The Big Half race recap

I signed up for this race around the middle of 2017 and had been looking forward to it for some time. Due to the weather conditions we weren’t actually told it was going ahead until 1:58pm the day before. I really hoped it wasn’t cancelled as I would have still had to do a long run on my own but when I discovered it would involve 2-3 hrs of travelling given engineering works I felt conflicted. Unfortunately, the idea of tearing myself out of bed is I’m sure what lead to a disrupted nights sleep / my concern my alarm wouldn’t go off. 6:45 am on Sunday I was still debating the idea of rolling over and staying all cosy in bed.

Needless to say I ended up dashing round like a mad woman, despite having laid everything out the night before and ran out of time to have breakfast. It wasn’t a good start. I grabbed a Cliff Bar at London Bridge station and shoved it in my face as I made my way to the start line.

Baggage drop went smoothly on the south side of Tower Bridge and I then crossed the bridge and made it to my starting pen, on the north side of the river. I brought a very old jumper to keep me warm at the start which I was very grateful for. For some reason at 8:58 they announced 2 minutes to the gun and told everyone to take their layers off, it was at least another 15 minutes until my wave actually got started, I’ll know for next time to Ignore them until I actually see the start line.

I had said that I was going to use this as a training run, run at my intended marathon pace – 11.24 and practise my fuelling and hydration strategy. I had a plan and I didn’t stick to it.

I got swept up in the excitement of the start and my first mile was 9:47. I saw Mo Farah whizzing past on the other side of the road as he approached the 5 mile mark and got a real buzz. Then we entered what I can only describe as the tunnel of doom. It was dark and stuffy and went on forever. I was sweating and struggling to breathe properly. It wasn’t at all pleasant. I kept reminding myself that it was good mental training for the tunnels on the Paris marathon course…..

Round Canary Wharf, my least favourite part of the London marathon course, but I was just grateful to be out of that tunnel! We then headed back on ourselves along what I can only describe as a hazardous selection of cobbled streets. My feet must have been gripping the bottoms of my trainers for some stability at this point because I came away with a sore inner foot.

It was a relief when the Shard came into sight and crossing Tower Bridge was one of the best bits of the course, unfortunately I couldn’t stop comparing the race to the actual marathon and that rather put a dampener on things. But what did I expect, it was the first time this race had been organised and very little can compare to the buzz of London marathon.

Tower Bridge behind us we heading into Rotherhithe and more cobbled streets…. an unwelcome return. I just kept telling myself, run to Greenwich and you are done. I thought about markers along the way to break it down, knowing where certain people are going to be cheering was a great one, I got a huge boost from two of the best cheerleaders you could want at a race, Laura Murray and the LDN Brunch Club around mile 9 and then Becca about a mile later.

I hit 10 miles and thought it’s just a 5km to go. In truth things were starting to hurt by this point and I felt frustrated that this felt a lot harder than the previous week’s 16 miles. I bumped into the super star Carly who I managed to keep up with for about half a mile. She has two young children and is absolutely smashing her marathon training for Paris. When we first met in 2016 she was chasing down her pre baby fitness and is now smashing her PBs with every race! It was another real boost to run alongside some one very inspirational.

Those three miles seemed to go on forever. I just wanted to be done. I had toyed with the idea of carrying on for another five miles after the finish to make it a 18 mile training run but I just didn’t have it in me. Sometimes a finish line can signal feelings of euphoria and pride. All I thought was, thank f**k that’s over I want to go home. Managed a smile for the post race pic!

I wasn’t pleased about how far it seemed like we had to walk to get our baggage or getting trapped in a one way system that forced you to go into the ‘festival’ in the park before you could exit and go to public transport. It probably wasn’t any worse than usual but I was just grumpy and wanted to back home already. 2hrs on a rail replacement bus was not what I needed. It was greatly appreciated that we were given foils blankets to do the walk in though.

I didn’t particularly enjoy the course, it felt like all the worse bits of London Marathon with a horrid tunnel thrown in. Again this is largely down to the direct comparisons I was drawing. I’ve heard mixed reviews from other runners.

In terms of hydration and fuelling however I think I came pretty close to spot on. The hydration vest, which I was going to include a review of in this post, was so great it deserves a post of its own, which I will do early next week. For fuel I used Berry flavoured Shot Bloks, I had my first at Mile 3, then took one every two miles until Mile 10, when I started shovelling and nearly choking on Haribo Tangytastics!

