Sunday, 8 December 2019

Oink oink!

I've started a couple of blog posts about races recently but not finished them.  No idea why, but life is somewhat hectic so maybe I was doing something grown up like the laundry, marking books or cooking meals!  Let's see how this one goes...

Those of you who know me in real life will know that I rather like to be on time.  And by 'on time' I mean 'there in plenty of time.'  And by 'there in plenty of time' I really mean 'there so long before the appointed hour that all my friends officially hate me and and, if I am honest, I am a little bit bored too!'  This is the reason that I didn't rush back to sign up for the Hogs Back Road Race - I was still suffering from the trauma of almost not making it to the start line due to the nightmare parking scenario!

However, after 3 days away with my fledgling CCF contingent I needed something to look forward to and my partner in crime had put the idea into my head.  The race was cheap(ish) and local(ish) and as I'd fallen into the exhausted sleep that anyone who has been a lead teacher on a school residential trip will recognise before 8.30pm I was up early enough to get there in plenty of time.  They must have sorted out the parking in the 4 years since I'd last run this event.

They hadn't.  The last quarter of a mile took AGES!  For a big venue (Loseley Park) that must have lots of carparks, getting all the race entrants to park on the muddy crass either side of the drive made for very slow going.  I get that the venue might want to keep its carparks free for the regular patrons, but with a 9am start most of us would be leaving before the Sunday morning rush started.  I gingerly parked my car on the grass, offered a quick prayer to the parking gods that my car wouldn't get stuck in the mud (we'd seen a few people pushing cars that had got stuck already) and made our way to collect our numbers.  I was keen to get to the front of the port-a-loo queue.  I say keen, but really I was suffering after 3 days of army catering - otherwise known as 'how many fried meals can I throw down my throat in 3 days!'  They queues for the loos weren't too bad, mainly because most people were still queuing to park!

The wind was bitter at the start, I kept my fleece on.  There was no pre race brief, no count down, we were milling around near the start and then suddenly we were off!  The first bit was downhill, on the estate roads and then we were on country lanes and it became a bit more undulating.  I used one short, sharp, steep section halfway up a long steady climb as an excuse to walk a few paces and remove my fleece.   The first half is the tougher half of the race, as you can see by the graph below, and I will admit that I may have walked for a few brief sections on that two mile hill climb.

For a road race, I ended up with an awful lot of mud on the back of my legs!  There are two off road sections and the recent rain had ensured that there were plenty of lovely muddy puddles to splash through.  But at least it was predominantly downhill for the second half.  At 9km my shoe lace decided to come undone.  That has never happened before and I know I double tied it as normal.  Trying to tie a shoelace with gloves on is tricky, but I double knotted it, cursed about the fact that two women I had worked hard to past had snuck past me again and set out to run the last 2.4km.  I managed to catch both those women up again, so all was no lost.  I finished about 7 minutes faster than the last time I ran this event, which given the lack of sleep and shockingly bad nutrition I am happy with.

I spent most of the race trying to do the mental maths involved in converting 11.4k (or whatever portion I had left to run) into miles.  And failing.  

At 11k I spotted a school friend (as in a friend I was at school with rather than a friend from my current school) who was there to support her husband and some friends.  Just 0.4k to go... I over took a few people on the way and threw myself over the finish line, collecting my medal and getting my chip removed.  The Sun was shining and it was quite pleasant waiting at the finish, until the clouds rolled over!  It took ages to get out of the 'car park' - post race faffing and getting out of the car park took longer than the actual race!  

This is a great race, but it is let down by the poor organisation of the parking. 

Sunday, 27 October 2019

What a week

The first half of the autumn term is always the longest half term.  A nasty shock after the carefree weeks of summer, but the end was in sight, we were on countdown for the half term holiday.  Even picking up a cover lesson in my free on Tuesday didn't dampen my spirits.  Whilst sorting out the cover work I sat down on the chair at the teacher's desk, only to find myself on the floor instead.  The chair was dodgy and I was now on the floor in front of a whole class of students and a teacher who had come in to check that I had everything I needed!  The students were amazing, two of them dashed off to get a first aider and the rest were 'vanished' by a colleague.  I was in pain.  I slipped a disk several years ago and knew that this pain wasn't as bad as that had been, but it still hurt.  I wanted to go and lie down somewhere, but an ambulance had been called and I was told to stay where I was (standing with my back against the wall).    The ambulance crew were lovely, checked me out thoroughly, agreed with my self diagnosis that it was just muscle spasm and told me to go home and rest.  I, of course, asked if they thought I'd be able to run at the weekend and was told that so long as I rested properly and felt as if I could then it would be ok.  I know from experience that keeping moving is better for my back so I was (very) cautiously optimistic.
At the start - weather for ducks

Three days at home led to a certain degree of cabin fever and a 'sod it, I'm going to do it anyway!' mentality, so on Friday afternoon I set off to catch a train to North Wales.  I'd been bullied into entering the Snowdonia Marathon to the extent that I didn't even do the entry myself.  Everyone I know who has run this one raves about it, I was sceptical.  I booked my travel in advance, I couldn't travel up with anyone as they were all driving up early on Friday and I was supposed to be in school. The first after school train would get me to the nearest station at 10.15pm and because I booking in advance it was only a few pounds more for first class - free drinks, snacks and an evening meal would be very welcome.

Up into the hills we go!
I got to Euston just before the shut the doors and stopped letting anyone else in.  There were no trains going in or out of the station due to trespassers on the line.  We were advised that our tickets would be valid on Saturday - but that was no use to me.  The information available seemed to rely on an in-depth knowledge of the rail routes around the UK.  I was somewhat out of my comfort zone.  I hate being late, I'm not a huge fan of relying on other people or of that horrible feeling that you are messing the people you are relying on for a lift at the end of the journey around.  There was a lot of frantic Googling, texting and phoning to work out the best course of action.  When the station reopened I thought that it would be plain sailing, but the first few trains all seemed to be going to Wolverhampton - I am sure it is a perfectly pleasant place but I did not want to go there.   I got on the first train to Crewe, found myself a seat in First Class and then gave up my seat to a frail looking old lady who didn't have a seat.  First Class service was suspended, so no complimentary drinks and snacks, and all the carriages were rammed to the gunnels.

Scenery!  Lots of it!
I was confident that it would be simple from now on.  The guard announced that we would get to Crewe at 22.17 giving me 6 minutes to make a connection to Chester which would connect to the Holyhead service.  At 22.10 the guard announced that we would arrive at Crewe 'in twenty minutes!'  I very nearly had a full on melt down!  The train crew told me that whatever happened I would get to my destination - even if they had to put me in a taxi, as it was the connection was delayed at Crewe.  I threw myself on to the overcrowded train just as the doors were shutting and welcomed the announcement that the train I was on would become the Holyhead train, so I didn't need to navigate my way around another station.  I also got a seat at Chester!  I don't think anyone has ever been quite so relieved to get to Bangor in their lives - and at least, at half past midnight, the roads to Llanberis were empty.

