my last.  So why was I back in Sidling St Nicholas?  Because I seem to be suffering a case of runner's amnesia!  I travelled down with my running partner in crime from last year and Husbando.    Husbando had been swayed by the promise of a nice B&B and I had neglected to mention that he would be in a village with virtually no mobile phone coverage and no wifi.

Friday night traffic meant we just made it to the village hall in time for our pre-ordered meals cooked by the lovely ladies from the WI .  One of the ladies came over and chatted to us - she remembered us from last year - and told us that she and her husband would be out on the course to support us in the morning.  We collected our numbers, had a look at the finish area and checked into our B&B at The Grey Hound pub, drank some beer, ate some chips and went to bed.   We were all of 2 minutes' walk from the race HQ, so popping out for a WI breakfast and back for a last minute wee before the race the next morning meant that we could avoid the dreaded portaloos! Husbando had entered the Sydling Hill Run rather than the marathon, so he came down with us to the start and took our jumpers back to the room.  After a race brief we all gathered on the race began.  

I had no real 'plan' for this race. I was still tired from Endure 24, and my legs had felt heavy and sluggish on every run I had done since then.  But, at Giant's Head it really isn't about the time.  No one is going to use this race to get a good for age place in the London Marathon.  As with last year we were all walking within the first mile - that concrete hill has not got any easier!   

The hills were, as always, hugely challenging.  This year however the ground underfoot seemed even more challenging.  We've had more rain this year which meant that the vegetation was much more rampant.  The long grass sapped energy, nettles and brambles attacked bare legs and the stoney paths were ankle twistingly treacherous.  But it was such fun!  As someone who hates meeting new people, it always amazes me how happily I will chat to total strangers when out running.  Between chatting with other runners, looking down to check that my foot wasn't about to go down a rabbit hole the miles ticked by.  We ran past the Cerne Abbas Giant, and I stopped for a few seconds to chat with a friend who had come along to take photos.  We were 8 miles in and, although it was tough, I was feeling good.  I was running the downhill sections and the (very few) flat sections and using the hills as walk breaks.  It was humid and warm, but there was the odd cool breeze to cool us down.  The aid stations were plentiful, well stocked and the marshals running them were so friendly and encouraging.  

Even though I had run the race last year, there were vast sections that I just did not remember having seen before.  There was far more road than I remembered.  It was predominantly downhill which was a blessing, but very hard on the knees in trail shoes.  Some of the off road downhill sections were too steep for me to run down with anything like my normal enthusiasm for a downhill!  Soon my knees were complaining big time, and I began looking forward to hills so that I could walk for a while.  All around me people were adopting the same strategy so I didn't feel bad about it, and by the later stages of the race I would not have been able to run the hills even if I'd wanted to! The views from the tops of the hills were amazing - when I remembered to lift my eyes from the 6' in front of me to have a look.  

The World Famous Love Station was a sight for sore eyes - a chance to have a laugh and a joke, some cider or prosecco as well as the normal aid station fare of coke, squash, water, cake, crisps, sausages, jelly babies and water melon.  The Love Station also meant that we were almost, nearly, there.  Except I could not remember how long the race was.  Yes, I know it was a marathon, but this was a White Star Running marathon, and they do like to make sure you get value for money.  Was it 27 miles or 28?  I had no idea.  I looked at my watch and tried to work out whether I could beat my time from last year or not.  I tried to remember how many hills we had to go - couldn't remember that either!  I chatted with another runner who had run a similar time to me last year - he though that we could do it easily, I wasn't so sure.  

We got an incentive to run faster soon though.  The black, threatening clouds decided to dump their contents on us.  We were running up a slight incline on and exposed ridge.  The wind was blowing and the rain and hail were coming at us sideways.  It hurt when the rain hit my bare skin and rain and hail in my ear was deeply unpleasant!  We got to the last aid station (the one at 26.4 miles!) and they were hanging on to the frame of the gazebo to stop it blowing away!  We played an impromptu game of sardines as we tried to work out how many runners, marshals and food tables we could fit in one small gazebo.  The rain didn't look like it was going to stop and I was getting cold - because I was soaked to the skin and it was very windy - so I decided to plough on.  Just a downhill and an uphill and then another downhill to go.  The rain was very localised and reasonably short lived, other runners had no idea that there had been rain at all!