Am I ready to run a marathon in four weeks (and then again in six?) I’m not too sure. Will I finish both Paris and London regardless, and do my best to enjoy them, absolutely.

Up next Surrey Half marathon on Sunday 11 March. Hoping to knock eight minutes off my time from this race and finish in under 2hrs 30.

London Winter Run

First race in the calendar for 2018 and having had a blast last year I was really looking forward to it. My marathon training has been sporadic at best over the last month, I had a goal in mind, I wanted to go sub 60 minutes but I was realistic and decided that I would be pleased if I managed to beat last year’s time of 1hr 14mins.

The day started off well, I had slept well, had all my kit laid out so nothing was forgotten, had a decent breakfast and importantly, had been able to properly go to the toilet following my morning coffee. The trains were running and I arrived in time to do a quick warm up before heading to the start line for my wave. As I crossed the start line it was a little congested and I found myself doing some weaving to be able to properly start running. When I did I was pleasantly surprised that my legs felt good, no tight calves or shin pain, the first mile seemed to fly by, I clocked 9 mins 54 seconds on my watch.

As the sights of London flew past, spotting faces I recognised also running and taking in the fun atmosphere I continued to feel good. The Penguin party at the halfway mark was great fun and lifted my spirits further and I dug a little deeper. I always enjoy the second half of a run or race more, something twigs in my mind and it’s like right time to get to that finish line/home.

Mile 4 – 5 I clocked 9:27 min/mile on the watch. I was loving that my brain and legs were working together for once. I knew that if I could just push a little bit harder, go that little bit faster, I had a shot at sneaking in just under 60 minutes. With half a mile to go, my legs and lungs were burning. My watch hit the 60 minute mark and having felt like I worked so hard I was a little bit gutted. I was hurting but I wasn’t going to stop, because the real goal was always to beat last year’s time and that I was on track for.

Through the Yeti cave, a series of high fives, I powered down The Strand. Passing Trafalgar Square I turned the corner and the finish line was in sight. Well sort of, I was going as full pelt as I could manage but it didn’t seem to be getting any closer. After what seemed like forever I finally crossed the line, 10k – 01:02:13 on the watch. 10:00 min/miles average pace, ranging from 8:59 – 10:25 min/miles over the race. 11 minutes 47 seconds faster than last year.

For the first time in a very very long time I felt genuinely proud of my performance. I was pleasantly surprised that for once everything had gone right. Polar bear hugs and another medal to add to the collection were the perfect ending. It’s given me a great confidence boost going into the final 8 weeks of marathon training. A big thank you to Human Race for the race bib. The London Winter Run remains my favourite 10k and I will definitely be back next year.

Paris Marathon Training – Weeks 3 & 4

Major life changes have been happening in the last seven days! We bought and moved into our first home, so I’m now a home owner (it was a life goal before turning thirty) and I moved jobs. Both of which I’m very excited about and are progressing my life in the right direction, but are equally exhausting to do at the same time.

So Week 4 of marathon training can best be described as, not a sausage. Other than the packing, lifting, more lifting and unpacking of lots of boxes and furniture, I didn’t run or go to the gym the entire week. Honestly, I didn’t even have the headspace to panic about this, what with everything else I had to co-ordinate and think about. I had planned to get a run in over the weekend but I also managed to roll my ankle on the stairs on Thursday evening so was nursing a minor sprain with some almighty bruising and I was just plain tired.

Week 3 had however been a relatively strong week. Three runs, a gym session and a snow walk in the bag!

On Monday and Wednesday I had two very different run commutes. One was extremely strong, with an average pace of 9:42 pace over 3.23 miles. I felt ridiculously good on the run and it was like a culmination of all the training since October. The second was distinctly average at best, my legs felt like lead and my watch died. It felt a lot slower. Saturday’s long run was 7 miles which took me 1hr 20 mins at 11:26 average pace. Distinctly slower. So it took me 11 minutes to run 0.6 miles further than the week before. Luckily with all the packing I had to do it didn’t give me time to dwell too much. If anything Week 3 reinforced for me that not every run or week in marathon training are you going to see improvement. It’s about being able to process that and not mentally let it hold you back moving into the following week. So Week 5 is underway. One run down. First week in a new job, I’m likely to be tired and need to prioritise rest to be able to take on all new information. Equally I haven’t currently rearranged my gym membership to a branch closer to the new flat and so the gym sessions are mostly likely to be postponed this week. Very glad I decided to opt for a twenty week training plan to allow for weeks where it’s not possible to stick to the plan! I am also really excited for everyone doing 18/16 week programmes to start their marathon training, I love the community spirit and marathon hype!

