Category Archives: Running races

Descriptions of races that I have entered

A very special day

2 weeks ago last Sunday was the London marathon.  It feels like so much longer. It was however, the most amazing day. It started with a very early alarm (5.15am!). I was getting the bus down hence the early start. It is probably the easiest way to go although it does involve getting up very early and then hanging around for ages in the start zones. It is definitely cheaper than staying in a hotel and I figure that I get the same amount of sleep as I am in my own bed.

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Getting to the start zones early also has advantages as it means that you have lots and lots of toilets to choose from that are mostly clean. There is also free tea, coffee, water and Lucozade as well as a marquee to keep you warm. After a breakfast and many trips to the toilets I we decided that it was time to put our bags onto the lorries and begin to think about going to the start zone.

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The Starting pens

Once the actual race had started it was another 20 minutes before we actually went across the start but then we were off. It was really busy – over 40,000 runners this year which meant that there wasn’t much room and lots of stopping and starting as you came across people that were walking. It was hard to get into any real rhythm and the dodging around people mean that I actually clocked 27.3 miles. Towards the end my watch was one whole mile out from the official mile markers. The crowds however were amazing. The first time someone shouted out my name I stopped and look back thinking that I should know them. I then remembered that I had my name in big sparkly letters on the front of my vest. Duh! I soon got used to it and had many little waves of thanks.

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Running up towards Big Ben

Tower bridge is always a pretty momentous place to be, just before half way but it always feels really special to be running across that bridge. You then head out to the docklands before coming back to see a lot more of the famous landmarks.

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Running past Buckingham Palace

Heading over the finish line is always a bit of a relief touched with a bit of sadness, it is all over. You then find yourself in a really busy place, photographers wanting to take your photograph, other runners, people telling you where to go, all when you feel completely shattered. My legs stop doing what my brain is telling them to do and I feel like I am mindlessly wandering along. I wanted to stop but didn’t dare to for seizing up. The goody bag was given to me which I very nearly dropped – it was so heavy! As I staggered up the mall I found my bag and carried on walking along to meet my family.

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Over the finish line!

It was a truly amazing experience and a special thanks goes to the Mothers’ Union for giving me the opportunity.

A new adventure

On the 20th of August I was in Wales, on holiday. The reason for choosing Wales was easy: I was going to take on the challenge of Racing a Train. Sounds very different I thought. I like different. I signed up!Image result for talyllyn railway race the trainDoesn’t it look fab? My family would be on the train and I would run. Everyone would happy.

Unusually this race takes place on a Saturday ……. and in the afternoon. It turns out that afternoon races are not good for me. There is far too much time to get nervous. I was really nervous. It appears that I was stepping right out of my comfort zone with this race.

So lets put this into context….

I am a fen girl who is used to running on the flat with relatively dry weather. This race takes place in Wales which is wet and hilly. Gales were predicted on the day of the race along with rain. We had travelled down in rain on the Friday and it had continued to rain on Saturday morning. It was going to be muddy! The wind was not that bad for a town on the sea-side but would still be a factor when running the race.

As we arrived in the town where the race started we saw some runners completing the races from the morning. They looked tired and quite muddy. This just added to my mounting feeling of dread. I soon texted my friend saying that I just wanted it to start as I knew that I would be alright once it started.

Lining up at the start it appeared that I as slightly better prepared than my brother who had somehow failed to charge his watch! As the train whistle rang out to start the race we set off. My brothers words of advice echoed around my head: save some energy for the second half as it is more uphill.

Predictably I set off faster than I would have liked but we did have the wind behind us. I managed the first 6 miles in exactly an hour which I was pleased with as the terrain was uneven. I even got to wave at what I thought might be my family on the train as it steamed past! As we got to about half way the ground began to slip away quite steeply to one side – one poor man nearly fell into the bracken a couple of times. At this point I decided that safety had to  come first which was just as well as it got a LOT steeper after this point.

 

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An action – taken whilst running photo.

 

Just after the half way point the path became very narrow and steep. I slowed to a walk but was very aware of those behind me so at the first opportunity I decided to stop to let them past only to find that they were happy walking and ended up holding me up! (Trust me to be so thoughtful of others!)

Once we had passed this part we came to the next, unexpected ‘obstacle’ –  a bog.