Running into the village and onto the green makes for one of the nicest race finishes ever!  So many people cheering the finishers over the line where we were all presented with our medals, t-shirts and buffs.  I crossed the line in 5hrs and 26 minutes - a 13 minute improvement on last year.  I was thrilled! Husbando was waiting for me - and bought me a small ice cream.  I am glad he didn't go for a medium or large as I think it may well have been bigger than me!  While I'd been running he had done the Sydling Hill Run, marketed as 10-ish km, and had come 11th so he was very pleased with himself.  I think he may even consider doing the marathon next year.   We cheered finishers home for a while before popping back to the pub to grab a shower.  We still managed to get back to the finish area to cheer the very excellent 'sweeper' over the line.  It is a measure of how tough this race is that there was only 1 person who finished in under 4 hours (and I think he only just got under the 4 hour mark).  I remember feeling a bit disappointed with my time last year, but this year I was very happy.

The evening was great fun.  Although drinking three and a half pints of beer after a marathon but before eating anything is probably not the most sensible idea I've ever had!  We ate chilli and rhubarb crumble prepared by the WI, chatted with friends, met new people and drank some more.  Some people did dancing - but I wasn't quite tipsy enough for that!  We had a slight Epipen emergency on the way back to our room.  Not mine, but I recognise an Epipen from about 50 paces and saw a young man at the side of the road with one.  Ambulances take a long time to get to rural Dorset villages - but eventually it got there and I hope he is now OK!  

After a good night's sleep we got up and into our running kit (clean set) again for yet another race.  This one was a short one though.  The Sydling Bell Race was organised to raise money for the village church - a really lovely way to say thank you to the people on the village.  It had a 'Le Mans start' in that we were separated from our running shoes so had to dash to find them as soon as the race started.  We then ran up to the top of a hill, did a task (in my case star jumps and push ups) claimed our cow bell medal  and ran back down the hill to the finish.  Reader, I will be honest - I did not run the whole way!  It may only have been 2.5 miles, but there was no way I was running up the steep bits of the hill!  It took me 27 minutes from the start (including finding my shoes and queueing for my task) and I was quite happy with that!  

It was an amazing running weekend!  I really do feel as though I've had a little holiday away from the real world.  I can't thank Andy from White Star Running and his band of helpers enough for everything that they did to make it such a success.   I just hope I get to do it all again next year.  And if I do, I must try to remember that the marathon is 27.2 miles long!


Monday, 13 June 2016

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

I entered Endure 24 on a whim.  A friend of a friend had a solo place that he could no longer take up so we organised transferring it to me.  That was in November last year and, other than noting the date in my calendar, I didn't think much about it until a few weeks ago.  Of course I knew what Endure was, I'd seen my friends' Facebook posts about it in previous years and always thought that it looked interesting in a mad, no way would I do that sort of way.  But actually training for a 24 hour endurance race as a solo athlete was so far outside my comfort zone that I couldn't even begin to comprehend what it might involve. 

Pre race info was sketchy in parts.  What were these 'solo wrist bands' that some people were talking about?  How much did they cost?  What did they cover?  I relied on the knowledge of friends who had taken part in previous years for information, without their insight I would have been even more nervous than I already was!  The confusion carried on when I arrived at the site on Friday evening with Husbando to pitch my tent.  There were no marshals to direct us at the entry, so we followed a sign that said 'Solo camping' and found ourselves in a mass of tents, so assumed we had found the correct place, pitched the tent (in high heels and a dress as I had come straight from work) and then discovered we were in the 'small teams area' and a fair walk from the start.  So down came the tent.

Luckily my 'non-specific deities' (NSDs) were out in force this weekend, and just as we were contemplating the move a friend from parkrun came along and carried my airbed so that we didn't have to deflate it to get it in the car.  After pitching the tent again, bending more tent pegs, borrowing better pegs from yet more of my NSD friends and having a gossip with a few people I headed home for a good night's sleep in a proper bed.  At some point in the evening we managed to find out that a wrist band could be purchased (£35) that allowed solo runners to get unlimited food during the 24 hours of the race and to go to the front of the queue in the catering tent.  Husbando decided that this was a good idea, as I was going to be on my own for much of the time without anyone crewing for me.  It took some detective work though as there were no signs up about the band - this meant that I felt guilty every time I made my way to the front of the queue to get a cup of tea and a bacon roll!