Me, actually running
Thankfully a friend had checked into the hotel on my behalf and collected my race number.  All I needed to do was go to sleep, this proved to be easier said than done, but at least my back felt better it was just my hip that was hurting, I think I must have bashed it as I fell as it was somewhat bruised.  I set the alarm for 7.15am, met up with a load of friends for breakfast at 8am and asked basic questions like 'Where is the start?' Answer: 'Just follow us.'  Q: 'What about the bag drop?' A: 'The reason we stay here is that it is closer to the start than the bag drop.'  You can see that I'd really done my homework!

Proof we weren't hallucinating!
The weather looked bloody awful.  I decided to start off with a waterproof jacket.  We made our way to the start, bumping into people we knew, including a couple of fellow Fetcheveryone members I haven't seen since the start of the York Marathon seven years ago!  The first couple of miles went well, although it was undeniably painful.  A pain that intensified when we hit the first hill.  I am not sure that I was believed when I said that I didn't think I would be able to finish this (at 4 miles), but for the first time ever I was seriously considering just stopping.  The consensus was that we should just walk up the hill and see how it felt at the top.  Well, it still bloody hurt, but going down was easier and the scenery was just fabulous.  The support from the locals was terrific and we were now on a 7(ish) mile flat(ish) section that was a mixture of road and farm track.  When we were running we weren't too shabby in respect to speed, but it would get to a point where I just couldn't take the impact any more so we used every single hill as a walk break... and at times I was praying for the next hill!  There are only really three hills, but they are all, with the last one at 22 miles lasting for over two miles.

Possibly the best cup of tea ever!
At the top of the last hill we found the best aid station in the World ever!  A Mad Hatter's Tea Party was in full swing with jam tarts, biscuits, cakes, sandwiches and CUPS OF TEA IN PROPER CUPS! Yes I am shouting!  It was the best thing ever and as we had kissed goodbye to any idea of running a decent time we stopped for tea before hurling ourselves down the hill to the finish.

There had been a lot of rain, and despite the fact that it did stop during the race and the sun even came out briefly, at times it felt as though we were running through a river.  This made running down a steep hill somewhat challenging, but the end was in sight.  I tried to remind myself that I am good at running down hill and that I only had just over a mile of pain left.  As we turned on to the high street and the finish line, while not quite in sight, was just around the corner, we picked up our pace - still in our running jackets as we had never quite warmed up - and got lots of comments about a 'strong finish!'  Let me tell you, it hurt like hell, but I wasn't going to slow down in front of a crowd.

Striding out for the finish line!
We crossed the line in 4hrs 41mins and 53 seconds.  A lot slower than I had planned but, given I was ready to give up at four miles in, I suppose it is an achievement of sorts.  My friends had booked their hotel rooms for next year when they had checked in on Friday afternoon.  I had thought they were mad, but at 6 miles into the race I knew I wanted to come back.  I booked hotel rooms for next year as soon as I got back to the hotel.  I say 'rooms' because I am planning to bully some friends to come too.

This is a stupendously fabulous marathon, brilliantly organised and wonderfully supported by the locals.  The atmosphere amongst the runners was awesome.  At one point I complained that my left leg was fine and I was just fed up of the right side of my body.  It was suggested that I hop on the left leg.... we were on the final up hill.... but I gave it a go.  And a couple of kind people caught up with us to ask if I was OK!  The views are epic, even in cloudy wet weather!  I think there were 12 of us out for supper that evening, all in good spirits reliving our epic day, celebrating three first marathons in our little group and catching up with a friend I haven't seen for far too long before toddling off to our beds.  A beer or two and a gin and tonic or three may well have been consumed.   And the good thing about taking it easy yesterday?  Well, apart from the painful hip/back thing the rest of me feels fine!

Monday, 21 October 2019


I don’t remember when we signed up for Amsterdam, or even really why we signed up for Amsterdam – but we must have thought, at one of our many hugely unproductive ‘planning meetings’ that it was a good idea!  Initially all five of us had signed up for the half marathon, as some of us were already committed to a marathon just a week later, but one of our number had decided to bite the bullet and bag the bigger bit of bling on offer for the full marathon.  We booked flights and hotels, worked out the logistics of how we would get to the airport etc. and then pretty much forgot about the whole enterprise until about a week beforehand!  
JB, carb loading
I waved Husbando off at 4.30am on Friday morning as he and three friends made their way to the airport and happily went back to sleep for an hour, only to wake up with the worst headache ever!  I survived two whole lessons at school before admitting defeat, as I felt so sick, and coming home.  I was panicking about the fact I had an evening flight from Gatwick.  I could barely keep my eyes open as the light drilled into my head, how on Earth could I negotiate a train journey?  I went home, took a load of drugs and went to bed for a couple of hours.  Thankfully I woke up feeling a lot better, not 100% - in fact I still have a headache now (Monday lunchtime), so set off to the airport.
An uneventful journey and a very easy train journey into central Amsterdam saw me arriving just before last orders in the hotel bar.  A surprise ‘extra’ friend was waiting there too – he was over for the marathon and came to meet us in the evening before returning to his hotel.  

In our enthusiasm, whenever we’d booked this weekend, we had signed up for a 6k ‘city run’ on the Saturday morning.  On reviewing the information about the run we decided that a lie in would be better for us!  The city run was selling itself as a ‘fun’ activity, where we would run at a gentle pace in groups of 10-15 between various Amsterdam landmarks.  I’m not a fan of enforced fun plus, as we sat sipping complimentary champagne with our breakfast, it looked really cold and windy outside!  Much better to spend a lazy (ish) Saturday buying stuff at the expo, eating nice food and drinking cold beer!  
Sunday morning saw Monsieur Faffinage toddle off to the start of the full marathon (9.30am start) while four of us sat eating breakfast (no champagne today – we thought that would be silly).  The half marathon start time was 1.20pm – which put us all in a bit of a quandary about what to eat and when and had necessitated Husbando getting the hotel to agree to a very late checkout.  At the start we posed for photos, did a bit of a warm up, grumbled (I did anyway – I still had a headache and now felt a bit sick again) thanked whatever deity we cared to thank for the dry weather.  My target was to run sub 1.50 – I haven’t run that time since 2015.  A little bit of me hoped I might be able to get close to my PB (1:44).  JB ‘joked’ about running it in 1:43 – which is silly because I would need to run 7:50min/mile pace.  That is about my average parkrun pace!  
Can we get any closer to the start
It was crowded at the start, but we were in the first starting pen, so got over the line fairly quickly. I started ‘too fast.’  I kept telling myself to ‘slow down.’  I ran the first couple of miles with Husbando, JB meeting up with us just before the 5k marker at just under 24 minutes.  At around this time we started to overtake the occasional marathon runner.  Not an issue at this point, more of an issue was the sheer number of runners who had just enough speed to overtake and then immediately cut in front of us.  I may have sworn rather loudly at some of them…
We ran together (in our matching vests!) for a few miles, before Husbando pulled slightly ahead.  I said that I would like them to be waiting for me with a beer at the end.  JB wasn’t falling for it.  And I knew he wasn’t going to fall for it anytime soon.  If I dropped the pace (in an effort to get away from having to work so hard) he eased off too and then gradually picked up the pace so that we were back where we needed to be.  He is very good at this pacing lark, realising that trying to distract me with conversation would probably end up with me biting his head off!  He fetched my water at each water station (Eliud K couldn’t have asked for better) although this was rather ruined by my inability to drink from open cups while running – it was more of an exercise in repeatedly waterboarding myself!
The route was almost pancake flat, with a couple of gentle inclines going over bridges.  It wasn’t the most scenic race I’ve run, but running over the Amstel, past the Rijks museum and through the Vondelpark was really lovely, and there was plenty of music along the route.  As we got further along the route we encountered more and more marathoners and avoiding them became a bit of an issue – especially on the narrower parts of the route.   It had been announced that there were 250 British runners taking part – I think we saw all of them, including overtaking someone I knew who was doing the marathon. 
JB wasn’t letting up on the pace.  I was trying to do running maths in my head so knew I was on for my target of sub 1.50, but couldn’t get the maths straight in my head to work out if I was on for a PB.  I said at one point, ‘If I do 10 minute miles now I’ll get sub 1.50’ but I wasn’t allowed to ease off.  The fact that I couldn’t feel my right arm and my vision was a bit screwy (I may not have mentioned that to JB) wasn’t an excuse.  He set me a target of overtaking a woman in red shorts and a black top, and to be fair I was slowly gaining on her until I tried to scupper the whole deal by hitting a tram track at just the wrong angle, the angle that meant my right foot slid right away from underneath me as I pushed off resulting in me nearly hitting the floor!  This was at about 18k, but it shook my confidence and hurt a bit.