We can’t go over it, we can’t go through it. OH no!  We have to go through it.

Squelch, squerch, squelch, squerch!

(Excerpt from the well known children’s book: We’re going on a Bear Hunt)

It was FAB!

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By now I was really getting into my stride. I suppose that I now knew that there was no time pressure, I was just here to enjoy it so I started taking photos.(There was a lovely marshal by this waterfall who actually took my photo with it but I shall spare you that image!)

I would just like to add here that the marshals at this event were the most amazing people ever. I may have been in a vest but these people had to stand in the driving wind and rain for a long time, in the middle of nowhere. They all smiled and were polite. They were nothing short of awesome, especially as a lot of them were not exactly young.

The 14 mile race took me 2 hours and 44 minutes. The elevation gain was 413 metres. Not fast, not flat and VERY MUDDY. I LOVED EVERY MINUTE OF IT. Would I do it again? Definitely. Trail running rocks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The day before

I ma writing this blog post mainly so I remember how I am feeling…… slightly on edge, stressed, excited, nervous, worried……all of those things and more. I cannot really relax and am wondering what an earth I have done….I know that tomorrow it will all be OK but today??? Not so.

I have done lots of distraction type activities that can also come under getting prepared e.g. painting nails:

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(A huge thank you to my wonderful friend nnotsogranny).

I have also painted my toenails in preparation for the day after where open toed shoes will no doubt be the only option! My tag is on my shoe, my label on my bag and some essentials packed. Then I have been on social media and made a little film 🙂

Devices are all being charged fully to ensure that nothing fails on me during the big day. I am, of course also eating and drinking well (chocolate and biscuits count right?) to ensure I have the energy for it all.

I really want this day to be over but to go on forever all at the same time. One thing that I have noticed is that I feel different to how I felt before the other long runs. I am not worried that I cannot do it because I know that I can. I am just dazed by the whole thing. It seems to be everywhere, on the radio, TV, everyone I meet wishes me luck.

The local support from family and friends is amazing. Yesterday I had a big donation to my fundraising page which brought me to tears. The worst thing is, that I don’t know who it is from so I cannot even tell them how much it has meant to me. I am humbled by everyone’s generosity and kindness.

This time tomorrow it will all be over, I cannot decide if I will be excited, relieved or sad.

 

 

YAY

Sunday was Oakley 20 – a 20 mile event that takes place in an undulating area. I was not looking forward to this at all. I have run it twice in the past and have hated it both times. In addition I told someone from the club that I was running it and he basically said it was a bad idea. Me being me convinced myself that it would be a good idea as a good confidence builder for me should it go well. If it didn’t then……….(lets not go there!)

Bad omens

As I was getting ready to leave I managed to slice my finger on a blade as I was getting something out of a cupboard. Not a good omen.

My Garmin watch strap has broken. Then I left it in the car……so I had to go back for it, I left it in my bag after handing it in…….I had to go back for it. My finger started bleeding everywhere……..no-one had a plaster. Nothing was going my way at all. (Well it wasn’t raining I suppose!)

Demons

I am hoping that I am not the only one who remembers bad parts of runs in minute detail? Once we arrived and parked (on the verge of a road) we made our way down to the start which was quite a walk. All I could think about was how it was all down hill which meant that we would be running up it, twice. It was one of those hills that I had given up on previously.

Saving grace

One thing in my favour was that I was lucky enough to have the lovely company of my brother. He is a lot faster than me normally but he very kindly decided to run with me. This was so awesome of him. He is completely mad (like me?) and so was very entertaining. He also had loads of stories to tell me about running the super challenging marathons that he runs and would like to run. This all passed the time well.

Letting it all slip away

About a mile in 2 St John’s ambulance men passed us on their bikes. I will go and get a plaster for you he said as he sped up to catch them. They were lovely but it did seem to take quite a long time to get a plaster on my finger (about 2 minutes) and all the time I was standing still people were streaming past. I began to think that we would be so far behind everyone else they would all have gone home. Of course they hadn’t in reality.

The good thing about it was that once we started up again we were actually overtaking a lot of people as their pace was that much slower than ours. I also hadn’t realised that there are some people who set off with the idea of walking up all the hills, right from the start and not just when they can no longer face is as I usually do. This made me feel a bit better as I knew I was strong enough to tackle most of the hills.