Saturday morning, nervous and panicking, I arrived back at Wasing Park.  I faffed around with my kit in the tent, I chatted with friends - who made me cups of tea, I ate breakfast with another friend who was marshalling the event, and then I sat outside my tent and read my book.  I don't really remember much of what I read at all!  I was too anxious to get on with running.  Waiting until 12 noon seemed like torture, but there were more people arriving all the time. 

EDITED 14/06/16:  A brief explanation of 'non-specific deities!'  About a week or two before Endure I had a bit of a flap on Facebook as I realised that I was going to be a 'solo solo!'  Husbando was not able to be there for long at all as he had work, school fete and child care responsibilities (the children have a negligent mother who dashes off to run silly distances at the weekend!) so I was on my own.  One of my friends, part of last year's winning team, said I would need to trust to my non-specific deities to get me through.  Turns out there are a lot of very lovely people out there who all deserve the title.

The start of the race was well worth waiting for.  Simply the best race start I have ever experienced.  The first runner for each team assembled on the start line with all the solo runners, but every single runner from all the teams seemed to be at the start, along with all the supporters.  The first 300m was an absolute wall of noise, quite an emotional experience really.  I really had to struggle not to get carried away by the support and stick to a slow pace.

Laps 1 to 3 (each 5 miles) were fairly fast and great fun.  My lap splits on the results page include the time I spent between each lap grabbing a drink, changing shoes (trail shoes were not necessary) and sorting out underwear malfunctions, so are not really representative of my pace at all.  Lap 4 was run with my lovely, bubbly friend.  I had told myself that, if I bumped into a friend who ran at a slower pace than I did then I would run at their pace, so we walked and ran and chatted - generally putting the World to rights.  I completed lap 4 just as 4 hours of the race had gone, and went to the catering tent to grab a cup of tea and a sausage baguette.  Lap 5 was great, had a chat with another of my NSDs after that - poor lady had to watch while I cleaned off my disgustingly dusty feet so that I could put compeed on a blister and I think it was at the end of this lap that I ran an 8.50 minute/mile with my airbed carrying friend.  Lap 6 was run with the husband of my lovely, bubbly friend from lap 4 -  started that lap before him, as he was waiting for a team mate to come in,  and said that I would walk until he caught me up.  2 years ago he thought he would never run again due to knee problems, but now he is running Endure!  Well done.  A quick change of clothing (sleeves needed as getting chilly and head torch needed)  before setting off for lap 8 with a much speedier friend who has been so kind and supportive this weekend.  I told him that we were walking all hills and just running the flats and the down hills.  We ran and chatted, walked and chatted and still managed a lap in 59 minutes.  I loved that lap.  At that point I thought I could go on forever.

Then lap 9.  Properly dark.  Running with a head torch makes me feel as though I am running in a jiggly tunnel.  It is isolating and disorientating.  I thought I had adopted the same strategy as in the previous lap, but obviously the fairies in the Fairy Wood and the glitter distracted me and it took me an hour and 25 minutes.  I knew I didn't want to run in the dark again, in fact I wasn't sure I wanted to run again all weekend.  As I finished lap 9 I saw Husbando waiting near the solo support tent.  He, blinded by the head torch, didn't see me!  We grabbed some food and chatted.  I decided that I was going to get a massage and then go to bed for a few hours.  I had run 10 miles further than I had ever run before, it was little wonder I was tired.  It didn't make sense for him to hang around - we only had a single air mattress and I was in no mood for sharing - so he went back to a friend's house in Basingstoke where he could sleep comfortably but still be close enough to get back in a hurry if I needed him.