About a kilometre from the end we could hear the crowds in the Olympic Stadium.  Apparently.  Or so I am told!  I was too busy cursing and swearing to hear anything!  There was a 500m to go sign, I couldn’t believe it and it did seem a long way from there to the track – then there were signs every 25m from 175m down to the finish.  I pondered slowing down and soaking up the atmosphere – for a nanosecond – all I wanted to do was get over the line so I could stop running.    
Hanging out at the airport
As I ‘sprinted’ down the finishing straight the clock was ticking up – I saw 1.44 on the clock and knew I safely had a new PB, but still pushed on – crossing the line in a gun time of 1.44.15 – a second  inside my PB, but I hadn’t taken into account the time it took me to get across the start line and our chip time was 1.42.34!  I was overjoyed and exhausted.  I told JB I was never talking to him again, said a brief hello to Husbando (who had also clocked a PB of 1.41.49) and then sat down before I fell down by the barrier.   I told the first aider who dashed over to check on me (did I really look that bad?) that I just needed 5 minutes… he told me that I had 5 seconds – so, swearing under my breath, I got up and moved on! And started talking to JB again.  I’m fickle like that!  I couldn’t believe he’d got me a PB, let alone by well over a minute.  I couldn’t believe his generosity in giving up his run to pace an irascible old fart with a tendency to talk herself out of putting maximum effort into anything around a half marathon.  I just hope that he doesn’t expect me to run that fast up a mountain next week!
Finishing in the 1928 Olympic Stadium was fabulous.  Unbeknownst to us a friend was watching from the stands and managed to snap some photos of us collecting plastic sheets and looking as though ‘we were shopping for bedlinen at the market!’  After collecting our bags we had some chips while we waited for the final member of the gang to finish before dashing back to the hotel for the quickest set of post race showers ever and thence to the airport – transport in Amsterdam is wonderfully easy!  Duty free was purchased, drinks and food were consumed in the airport lounge and we were all safely home and tucked up in bed in plenty of time to get a good night’s sleep before work on Monday.

It was, in my opinion, a brilliant weekend, one of the best running related trips ever.  I am so lucky to have such a great bunch of friends and a Husbando who are all as mad as I am!  Where are we going next?  I sense another ‘planning meeting’ may be necessary…..

Saturday, 5 October 2019

Muddy good fun at Havant parkrun

It has been a busy old week - my little sister has been all over the news as she decided to walk from Devon to Downing Street in protest at the way Thomas Cook has treated its former employees.  She covered the 200 miles in just 7 days, an utterly amazing feat!  She was supported by many people along the way who offered a bed for the night, a meal or a drink along the way.  She stayed with us on Thursday evening and we went up to London on Friday evening to meet up with her after she had delivered her letter to 10 Downing Street.  I've spent more time than usual on social media - helping to sort out beds for the night and making sure as many people as possible knew what she was up to! You can read a little bit about her walk here in one of the many articles about her. Work has also been a bit manic, who doesn't love a week with a parents' evening in it?  

Consequently I didn't really want to go too far for my weekly parkrun fix!  This weekend is the 15th birthday of parkrun, so one option would have been Bushy Park, a possible trip to Gravesend had also been mooted, but I didn't want to get up too early and I didn't want to spend all of my Saturday travelling to and from parkrun.  Havant however was reasonably close and I had never run there before.  JB picked me up at a very civilised 8am and we arrived in plenty of time to park and make our way to the start.  The parkrun is in Staunton Country Park - I've run there before during an On The Whistle event but I couldn't remember much about it, although I think there may have been firemen....  I didn't do a lot of research - we only decided on Havant on Wednesday evening and the last two days of the week are hugely busy at work, but I seemed to recall that it was trail and I thought, from comments I'd read on Facebook, that it was hilly.  

The first timers' briefing mentioned a hill and mud.  It is the first muddy run I have done this autumn as there was a short muddy section near the start that we ran through a couple of times.  The course is 1 short lap followed by 2 longer laps, it wasn't flat but the uphill sections were not at all arduous.  Had I been running at full speed I might have struggled with the short, sharp downhill on gravel.  As it was, JB was taking it easy because a) he has the Basingstoke Half tomorrow and b) he walked 30 miles with my sister on Thursday and has the blisters to prove it, I was happy to take it easy as I have to run 20 or 22 miles tomorrow.   I do like a chatty parkrun!  This parkrun is so pretty!  I would gladly come back and run it again.  The marshals were cheerful and friendly and I saw several familiar faces which is always lovely.

After we'd finished we grabbed a drink at the cafe.  It is £1 or a tea of coffee for parkrunners or 50p if you have a reusable cup with you - what a bargain!  Parking charges were steep though - £3.20 for the 2 hours we were there.  Thank you to all the volunteers for a wonderful morning.

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Insanity runs in the family!

Today I should be focussing on a blog about Hazelwood parkrun and I will mention that later, but the last week has been somewhat tumultuous in our family!

At 2am on Monday morning my little sister (she may be in her 40s but she will forever be my little sister) got a WhatsApp message telling her not to come in to work.  She was a cabin manager for Thomas Cook, she had worked for them for 20 years since leaving university.  She gained a law degree from a Russel Group university but, on graduating, didn't really know what she wanted to do with her life, so opted to be a 'trolley dolly' for a couple of years.  She loved the life style and quickly progressed to roles with increasing responsibility, taking a short maternity break and returning to her globe trotting lifestyle with the support of her husband.