Waiting for the tumble

It was quite a hot day and there were water stations every 3 miles which we took advantage of. Early on the miles ticked by nicely. I was still quite stressed as I was waiting for everything to come crashing down, specifically I was waiting for particular areas in the race to come up and bite me.

The race consists of one long loop of about 13 miles and then one shorter route. I knew that I could get around the first bit Ok. It is the second loop where I have trouble. As we approached the end of the first route I kept telling myself that it will all be fine. I am strong…..Eventually I passed the first hurdle, and then the next. I am not saying that it was easy but I was still running. I was determined to get further along this year before stopping. I wanted a PB.

As we entered the part of the race where I had never before managed without walking I began to dare to think that I could do it although I was getting a bit tired now. My brother kept singing you can do it, you can do it….(from the film and reminded me to pick my feet up, all of which helped.

7 miles to go was the worst bit as it is still another hour of running to go and I was also beginning to tire. My mind began to play nasty tricks on me. As we got down to 6, then 5 I began to wonder if I was going to make it. I knew that there were some killer hills in the miles 16-18 and kept thinking that if I could get through these I would be OK. My family had come to support me and kept trying to ring me….I had no energy to answer their calls in this race but at mile 19 did manage to pull my phone out. I had not stopped yet…..

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No medals for this race but a hoodie is the reward. A different colour and design every year. This is my favourite yet.

Nor was I going to! I ran the whole way. How I managed it I don’t know but I was so chuffed. My watch said I did it in 3 hours 23 with my official time being 3 hours 25 (that plaster!!). That is a PB of over 20 minutes. Chuffed? You bet. Stiff? Absolutely. 🙂

The gamble had paid off. I am now in a really good place for the London Marathon but for now…..TAPER time.

Silverstone Half Marathon

I have to admit  – I was not looking forward to this race at all. The only positive thing that I had heard was from my brother who had said that the medal was great. The reports from everyone else was not good – it is running around a field in the middle of nowhere and therefore windy. Had I been a Formula one racing car fan then maybe it would be different as the race takes place on the race track. Unfortunately I am not a fan!

The start line

The start line

I then found out that the start time was midday. MIDDAY? I ask you. Oh and you had to get there at 10.30 which means leaving home about 8. This race would take all day and how was I meant to fuel my run? Breakfast would be early. As the race started, I would be ready for lunch . Yuck.

Decisions, decisions.

We drove there in thick fog which I took as a good sign as it meant that there was no wind so that would be one less thing to worry about. We arrived in plenty of time and sat in the car for a bit as I didn’t want to get too cold hanging around. As we were waiting for the start the sun  started to make an appearance which gave me a dilemma, what do I wear? If it stayed foggy I wanted long sleeves but if the sun came out I would be too hot. I plumped for a vest and sleeves (with sun-cream on my exposed shoulders). As it turned out the right decision. The sun came out. (And I didn’t get burnt.)

The Course

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This gives some idea as to the course. It looped around  a lot which was nice as you felt involved with the race – you could hear the announcements over much of the course so was able to hear when people got a course record. There was also music for much  of it. On the other hand there were not a lot of areas where supporters could get to so there were areas that were quiet although I found that I always had a lot of people running near me. The course itself was nice and wide so no bottlenecks. It was also relatively flat. Towards the end I did feel as if I had been here, done this before and was ready for it to finish but by then I was tiring.

2016-03-13 12.55.19So how did I do?

I got another PB of 2 hours and 49 secs. How pleased am I? At the beginning I felt as if I was going out too fast but found it very hard to slow it down much. At the start we were split into 2 groups over 2 hours and sub 2 hours. I went in the over 2 hours but this meant that I was going faster than most of the people around me. This felt good so, in the end I just kept going. The Lucozade drinks that were provided made me wheezy but no doubt kept me going. I had nothing left at the end which was good as I know that I couldn’t have managed a sub 2 hours…..this time.

Getting out of the car park at the end was a nightmare…..but who cares? I got a PB!

Cambridge Half Marathon 2016

 

I have run every Cambridge half Marathon event since it started in 2011. Today was the first time I actually enjoyed it. Previously there has always been something that has not gone my way – from falling over to being ill. Not so this year.