Paris Marathon training – Week 2

‘Baby it’s cold outside’ – wow the temperatures have really dropped over the past week making for three very chilly runs. On Saturday’s long run I finally nailed the layering combo, for now at least, until it decides to get even colder!

My short runs this week involved two partial run commutes, I forgot how hellish it can be to battle the crowds of central London. I was forced off the pavement at one point when a group of people decided it was acceptable to walk four abreast towards me on a pavement. Don’t even get me started on people walking eye down glued to their phones. Other people will look at you from a distance and it’s like a game of chicken as to who is going to dodge. I fully accept I’m the one going above walking speed and will weave in and out as much as necessary but come on, could we just co-exist nicely, festive goodwill and all…. share the damn pavement!

So Monday the calves were cripplingly tight. For all the stretching etc I was rather frustrated. On Wednesdays run, for the first mile I was trying to pin point when the tightness had started. Had a bit of a light bulb moment, it was when I started wearing my extra firm compression socks to run in, they did wonders for my shins. Stopped the watch, sat at a bus stop with some bemused onlookers, whilst I yanked my socks down from under my running tights, with some difficulty! For the next two and a half miles my legs felt glorious. Problem sorted. Except then my shins weren’t as happy….. are compression gaiters are thing?

Saturday I had 6 miles on the plan. I planned and out and back route from home, but by the time I ran 0.2 miles in the wrong direction, I decided to see where I was in terms of a 10k time and went for 6.4 miles. My last time for a 10k, that I remember, was 1 hour 14 minutes. So I was pretty happy Saturday’s run was done in 1:09:14 and I wasn’t going at maximum effort for the entire run. This run left me feeling really strong and positive.

With 9 weeks until the London Winter Run 10km on 4 February, I’m aiming to shave ten minutes off and come in just under an hour. If you fancy joining me for a sub 60 minute attempt please let me know. This is definitely the sort of race best shared with others. You might want to think about signing up by 6th December as afterwards the entry fee increases. Little disclaimer, I’ve kindly been given a free bib for the race, in exchange for spreading the love, but I enjoyed it so much last year I would totally have paid the entry fee.

Other than my three runs, I got my two rest days, spent packing up our flat for moving next week and one out of two cross training sessions done. Tuesday evening 8:30pm I found my train coming from central London, terminating at my train station and 16 minutes until the next train to get to the gym…. I’d been up since 6:45am and wanted to be home and having eaten dinner before 10:30pm. Sometimes these things happen. I’m working on not feeling overly guilty if I miss one session.

Heading into Week 3 excited to work on the progress I’ve seen over the last few weeks.

Paris Marathon training – Week 1

Hello or more appropriately Bonjour! It’s been a while but with training for marathon number three under way it felt like the right time to reignite the blog.

Back in 2015/16 training for Brighton marathon my goal was to simply finish. My training was very much the hit and miss of someone who had only recently started running and was totally clueless. My goal was to simply finish.

Fast forward to London marathon in 2017, I only found out I had a place with 12 weeks to go and my training was an utter shambles, I just wasn’t in the right head space. I relied solely on the fact that I was bloody minded and had done the distance once, I could do it again. I hauled myself round that course and vowed I would never put myself through running a marathon again without properly training.

So this is it. Paris 2018. My first international marathon, in one of my all time favourite cities. Time to see what happens if I commit, like really really commit and push myself further than I’ve been willing to before. A special thank you has to go to ASICS for the bib (*spot in the race) and the kit you will see me wearing through my training.

I decided to do two weeks of pre-marathon training to get my head and legs in the game, followed by a twenty week training programme. I found a number of training plans online and after painstaking analysis of them put together my own, drawing the bests bits from different sources and fitting it round my schedule.

Two weeks of pre- marathon training went without a hitch, minus one missed 40min run. It was a bit of a shock to the system but it helped me to focus and confirm that I really wanted to do this. I found this fire starting to burn in me that screamed, the timing is right let’s do this. I haven’t felt with running for a very long time.

Week 1 of official training saw a great deal of tight calves and perseverance but I got the job done. I received lots of helpful tips on how to remedy this and sports massage recommendations. So it’s morning and evening stretching sessions and I’m going to get myself booked in before this becomes more of an issue.