To date, nearly a week after the collapse of the company, she has not received any communication from either Thomas Cook or the receivers.  She is one of the 'lucky ones' in that her husband is not a Thomas Cook employee.  So many of her friends and colleagues married fellow employees (I guess it  helps when your partner understands the particular stresses and strains of your job) and now neither of them have a job.  The company collapsed a week before payday.  Three weeks of work and no sign of a pay check yet!

So what did my sister do?  Well, she mopped around the house for 24hrs and then she got cross.  Especially when she read about the bonuses the board had taken out of the company over the past few years.  She has spent the last 20 years being reminded that she is ultimately accountable for her actions when at work... but it seems that this doesn't apply to the bosses at Thomas Cook!

This made her a bit cross (actually - she was pretty livid!) and made her want to do something.  She decided to make a banner, put on her uniform and walk to Westminster to demand some answers.  Which doesn't sound that mad an idea until you realise she lives in Devon and that walk is about 200 miles!  I don't know about you, but I am all for mad exploits - but I like a bit of planning.... Rachel didn't have time for planning - she wants to try to meet up with other Thomas Cook employees for a protest so had no choice other than to go to her jobseeker's interview and then set straight off to walk to London from Newton Abbot!

She left at 12.30 yesterday arriving in Exeter at The Devon Hotel (where they looked after her and charged her a discounted rate) and has now finished her second day of walking (somewhere this side of Honiton) and has assured Husbando that she has somewhere safe to stay tonight.  Most people who set off to walk any distance longer than to the local pub and back spend a bit of time working out routes, where they will stay and what to do when things go wrong!  Rachel knows the route - having commuted from Devon to Gatwick for the last 7 or 8 years - but walking is very different to driving!  

I have shared her story pretty widely, and it has been mentioned on the BBC business news website, but what would be lovely would be if people could look out for her as she walks and maybe walk with her for a few miles.  There can't be that many people walking along in Thomas Cook cabin crew uniform - and I'm sure she'd welcome a bit of company and maybe a hot drink.   Or if you are feeling generous you can contribute to her fundraising page here.

I haven't told her yet but I am so proud of her that I am going to try to get her to come to our school to talk to our students about the whole experience... once she has had a chance to recover from her epic journey!

Here is her route for Sunday:

All this was milling around my head as we ran at Hazelwood parkrun today.  Chosen purely because it was on the way into London and JB had already done Homewood parkrun.  Hazelwood is the home of the London Irish rugby team, so the facilities were fab - toilets near the start, big screen TV showing the Ireland v. Japan rugby match, but I hadn't done my homework (it has been a pretty full on week) and had not done any research, so pitched up in road shoes for a course that was almost entirely on grass.  As it would be around rugby pitches!

The run director gave a great run brief before we walked to the start.  The course is one short lap followed by two long laps.  It is almost pancake flat and could be a very fast course, were it not for the incompatibility of road shoes and grass and the huge headwind on the second lap - I went from 7.15min/mile pace to just over 8min/mile pace along that outward stretch!  JB, major surgery last week not withstanding, ran on ahead.  I assumed Husbando was also ahead, so was surprised when he caught me up at about 4k!  We ran the last k 'together' with him pulling ahead just before the end... but I wasn't having that and overtook him just before we entered the finish funnel!  I was a mere 9 seconds slower than my all time parkrun PB!

Coffee (and bacon rolls for some) in the club house afterwards completed the morning nicely.  The marshals and volunteers made us feel very welcome - so big thank you to them all!

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Running in the House of Mouse.

Some time ago, and without my knowledge, Husbando wrote to my headteacher to ask for a day off for me.  I have long thought that teachers should be allowed to have a couple of days that they could take off, with prior agreement and ensuring that adequate cover work is left, each year so that they can attend important events that take place in term time. Like weddings.  On, in my case, races.  But that isn't the way it works, and I was thrilled when I found out a few days before the trip that Husbando had booked a long weekend at Disneyland Paris for the Run Disney weekend.   Even more excitingly we were going to travel over with a group of friends as part of the very prolonged celebration of my fast approaching significant birthday.

We had a few anxious days before the trip, as one of our friends ended up having surgery on Thursday to deal with some pesky kidney stones, but thankfully the surgeon gave him the all clear to run so long as he took it easy.  He was travelling with his (grown up) children so they were on hand to carry suitcases for him.  The journey over was uneventful and didn't even involve getting up too early, which was nice.

On arriving we went straight to the Expo to collect our bib numbers (A pen for most of us, E for elite for the super speedy family), a whole stack of race t-shirts, look at and purchase yet more running related stuff and sort out photopasses and all that sort of stuff.  We then checked into the hotel, Newport Bay, grabbed some food and then just relaxed before the first race.

The 5k
The 5k race starts at 8pm on the Friday evening.  We all decided to start in the same pen (A) and managed to work our way to near the front.  Our pen closed at 7.40pm and by this time pens B,C and D were filling up very quickly.  A few minutes before 8pm the wheelchair race started.  Now these weren't David Weir style wheelchair racers, a lot of the wheelchairs were pretty standard 'street' wheelchairs being pushed by companions, so they weren't likely to be setting off at a fast pace.  At 8pm the elite runners went off, followed by the 'invited runners' and then we were off.

We ran down a short hill to a very sharp right hand turn and into the back of walkers and wheelchairs!    Husbando and I planned to take this 5k easy, but wanted to 'peg it' to the first character so that we could avoid the queues and still get some photos.  We didn't recognise the first character, so didn't stop!  We carried on to the second, but the queue was huge, so we didn't stop... in fact we didn't stop for any of the characters... they were few and far between and nothing that we thought worth stopping for!  We finished in about 22 and a half minutes, collected our medals and made our way to the bar to wait for everyone else.  The bar was near the start and runners were still streaming past.  The last runners must have gone through the start close to 9pm!  And some of them had been waiting since about 7pm.

We toddled off to bed to try to get as much sleep as possible.

The 10k 
A 4.30am alarm is never welcome.  Especially when your first thought on waking is 'Oh my God!  I've got to do this again tomorrow!'  We pulled on our running kit and went down to get some breakfast and a cup of something almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea (as Douglas Adams so perfectly put it).  We were in the pen by 6am, shivering somewhat in the chilly early morning air.  It was the same set up at the start  as at the 5k (and would be at the half) with the same, inevitable, bunching of runners near the start.  Husbando wasn't feeling great, we knew that we had to run again the next day, so we took it easy.  We stopped for character photos and photos with firemen, but again the characters didn't really appeal if I am honest.  I think it was all princesses and lots of them were quite difficult to see from the route, so you'd see them after you had run past.

After the run we went back for second breakfast (surely the best meal of the day), a shower and a day spent in the parks and then an evening dodging the gilet jaunes in Paris to get to a restaurant where the second bottle of wine was possibly an error and the complimentary limoncellos were definitely a mistake!  I poured myself into bed at about 11pm, cursing the thought of yet another early start.