I set out with the idea that this was another training with the added bonus of a medal at the end. I was under no pressure to get a time, I was just going to get round. This year, as with nearly every other, they had changed the route but this was a big change: 1 loop instead of 2. On paper I was dreading this as I thought it would feel a long way out to Granchester as it is a long way from the centre of the city and the crowds.

In reality it was lovely. The miles ticked by nicely and there was good support along much of the route which makes a huge difference. The sun came out, I met some lovely people along the way and had a good chat. There were a couple of bands along the way (the drummers along Elizabeth Way Bridge was awesome).

Weather dilemmas

Deciding what to wear was a bit of a dilemma as it was really cold first thing. I decided on a long-sleeved top under my vest but as we were waiting to hand our bags in the sun came out and I had a sudden change of heart. I would wear just my vest with my arm warmers. As we set off along the first mile I thought that I had made a huge mistake but as we got going I knew I had been correct. The sun even came out. 🙂

Look at the size of the medal!

Look at the size of the medal!

A Slight Blip

As it had been cold, I hadn’t realised just how cold my body had got and as I started off I really couldn’t feel my feet and my fingers got pins and needles as the warmth returned. The trouble with not feeling my feet was that my running style changed as I was slapping my feet down on the ground. This meant I had real pain along my left shin. To begin with I was worried that I would have to drop out or run the risk of getting shin splints which could jeopardise my marathon. Luckily after 2 miles the pain went and I could run properly again. I did stop to loosen my laces a bit later as it felt like the blood  off from my toes and I worried I might lose one of them. This really helped and I had no more issues for the rest of the race.

Pacing

My mile times say it all: The first was 10.05 followed by 5 consistent miles of 9.47, 9,.45, 9.44, 9.50, 9.44. There was then a mile of 10.01. I think this was the mile where I stopped to loosen my shoelace. Mile 8 was 9.56 followed by 9.53, 9.20, 9.30, 9.29 and then 8.37!!! I could obviously smell the finish line. There was a moment when I wondered if I was being a bit silly but I dismissed these thoughts. I had something to prove to myself!

5555 my lucky number!

5555 my lucky number!

I am so very, very happy with myself. It has been a real revelation that you can run that sort of distance and not die half way around. I thought that was just my lot. I can honestly say that I enjoyed every minute of it and not just the end. I have high hopes for the marathon now. Because I am the mouthy sort of person that I am when I saw someone really struggling I tried to say something positive to them to try to encourage them. I knew exactly what they were going through and can remember how much everyone’s kind words to me meant. It is my way of giving back a little to the running community.

 

Mental tricks

Today I have been pondering the best way to trick my brain. I think that it is a well known fact that running is probably 50% mental and 50% fitness (actual numbers may not be accurate but you get my meaning!). I generally find that when I am really dreading a run it goes far better than I expect yet when I am really looking forward to one it can be a real struggle.

A while ago I wrote how I managed to trick my brain into running for 90 minutes by breaking it down into two lots of 40 minutes (yes I know and a bit). This weekend I have 12 miles to do. As I was biking home I was pondering whether to split that into two 6 mile loops. I normally hate doing loops as there is that awful dread that you have to do it all over again, every hill, the windy bit etc, etc, etc. I also like the feeling of running a distance; “I ran here!” It feels like an achievement. Maybe I should run 6 miles out and 6 miles back? But that feels a bit like the loop except I wouldn’t have to run past my house which, let’s be honest, can only be a good thing.

The other way of looking at it is by breaking it into chunks as I did before. It will take me about 2 hours. That means two lots of  1hour (yuck!) or 4 lots of 30 minutes. I am not sure I fancy either of those options!

Normally when I run a longer distance I split it up into 3 mile chunks or 5k’s. This is about 30 minutes in length but I don’t think like that. 3 miles is easily doable. A 30 minute run is almost not worth going out for (anymore!). It is an easy(ish) run to do. Maybe this is the way to go? The trouble with this is that I still have to work out the route I am going to run. This strategy works best during races when I am beginning to struggle. If I used that tomorrow I would be thinking 4 lots of 3 miles….. Nope that will not get me round.

I was hoping that writing this would help me to find a solution. Unfortunately this hasn’t worked at all. Do any of you have any ideas? What would you do?