My massage was lovely, my shoulders had become really tight and my legs very heavy.  The massage loosened all that up.  Layers of dust and insect repellent had to be removed from my legs, which was just as well as otherwise they would have been transferred to my sleeping bag!  Retiring to my tent I was convinced I wouldn't sleep at all.  But after a few minutes of listening to other people's conversations I nodded off, to be awoken at 4 by my alarm.  I felt surprisingly good for having had 3.5 hrs in bed and having notched up 45 miles the day before.  I grabbed my head torch, ate a cereal bar, drank some water, laced up my shoes and went out for a dawn run!

This lap was magical.  There were far fewer runners now than on my previous laps and it was dawn.  The music had gone and, while the VDUB bar/disco had cranked out some great tunes at the bottom of Heartbreak Hill, listening to the dawn chorus was magical.  I was amazed at how easy I found it to walk and run.  I was convinced at this point that  I would exceed my 'stretch target' of 70 miles with ease.  I sent Husbando a text to say that I was up and running and suggested breakfast might be a good idea after lap 11 (my next lap) and merrily set off for my next lap.

Such bravado was short lived.  Before I got to the 2k marker I was convinced that if I didn't get a cup of tea and a slice of millionaire's shortbread soon I would actually die.  Not a metaphorical death, an actual death.  Trouble was that the laps are 8km long.  Even in the state I was in, I knew that I had a fair way to go before I could get my hand on a cup of tea.  It wasn't until later that I realised that I had probably hit the wall.  This had never happened to me.  All I knew was that a) I needed tea and millionaire's shortbread and b) if I stopped moving for an instant it would be impossible for me to start moving again.  I plodded on, repeating the phrase 'relentless forward progress' in my head - at least I hope it was in my head!  Just after the 7k marker, or just before I'm not sure, another solo runner asked me if I was OK.  I said yes, but he was wise to me.  The fact that I was swaying and actually closing my eyes much in the same way you sometimes do on a long motor way drive only to jerk awake seconds later may have been a clue.  He walked with me and talked at me to get me back to the race village.  I don't know his name, but if anyone does, please pass on my heartfelt thanks.  I know that, if the St John's Ambulance people had picked me up instead of him, there would have been a very real possibility of them stopping me running altogether.  He was running to raise money for Royal Star and Garter Homes and had walking poles with him - so if you know him please tell him that I say thank you!  It says something about how out of it I was that I struggled to recognise my best friend at the end of this lap!  She was waiting for a team mate to finish so she could go out on her lap but called out to me as I finished... I sort of waved at her (to be polite) but the person I recognised was standing behind her - Mr K - who has  run Comrades twice (back to back years) and who is one of my running inspirations.

Tea and millionaire's shortbread with Husbando followed.  These accompanied by a handful of salt and vinegar crisps and a banana seemed to do the trick.  I had completed 11 laps, 13 laps would mean I had run over 100km (65 miles).  But I don't like uneven numbers, so I was determined to push on to do 14 laps and 70 miles.  That meant 3 more laps and I had nearly 5 hours left on the clock. I walked lap 12 with a friend, only running a couple of the downhill sections, walk ran lap 13 - this lap was followed with a quick second (or was it third or fourth?) breakfast with Husbando and the friend I now recognised, before setting out to walk run, the last lap.  It was simultaneously sad and a relief to think that this was the last time I would run through Faraway Forest and Shotgun City, Little Steep and Heartbreak Hill would no longer be something to anticipate with dread.  I made a point of thanking all the marshals who had supported us throughout the 24 hours.  I crossed the line about 10 minutes before the 24 hours up.  Technically I could have gone out for a 15th lap, but I'd achieved what I wanted to do, as Husbando said, 75 would be a tougher target to beat next time.  The finish was great, but not as great as the start, although it did have the distinct advantage that it meant I didn't have to spend the next day running!

And, talking about next time.... On Friday evening when Husbando suggested we got together with friends and entered a team I thought this was a brilliant idea.  By Sunday lunchtime I was convinced that the only way I would want to do this event was as a solo runner.  It was incredibly tough, mentally more than physically, at times, but I really enjoyed the feeling of camaraderie amongst the runners and the ability to run (or walk) when I wanted to rather than to a schedule.  Hopefully we'll sort out a team for him and I enter as a solo.  I've tried to sell this to him on the basis that we can run some laps together this way... we shall see...