The half
Same drill as the day before!  But warmer this morning.  The first part of the route was around the service areas and then it weaved in, out and around around the park.  This was great as it allowed for loo stops (most welcome) and we stopped for character photos too.  I felt great (despite the hangover) and would have liked to run a wee bit faster, but Husbando was still feeling somewhat below par so we kept the pace down.  I am unusual in that I like the bits outside the park!  There is a nice section in a park that goes around a lake, there are some lovely gentle downhills and bastarding long slogs up the corresponding uphills.

More firemen during the half marathon
At about 15k Husbando stopped for a pee, I ran on slowly, he must have had the longest pee ever because I had almost given up on ever seeing him again when he appeared at my shoulder!  I had found it quite painful to slow down and now struggled to speed up again, but luckily there was a downhill section ahead which helped.  Husbando seemed to have had a miracle recovery and we were now upping the pace.  It felt great.  Until 19k, when we came into the Disney Village, past a MacDonalds and the smell of food hit me.  The smell of fast food is grim at the best of time, when running with a hangover it is the last thing I want to smell.  My stomach churned.  I thought I was going to lose my breakfast.  I told Husbando to run on as I slowed down in an attempt to calm my tummy.  A second wave of nausea hit me as I passed somewhere cooking hotdogs.  Who wants hotdogs before 9am on a Sunday morning?

Once passed the food smells I felt better.  And I was nearly at the end.  Less than 2000m to go.  Could I catch Husbando?  I sped up until I could just about see him ahead, then worked on closing the gap.  I kept pushing, working hard for the first time in the race, but couldn't quite do it.  I finished 26 seconds behind him.  It isn't a PB race, but this is the first time I have run it in less than 2 hours, even though it was 8minutes slower than my half marathon PB from 5 years ago!

After meeting up with friends we made out way back to the Expo to collect the 'challenge medals.'  In addition to the three races you can collect medals for running 31k and 36k (which we did), and if you are lucky enough to have run a Disney half or marathon in America in the same year you can claim the 'Castle to Chateau Challenge' medal.  We then had a mad dash back to the hotel for second breakfast, showers and an 11am checkout.  We mooched around the park for a few hours, ate some lunch etc. until it was time to catch our train home.

We had a great weekend.  I did feel that I didn't see quite enough of any of my friends, but we have all survived to run another day, so there will be many more opportunities for mad running exploits in the future...and the not too distant future at that.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Another PB!

If you have known me for any length of time you will be aware that I do not like to be late.  In fact I consider 5 minutes early to be a bit too close for comfort, so when I booked a 10k race at Brooklands I made sure I knew exactly how I would get there.  We were staying up in London on Saturday evening, but I knew I could get the 7.11am train from Waterloo to Weybridge and the Transport for London website told me that the underground would easily get me to the station on time.  Happy days!  I'd booked at 10k race, my first chip timed 10k since 2015, because my training plan said I only needed to run 10k and fortunately RunThrough Events were holding a Running Grand Prix at Mercedes Benz World.

Panic began to set in when I turned up at the tube station to find it still locked... as was the next nearest station.  I found a cab - not too many around at 6.20am on a Sunday morning and paid a small fortune to be sped to Waterloo.  At least I wasn't going to miss the train.

It was a beautifully clear morning, but very chilly.  I was beginning to regret my choice of shorts and a vest top.  A brisk walk from the station along paths clearly signposted by the event team, took the edge off the chill and as long as I stayed in the sunshine it was bearable!  Race number collected, it was just a matter of waiting for my race to start.  Most unusually I didn't see a single person I recognised amongst the waiting runners.

The half marathon race started half an hour before the 10k.  Watching the runners make their way around the track made it clear that this was quite a convoluted route!  They would be running 4 (and a bit) laps, with the 10k and 5k aces completing two and one lap respectively.  There were lots of 180 degree turns and many tight turns, it was quite hard to maintain a constant pace.  This was exacerbated when the 5k runners joined in too.  I spent a lot of time weaving around other runners.  At one point a marshal called 'keep right, faster runner coming through' so I moved over, only to realise that I was the faster runner he was referring to!  I hit 3 miles in 22minutes 36 but had no idea if I could keep up the pace for another lap.  I kept looking for the water station - noticing it only after I had run past it (it was on the outside edge of a curve we were running around) so had to double back a little to grab a bottle.  I was somewhat dehydrated, possibly due to attending a 50th birthday party the previous evening, but I probably didn't really need the water!

At about 7.5k into the race I heard a lady running up behind me.  She was breathing heavily, as she came along side me we chatted for a little while - but I was speeding up, I'd been coasting along quite easily and I thought that I might just be able to get a PB if I picked up the pace.  Until last night I'd thought my PB was 49minutes, but on investigation I discovered a flukey 47:59 back in 2015.  I had no idea if I could do it, my mental calculations were not helped by the fact that I stupidly got it into my head that 10k is 6.1k, could I do this?  I was overtaking people who had overtaken me earlier in the race and felt very comfortable.   I thought I might be amongst the top twenty females to finish, and my watch said 47:11 - so definitely a PB!  

Needing to get back into London so that I could have a shower and then check out of our hotel room meant that I couldn't investigate the Brooklands Museum or Mercedes Benz World, but it looks well worth a visit.  I just collected my medal, my t-shirt, a flap jack (yummy), a couple of energy bar things and a banana and headed back to the train.  I could hardly believe the official results!  8th female, 1st in my age category and 47th overall out of a field of 311!  It does make me wonder if I could run a 46:XX 10k.

In fact a couple of conversations recently make me wonder how fast I could run if I a)trained properly and b) pushed myself a bit harder on the day!  JB says he doesn't enjoy racing as it is just hard work, Husbando's face every time I saw him at a recent half marathon, was a picture of misery.  When I run I want to have fun, chat to people, thank the marshals and so on.  I think I am a little bit scared of pushing too hard because, well, it might hurt and it might not make all that much difference!  Maybe I should join a local running club so that I can run with people of a similar ability regularly...

Saturday, 31 August 2019

California dreaming

I have been meaning to visit California Country parkrun for a wee while, but hadn't made it for various reasons.  Today I found myself travelling to parkrun alone as Husbando is having a day off prior to a race tomorrow, the 15 year old could not be woken up (school is going to be so much fun next week) and my normal parkrun accomplice was otherwise engaged.  I've become a real wuss about meeting new people - a really good character trait in a teacher - so told myself all I needed to do was turn up, run and then come home... but if I could talk to people that would be a bonus!

I arrived in plenty of time. hoping to find out why a park in Finchampstead is called 'California Country Park'.  The website for the park hadn't helped with that one and I am still none the wiser.  It is a lovely park though, with lots of parking (charges apply) and a conveniently located cafe (with loos that are open before the parkrun).  Getting to the start was somewhat confusing - so I followed a group of people running apricot and purple t shirts and hoped for the best!  The first time briefing was excellent - although I will admit to getting a bit confused about the route and figuring that I would just follow the person in front.  I spotted a fellow With Me Now podcast listener and greeted her with a 'Dolly or Bev?' (If you listen to the podcast you'll know what I'm talking about, if you don't then you should!)