Monday – Wednesday went smoothly. On Thursday there was a cross training session on the plan but having been unable to sleep for several nights and having seen 4:20am that day I was exhausted and decided to take it as an additional rest day, which was far more valuable to my body than 40 mins on a bike or rowing machine.

I need my sleep, I don’t function well without it which doesn’t go well because come 2-3am I’m a world class worse-case-scenario analyst. Last week my anxiety levels were off the charts, with exchanging contracts on our first flat, potentially loosing the new flat, potentially not having anywhere to live as we have to move out of current flat. Of course none of this ended up happening.

Despite the worrying, I have noticed a significant improvement in my general mental outlook and wellbeing, consistently exercising over the last three weeks. I’m also starting to feel physically fitter after such a short time, so I’m excited to see what can happen in the months to come.

Heading into Week 2 ready and raring to go. Let me know if you are planning to run a spring 2018 marathon, sharing the highs and lows of marathon training with the running community I find really gets you through those tough weeks.

Disclaimer: I am very grateful that ASICS have given me a place to run Paris Marathon and will be providing me with running kit to see me through my training. This is not a paid collaboration.

London 10 Mile 

I want to start by saying how much I loved this race. Not because everything went to plan, it didn’t, but inspite of the things that went wrong I’m already planning on signing up for 2018.

I was lucky to be given a place by the race organisers, this was only a matter of weeks beforehand but my personalised race number arrived swiftly. You could have anything you wanted on your bib which was a nice touch, it also provided me with a laugh during the race.

On the morning of the race, my alarm went off late, we got stuck in traffic and I turned up with 6 minutes until the very respectable start time of 10:30am. Not only was I desperate for the toilet, I’d forgotten my pre-race lucozade and more importantly my race number. The race was held in one of my favourite green spaces in London, Richmond Park.
Dashing to locate the help desk a nice lady sorted me out with a new number and immediately after the race I was very impressed with the efficiency of the operation because I received a text corresponding to the chip time of my new race number. This level of efficiency is an absolute rarity in my experience! The whole race felt very well organised.

Toilets were ample and after a quick change from shorts, which had started irritating me in the walk from the car alone, to a Sapir pair of leggings, I located my pen. Luckily for me the race didn’t start on time and I had the chance to chat with some familiar faces and do the awkward pre-start not enough room to really stretch, but I feel I ought to try, routine.

I was in the green starting pen amongst the speedsters, I think I must have put down my estimated 10km not 10 mile finish time, but it meant I was over the line within a minute of the gun.
The theme of the race was one recurring thought on loop:  it’s so hot, I’m getting sunburnt, is this hill ever going to end, oh god another hill, ooo there’s a deer, what stunning road race scenery, I want a sub 2 time. 

I’m not irresponsible, I had suncream on but I am stupidly sensitive to the sun. I didn’t however look closely enough at the course to appreciate the hills, maybe it’s better I didn’t know what was coming. Heat and hills are a killer combo. The mile marker signs kept me entertained and I was surprised at how many people recognised me from behind, as they over took and said hello, it must be the long ginger hair? It was lovely to see so many friendly faces.

I have to be honest I really wasn’t a massive fan of the water stations. I simply can’t run and drink out of a cup and there definitely wasn’t enough water to go around considering the heat. The course looped past the starting point at Mile 3 and if it’s the same layout next year I think if I had someone with me spectating I’d ask them to hold a bottle for me. I do however fully appreciate the environmental benefits of having paper cups over bottles.

In contrast I was delighted to have Cliff Shot Blocks avalaible at a fuel station, in three different flavours, just before the 5 mile mark. When I’m not scoffing fizzy sweets these are my number 1 choice of fuel.

So on to the inevitable timing blurb. Normally I have a rough idea of what time I’d like to achieve but I never concern myself too much by it. This was different, I wanted to run a sub 2hr and as the race went on I became increasingly fixated on timings. I felt like I had something to prove. I’m not sure what, who to or why, let’s just say it was the heat and that I’d dragged a hungover Alex out of bed across London on a Sunday morning.

I had to stop to drink water at two of the stations, having choaked and then soaked myself at the first one and there was a hill which I had to power walk up, it was probably faster than me trying to run, but otherwise I really did give it my all. My watch stats show that I ran at a faster pace than I usually do or that I’m comfortable at over any distance. It was the first race in a while that I really really pushed.

Coming down that final Hill the watch said 1:58, turning into the home stretch the finish line in sight 1:59, I felt all the lactic acid swirling around in my stomach, could barely breathe and my vision was going blurry, meters to go still 1:59. Crossed the line – 2:00:00, official time 2:00:21. Dissappointed yes, but I put up a damn good fight and managed a finishing smile! I know that those 22 seconds and dare I say a little more, can be knocked off next time. Maybe when I haven’t run a half marathon the week before.