A HUGE thank you to all the people who helped me out.  Looking back it all seems to have happened a long time ago, and it felt like a real break from the world.  I don't think I heard the 'R' work mentioned once, although the football did intrude somewhat with a massive screen showing the England:Russia match!  I've learnt so many lessons that should, hopefully, ensure I enjoy any future 24 hour race even more than this one.

Monday, 30 May 2016

The one where I started too fast and just kept going.

So, what does one do after running a marathon?  Rest, get a massage, eat all the food in the county?  I did the second and third, in fact I am continuing to do the third item on that list as I type, but I was also signed up for a race today.  I've done the Bupa 10,000m every year for the last six so I wasn't going to let a little thing like change of sponsors stop me running it again.  Despite the fact that it is now the Vitality 10,000m most people (me included) still seem to be calling it by its old name!

After a beautifully warm day yesterday, with no running (don't Sunday's seem very long with no running and no prep work for school the next day?) this morning was cold and grey.  I hastily shoved a pair of long tights into my race bag and headed off to London town.  Every station saw more lycra clad bodies embark.  I snoozed and faffed around on my phone, I groaned as I stepped down from the train as my quads screamed at me, groaned some more (ok, lots more) as I struggled down the steps to the ladies' loos and was instantly cheered when I saw that the barrier had been propped open so that I could just walk in rather than paying 30p to spend a penny!  And there was loo roll!  The day was looking up!
The lovely Caz being photo bummed

Thence, on the underground, to Green Park.  To say it was congested would be an understatement.  I suspect that the situation wasn't helped by the inability of the vast majority of the runners to walk up the escalator!  The Jubilee Line isn't a deep station.  Arriving in Green Park the feeling of congestion continued - it was very busy.  By chance I bumped into some friends and saw some sights that can't be unseen!  Still - we had a giggle, proving that we are totally mature and respectable.   It was jolly chilly as we hung around, so pretty quickly we decided to stow our bags and think about warming up.  We got separated on the way to the bag drop - as I spotted another friend and went over to say hello, so I dropped my bag and joined the loo queue.  It was a HUGE queue and there were only 25 minutes until the start of the race.  I wasn't convinced I would make it to the front of the queue before I needed to start running - so when I saw yet another friend I left the queue and went with them to the start, convincing myself I really didn't need that last nervous wee!

John in a moonlit Green Park
In previous years each starting pen has been separated into three zones: A, B and C.  That was not the case this year so each pen contained runners with vastly different anticipated finish times.  I was in the front starting pen - a first for me - and feeling far from confident.  I was pointed in the direction of 'my friend' and looked over to see another brave soul/total idiot in a Kent Roadrunner vest.  I must have seen him several times on Saturday - but we hadn't actually met before.  We chatted, had a photo taken, agreed that we were both as mad as a box of frogs.  I explained that I was going to try to maintain my marathon pace (about 9min/mile) and see if I could survive.

And then we were off.  After about 400m I looked at my watch and though 'Woah lady!  Ease off!' so I did, only managing to slow down to 7.57 for the first mile.  It hurt, it hurt a lot, but I was able to move.  I clicked through the miles (I don't do kilometres!) and they were all under 8min/mile.  I was astounded.  I kept waiting for the wheels to come off, but they didn't.  I passed a runner with a shirt that said 'Race official - do not pass' on the back.  I got to the 5km mark in about 24.50 and though - I can do 10 minute miles now and still be under an hour! But I just carried on running.  Back along the Strand, down past the Houses of Parliament and then round to Birdcage Walk and the '800m to go' sign.  That was when the wheels really started to wobble.   I was not going to slow down now, but I really struggled to keep going.  I swear that the gap between the 800m and the 400m signs was well over 700m.  At the 400m sign I could see the 200m sign, and by the time I got to the 100m sign I could see the wonderful, beautiful finish.  I didn't care about the scenic backdrop of Buckingham Palace - all I had eyes for was that finish mat!  I was done.  And in under 50 minutes.  Far better than I'd anticipated!

The medal is quite nice - double sided, and the goody bag wasn't too shabby.  I still think the old route, through Leadenhall Market and along the Embankment, was better, but to be honest I was too busy concentrating on running to take in the sights!  Next year is the 10th running of this race - so no doubt I'll be back again.