The run director's approach to the run brief was excellent.  He called us all together and then waited until everyone was quiet, commented that he would start now we were all listening and paused when some chattering threatened to get out of hand - brilliant!  I asked him if he was a teacher - he said that he had grown up in a family of teachers! One thing though - and this seems to happen at lots of parkruns - the run brief is given using a PA system, but the count down and start are so very quiet that  those of us not at the very front can only tell the run has begun because the crowd moves forward!  

The start was quite crowded, the path was narrow, and I hadn't positioned myself very well so the start was quite slow, especially though the wooded section as it was impossible to overtake here at all.  It is a pretty and varied course, partly on a lovely smooth path and partly through woods being careful to avoid the tree roots.  There was an out and back section and a repeat loop through the wooded section, all supported by marshals who kept us going in the right direction.  There was a longish downhill section on the out and back - which meant a longish uphill section too!  

As I went into the woods for the second time, probably about half a mile from the finish, I heard one of the marshals say 'That's the 5th lady,' as I ran past.  I wasn't having that!  So I put on a bit of speed and overtook a few people (jumping over branches and dodging trees) and managed to claw my way up to 3rd lady by the time we got to the finish.  

After the obligatory barcode scanning, I chatted to a few people at the finish and then decided to brave the cafe.  Jackson's cafe was lovely, and I brazenly went to sit at a table which already had runners sitting at it.  We chatted about parkrun and black pudding, amongst other things and passed a very pleasant half an hour in the sunshine.  

Thank you to all the volunteers and marshals for making me feel so welcome.  I'm not sure if I am now actively chasing down my Cowell Club membership (100 different parkruns) - but I am now on 84 different venues so I might get a bit more proactive in seeking out new ones....

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Gin and PBs!

 On a whim we booked ourselves into Gin School on Friday afternoon. Gorilla Spirits  is a distillery that is just down the road from where we live and not only do they make excellent gin (their Silverback Mountain Strength Gin gained top marks in a gin tasting I hosted a couple of years ago) they donate £1 to support gorilla conservation.  We'd been meaning to book a tour or one of their cocktail making masterclasses but decided to go for the Gin School experience as the idea of making our own gin really appealed.

We arrived at 2 o'clock on a sunny afternoon and were greeted with the first of several G&Ts which we sipped while we waited for the other four pupils to arrive.  Before long we were chatting away and ready to get started...

The process of choosing botanicals was explained, we each had a folder which described the characteristics of each botanical and suggested which other botanicals they would work well with.  We made our choices, safe in the knowledge that one of the experts would check our final recipe to make sure that it would work before we started meticulously measuring out our ingredients, recording all these measurements on our recipe sheet.  I had intended to make a 'Christmas Gin,' but got waylaid by the botanicals.  One was called 'Lady's Mantle' which is a plant that grows prolifically in our village, I liked it and decided to base my gin around it.

Each of us had our own still.  They all had individual names and were very cute!  While we waited for all the class to be at the same stage we enjoyed another G&T before being taken on a tour of the distillery.  This is a much smaller operation than Bombay Sapphire.  I think they said they had a staff of 9, everyone mucks in and does all the rolls that are needed, from monitoring the still to labelling the bottles.  After our tour we went back to the stills to work out the ABV of our distillate and therefore how much water we would need to add turn it into something that was a) drinkable and b) would satisfy HMRC's rules on alcohol content.  We had been asked to 'name' our gins - and these were printed onto labels.  The 'extra' gin that wouldn't fit in the bottle was used to make yet another G&T!  I have to say that Husbando's gin was very nice, but mine was delicious.  (I had to drink most of his drinks because he was driving).

All in all, this was a brilliant way to spend an afternoon and I can't recommend it highly enough!  We came home with out two bottles of gin, a bottle of the Gorilla Spirits Old Tom Gin and a bottle of their Raspberry Gin.  We got a 10% discount on our purchases and these two aren't as easily available as the original Mountain Strength gin.

I came home and went to bed.

On Saturday morning I woke up with a slightly sore head, but Saturday is parkrun day and we had made plans to meet a friend at Upton Court parkrun.  From there Husbando and I were heading into London.  I felt ghastly, almost as green as my 250 top.  Still it was only 5k, I've run parkrun with a hangover before, all I had to do was get around.  We lined up at the start and were soon under starter's orders!  Husbando hared off into the distance, I assumed JB had done the same.  I couldn't be bothered to look at my watch, it was hot, my head hurt and I felt a bit queasy so I just ran.  The course is one long then one short loop of Upton Court Park, it is mainly on grass, with a couple of sections on tarmac.  At one point during the first lap I got to a point where I couldn't see anyone ahead and it wasn't immediately clear where I should go, I stopped - very briefly - for another runner to catch me up so I knew where to go.

On the second lap JB caught up with me and we ran the rest of the course together.  It was really hot now and he wasn't going to let me slow down!  We passed a marshal who told up we had 600m to go - we thought he was a little optimistic - but as I looked at my watch (for only the second time in the run) I realised that I could be on for a PB!  Coming around the last corner two other runners came up behind us.  I wasn't prepared to let them overtake me, but wasn't exactly sure where the finish line was so just had to run as fast as I could and hope that I could hold on...urns out I could.  And I got an 8 second parkrun PB into the bargain!  Husbando also got a parkrun PB, but we both ran slower than JB's fastest marathon pace!

Such are the benefits of a flat parkrun!  There must have been some uphill as there was definitely a downhill slope, but I can't remember it!  The volunteers were friendly and helpful and we were very glad to grab some cold drinks from the rugby club house after our run!  There were also lovely loos in the club house that were available before the run and there is plenty of free parking nearby.  A great parkrun which didn't involve getting up too early!  Thank you to all the volunteers!

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Milton Keynes

The last time I went to Milton Keynes was for an interview for a place on the Open University's PGCE course.  I was so nervous on the way there and so relieved on the way home that I could have been anywhere!  Today I was travelling to Milton Keynes as it was a convenient, almost halfway point, between our house and my mother's house and as such a useful meeting point at which to hand over a small person who wants to spend a week with her grandmother and aunts.  I was also aware that it gave me options in terms of parkrun locations so that I wasn't just driving for hours and hours on a Saturday morning!  I gave my mum the details of several parkruns and she chose Milton Keynes.  This was fine by me - it looked really easy to get to from the M1, had a cafe, loos and lots of parking nearby.  It was also a non lapped parkrun... I'd say a single lap, but it isn't even a complete loop, the finish point being about a quarter of a mile away from the start.  Given the size of lots of city parks and open spaces non lapped parkruns are quite rare  - I think I've only run two or three such courses.  It also looked fairly flat.  
Smallest one scanning barcodes

Small person and I got up stupidly early - 5.30am in the school holidays is not nice and were packed up and on our way by 6.15am which meant we arrived at Willen's Lake at about ten past eight.  Willen's Lake is an amazing venue in the midst of a series of parks and green spaces.  At the lake you can take place in all sorts of water sports and other activities - it looked amazing!  When we arrived there were very few other people there, but the loos were open (thankfully!) and we soon found the volunteer co-ordinator who had been so helpful the previous evening when I'd asked about the small one helping with barcode scanning (to keep her occupied while I ran).  