I think I’ve found my favourite distance.

If you fancy signing up for next year, entries are now open on the London 10 Mile website – if you need any more convincing, there were free race photos, a chunky medal and a great post run picnic atmosphere.

Hackney Festival of Fitness 

Hackney holds a very fond place in my running journey. Back in 2015 it was my first half marathon. When I lined up absolutely clueless wearing totally inappropriate trainers, eaten a bacon sandwich for breakfast, having only been running for 2 months.

Fast forward two years and two full marathons later, I was feeling a little twitchy a week after London and wanted not only run but I was craving the buzz of race day. My legs weren’t up to 13.1 miles but the idea of a 5.5km in a race setting was rather appealing. I was also intrigued by Virgin Sport’s takeover of the event and the concept of turning the day into a festival.

I had every good intention to arrive around 10am to cheer on the half marathoners but a few too many glasses of prosecco the night before meant we arrived around 1pm. We had shopping and cinema plans later in the day so decided to drive and park in Westfields which is a pleasant 25 minute amble through The Olympic Park to the start line in Hackney Marshes.
The 5.5km was due to start at 1:45pm. I’m not an early bird but even for me this was a little late. Having started the half marathon at 9am it would have perhaps been better to start at 12:30/1pm so that more of the half runners might have stayed to add to the atmosphere. Unfortunately, this was coupled with the British weather letting us down. It was overcast and I suspect if it had been a sunny day the crowds would have stuck around for some gentle post race basking/ getting gently sozzled. It was however perfect running weather.

Following a group warm up, which I always feel very awkward taking part in but is great to learn new exercises, we made our way to the start line. If you wanted to race it required some elbowing to get to the start line but I was going no where fast.

Thanks for the delightful mid run goofy photo Charlie.

Unfortunately the course itself was a little uninspiring, with an unexpected hill thrown in.  Given the green surroundings two double backs on a road seemed a wasted opportunity. However it did ensure that everything was kept compact and meant that there seemed like more spectators on route. It was a pleasant surprise that there was a water station around the 2km mark. I saw a 1km marker but other than that there didn’t seem to be any, so running without a watch, I had no sense of distance. I would have at least liked a half way marker but perhaps I just didn’t spot them.

Before I knew it we were heading back into the park and the race was over. It may have just been 5.5km but we were still treated to the full works – chip timing, medal, finishers t-shirt and an array of snacks and drinks.

I was lucky to have been given a race bib by Virgin Sport. The 5.5km was priced at £25, which initially I winced at, however the theme of race was “Chase your mate” and this also included a bib for your friend. So if you split it, at £12.50 I’d say it was well worth the pennies if you are looking for the race day experience; particularly if it’s your first and don’t want to tackle a 10km just yet.  There were even race photos taken on the course, avaliable for free online afterwards.

For a 5.5km race I was pretty impressed. It also made me question my sanity of running full marathons when this distance got me the race experience and saw me back in just over half an hour for lunch.

Another thing which I was pleasant surprised about was Virgin Sport App which provided me with all the information I needed about the day, a festival village map and even for the 5.5km a breakdown of my 3 & 5km splits.

Post race, I headed over to the Fitness Stage for some yoga/stretching. Through out the day there had been a series of workouts led by the likes of Bradley Simmons, Shona Vertue and Faisal (Mr PMA). Should have thought about getting here earlier for this before the fifth glass of prosecco!

Had I of done the half marathon I would have been straight into the massage tent but food was calling and I have to say as a massive street food lover I was pretty delighted with the selection on offer. Chicken burger and fries were first up from Butchies. Followed by CrossTown Doughnuts who really ought to be at every race finish line. Alex even found decent coffee and beer to keep him entertained whilst I was running, which isn’t always easy at races. Big thumbs up on the catering front!

The race was perfect for my post marathon legs. With a little tweaking to timings and the course for the 5.5km, I think Virgin Sport are on to a winning concept of a festival here and everything felt very professionally organised. I’m certainly planning on coming back next year to run the Half Marathon.

In the mean time I’ve been having a peak at the other festivals Virgin Sport have planned. There’s one centering round a 10km in Westminster in July, they are coming to Oxford in October for a half marathon and perhaps most tempting is San Francisco; I will make it to America one day soon!