Run director Ros gave an informative run briefing, welcoming many guests including a large number of runners from Kingfisher Harriers all sporting bright orange t-shirts with kingfishers on them.  As we assembled at the start runners appeared from everywhere!  There were over 600 this morning on what is quite a narrow start (a gravel path between two trees).  The first few hundred metres are slightly uphill followed by a section along the edge of the canal.  The route is entirely on gravel and tarmac paths, it isn't a hilly course but there is a zig-zag section through a wooded area which concentrates the mind somewhat!  Being quite open, the wind could be a problem - in fact I was blown sideways as we ran under a bridge that was doing a very good impression of a wind tunnel!

I haven't run at such a large parkrun for quite a while and I was struck by the fact that there was very little thinning out (at least where I was running).  I was always surrounded by runners.  The marshals were enthusiastic in their support.  Back in the days when there were far fewer parkruns, if I visited a new parkrun I would just 'plod' around, knowing that there was a good chance I'd be back and that it would be nice, if slightly artificial, to get a course PB!  Now we are spoilt for choice and I can't really justify doing that anymore but, having sat in the car for hours and knowing that they journey home would probably take even longer, I didn't feel as though I really wanted to push it, so I decided not to look at my watch, not to push it and just run at a pace that felt comfortable and where I could chat with those around me and have enough breath to thank all the marshals.  I was pleased with my result - I always run a bit faster at parkrun than I run the rest of the week.

After having my barcode scanned (by my own daughter) we went to the cafe near the finish, One4six.  The cafe is quite large with loads of picnic tables outside, the drinks weren't cheap - £10 for a can of pop, two coffees and a tea - but at least there were reasonably large cups!  I am still trying to persuade my mother and sister to take part in their local parkrun but they keep saying that they can't because they are not runners - I hope that sitting watching the walkers finish might just make them think that they can take part - they could even take the dog!

As I headed back to the car and paid for parking it started to rain - the parkrun weather fairies had given us an hour and a half of sunny weather to enjoy our run and coffees!  My result text popped up on the screen as I sat in a traffic jam on the M1 - very efficient - and thanks to me having eventually mastered the voice activated technology in the car I could get my result read out to me!  

Huge thanks to all the volunteers, it was a pleasure to run with you today.

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Two half marathons and a parkrun.

Uh oh!  Phoenix have a new venue.... Double uh oh!  The venue is at a vineyard... triple and quadruple uh oh!  I get to add a second medal to my LOTR 'one ring' collection and it starts late enough to allow me to run Mole Valley parkrun  first.  And then one final 'uh oh' - there is also a race on Sunday which would add a third ring medal....

So you know what I did don't you?  I signed up for both races and decided to run the parkrun too.  A yellow weather warning didn't put paid to the plans so Husbando and I set off bright and early, or at least early, on Saturday.

Mole Valley parkrun is held at Denbies Wine Estate near Dorking.  As such it has excellent parking, very luxurious toilets, a huge cafe and a gift shop.  It also, being a vineyard, has undulations!  Still, we met up with friends, debated what to wear (hats or sunglasses/rain jackets or not) as the weather was very unpredictable.  The course is one lap, mostly up hill during the first half and down hill for the second.  I ran with a friend and we chatted all the way around so that I wasn't too tempted to run too fast.  I knew that certain bits of the parkrun course were the same as the route we would be running later, so I mentally noted which bits I would walk!  Huge thanks to all the volunteers and marshals!

After the run we had a cup of tea and a chat before getting ourselves to the start line for a second time.  Husbando and I ran the first half of the first lap together, but I wanted to take it easy so we sort of went our separate ways.  The route was fabulous, but during the first lap, I really wasn't having fun.  The wind, alternating rain and hot sunshine, did not make for a good time as far as I was concerned.  I was considering quitting after one lap and sitting in the cafe to wait for Husbando, but when I got to the aid station I thought that I might as well carry on for at least one more lap.

The aid station was well stocked, the team there had done sterling work filling up our water cups in our numbered cup holders.  Husbando was a few places ahead of me but I don't think he realised I was so close behind him.  I don't normally help myself to goodies from the aid station - preferring to eat my own - but today I really like the look of some lovely, glossy pretzels.  So I grabbed some, popped one in my mouth and immediately my lips and tongue reacted.  Peanut butter pretzels!  Who knew they were a thing?  Certainly not this nut allergy sufferer!  I spat the pretzel out instantly (apologies to anyone standing near me), grabbed my water to rinse my mouth out, ran to the car to get a handful of antihistamines and inhaled them.  My eyes were itchy - but my breathing felt OK(ish).  I was a bit shaken up - it is a very long time since I have made such a stupid mistake.  The RD checked that I was OK - I assured him I was, and that I wanted to go on.  I grabbed my epi pen and told him that he should feel free to stab me if he felt the need!  By the time I got to the first marshal point the marshal there (who is Mr White Star Running!) was aware of the situation and planning a marathon in my memory - I think we decided it should be called The Corpseathon and feature tombstone medals!

I spent the next 3 laps alternating between looking at the scenery and checking to see if I was getting any more blotchy.  The scenery was amazing, even if the weather was less than ideal and soon I was on my last lap.  Laps seem to pass much more quickly than out and backs!  A half marathon done in 2hrs 20mins is one of my slower runs, but not too bad considering the hills, the weather and the nuts! And the medal is great!

After a quick gin purchase in the gift shop (rude not to really) we drove on up to London to meet my youngest from the train and to check into a hotel as Husbando had a book fair on the Sunday.  We had afternoon tea in the executive lounge of the hotel.  I tried to remember that running 16+ miles doesn't mean I can eat endless scones with jam and clotted cream - but may have had more than one.....

We had an early night, and then got up early (Husbando likes to be at the fair before 7am and I had a train to catch.  I walked to Waterloo Station and then from Walton On Thames station to the Exel Leisure centre (about 3 miles in total) wondering how on Earth I would be able to run when walking seemed to be a bit of a chore.  I grabbed a coffee and chatted while we waited for the start only slightly disheartened to learn that we were running the dreaded 'blue bridge of doom' route!

I needn't have worried about being able to run. Today was one of those days when everything just worked!  I had hoped that I would be able to keep my pace below 10min/mile - but actually ran 8.39min/mile and could happily have carried on running for the entire 6 hours.  As it was I knew I'd have to stop after 4 laps (half marathon) as I needed to get back to the hotel and shower before we had to check out, so I just settled for enjoying the sunshine, ignoring the rather blustery wind and chatting with people.  I didn't eat any of the peanut based snacks....

As I got to the end of my 4 laps Rik was handing out ice lollies and promoting an 'ice lolly selfie' competition.  As I got the medal at the same time as the ice lolly my photo had to combine the two.  Oh, and I finished today's half marathon 25 minutes faster than yesterday's!  1:54:07!

Thank you to Rik and his band of happy marshals, thanks again to the whole Mole Valley parkrun team - it has been a great weekend!

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Happy 5th birthday Chichester parkrun!

Those present at the first event, plus the Mayor, at the 5th
anniversary.  Photo by Geoff Summer
Back in the distant past turning up at inaugural parkruns was a thing.  Huge groups of tourists used to seek out the newest parkruns and descend on them to swell the numbers and bag a place on a table listing the number of inaugural parkruns attended by touring parkrunners.  This practice is now discouraged in an attempt to stop new events being overwhelmed by a huge influx of runners which could give the volunteers and landowners a totally unrealistic idea of what would be expected over the following months.  I also think it gives new local parkrunners a warped view of the parkrun community.  This community grows organically week to week as word spreads about 'this 5k run thing in the park on a Saturday... it is free... come along!'

Anyway, five years ago pitching up at a new parkrun was perfectly acceptable and so, when I found myself roughly in the area of the new Chichester parkrun I decided to pop along.  You can read about that visit and my ropey grasp of geography in this blog post.  I enjoyed it - managed to ditch the Fredster with my friend who was tailwalking so I could actually run.  It takes about 45 minutes to get there from home so was never going to be a contender for frequent visits but I was surprised to realise I had never been back since that first visit.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago.  An email arrived saying that the 5th birthday was fast approaching and wouldn't it be nice to try to get as many people who had run at the inaugural back to celebrate the 5th birthday.  I did a double take.  It couldn't be five years, it only felt like 2 or 3 at most!  I managed to persuade the Fredster to come along and Husbando was keen to add another parkrun to his tourist tally.

The attendance record was smashed today (360 compared to the previous record of 310), and the run director had to work hard to be heard by all the runners.  As a teacher I find it quite distressing when people behave so disrespectfully and talk throughout the run brief.  There were two men I noticed who were standing very near the front, one in a 100 and the other in a 50 t-shirt, who talked incessantly - just rude behaviour!  Not every run director enjoys public speaking but they all deserve to be listened to!  Today the run director (and new event director) paid tribute to the former event directors, celebrated milestones, and remembered two parkrunners who were at the inaugural but have passed away since then.  I apologise for having to use my 'teacher voice!'  Apparently Husbando was watching me get more and more fed up with the talking and counting down how long it would be before I couldn't keep quiet any longer... The local mayor said a few words, including making an excuse about not being able to run because of the bling (he obviously hasn't seen the medals given out at Phoenix and White Star events!  He also started us off on our run.

My memory of the course was sketchy, to say the least, I did remember a long up hill section that was run three times, but my sketchy memory didn't really matter as the course is totally different now!  I recall starting by the rugby club and running clockwise around Oaklands Park.  Today we started at the bottom of the park, near Chichester Festival Theatre (I still haven't been back to see any of the many excellent productions they put on) and ran anticlockwise up the park.   It was a twisty, turny, zig-zag route up the slope of the park on grass, followed by a lovely long downhill on a tarmac path, for three complete laps.  I wasn't feeling much like running if I'm honest.  I'd been at a BBQ the night before and am fast coming to the conclusion that eating red meat makes me feel absolutely awful the next day, but it was parkrun day so run I must!  I ignored my Garmin and set off - my only aim as that I didn't want to be lapped by the fast runners, co-incidently the Fredster's aim was not to be lapped by me or Husbando.  I wasn't lapped and neither of us managed to catch Fredster!

I am delighted that he is parkrunning again!  He has done 175+ parkruns, but none for a very long time.  It isn't worth pushing children or teenagers if they aren't enjoying it, but I always hoped that he would come back to parkrun one day.  It seems that volunteering at parkrun as part of his Duke of Edinburgh bronze has rekindled his interest, and now he is doing running as his physical activity for his silver award and will use parkrun as a bench mark to show progress.

Sadly we had to dash off after the run, which was a shame as there were cakes and balloons, as Husbando needs to work on a Saturday, but the start/finish area had a really nice party feel as we walked back to the carpark - I hope everyone had a great time and here's to the next 5 years!

Monday, 29 July 2019

Woodhouse Moor parkrun

It seems like a long time since I went to a new parkrun.  By 'new' I mean 'new to me' because Woodhouse Moor parkrun has a very long history.  It was the first parkrun outside London and used to be known simply as 'Leeds parkrun'.  A quick glance at the map on the events page at the parkrun website illustrates why the name was changed about 4 or 5 years ago.  When we found ourselves in Leeds this weekend for Husbando's work we had several choices - but Woodhouse Moor parkrun was only 1.5 miles from our hotel so we could run there and back easily.

After a very hot few days we woke up to an overcast morning, I hadn't parked anything 'sensible' like a hat  to wear in the rain - so just crossed my fingers as we set off for the uphill run to Woodhouse Moor.  We bumped into some parkrun tourists in the lift of our hotel - they kindly offered to share their taxi - but we'd fixed our minds on running there, so that's what we did.  

Woodhouse Moor Park is right next to the University of Leeds, in fact the park used to be bigger, but apparently bits of the University were built on the old park.  The bit that remains is still fairly big and I do always worry about bing able to find the start so, much to Husbando's chagrin we got there quite early.

The start was easy to find and a white board informed us that the new runners' briefing would take place at 8.50am, so we chatted with other runners while we waited.  After this we moved to the start and the run director's briefing.  It was an excellent briefing.  The run director's love of parkrun and knowledge of the runners was evident - an informative parkrun with just enough 'in jokes' to make it clear that this was very much a community without making new runners feel excluded.

The course itself is 1 short and 2 long laps around the park.  It is mainly on tarmac, apart from a very aptly named 'muddy corner'.  We also ran past Queen Victoria's statue twice - over some slippery York paving stones - in fact due to the weird weather lots of the course was slippery underfoot.  The course is fairly flat - there was an uphill section, but it wasn't terribly steep and most of the course felt downhill.  I didn't have a great run because I seem to have developed ITB issues, so decided not to push it too hard.  I was pleased to sneak in under 24 minutes.

The marshals on the course included lots of international students who appeared a tad bemused the first time we passed them but seemed to warm to the task on subsequent laps - clapping and cheering us on!  Huge thanks to all of them and to all the local volunteers - especially the one who sorted out my non scanning finish token!  Honestly, last week I scanned my supermarket loyalty card by mistake, this week my finish token wouldn't scan... I can't wait to see what happens next Saturday!

After the run we went for a quick coffee at 'Opposites' cafe, sadly we couldn't stay long as Husbando was here for work after all!  As we left the cafe it started raining properly and we were somewhat soggy when we arrived back at our hotel.  I loved my parkrun morning, but the wealth of choice of parkruns has made one significant change to my touristing.  I used to approach a new venue at a very conservative pace, the thinking being that if I was in that area again I could then easily beat my time and get those lovely letters 'PB' next to my name.  Now there are so many choices that I am spoilt for choice which means I really have to give each and every parkrun a good effort!

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Epic, brutal, relentless

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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