Swindon Half Marathon

I did it. I ran my half marathon yesterday. I didn’t run every single step but I ran well. There were only just under 2000 of us running which means about 300 people signed up and paid but didn’t show up on the day. I guess that still means I beat them too though. I finished about 1750 ish. I did see the exact place but it was pretty irrelevant to me as I always knew I would be at the back of the pack but not the slowest.

The day started at 6am when I husband woke me up and turned on the lights (as I think we know that waking up at 6am on a Sunday will not happen without blinding light). I had my clothes laid out so got dressed quickly so I could get downstairs for my tea and flapjack breakfast. We had gone out special the day before to buy the flapjack only for my stomach to tell me it had no interest in it on the day. By 6:45am we were out the door to walk down to the start.

The starting line is only a couple miles away and not strenuous in any way so the walk was our warm up. This was good as we might have walked a bit leisurely and found ourselves running a bit later than we expected. We got to the start and toilet lines for 7:39am which was just quick enough to use the facilities and find a quieter spot to hide in. In emails I had been assured that loud music was banned from the start of the race because we were close to residential areas but the music was blasting nonetheless which set off the panic in me even all the way back in the 3hr runner area. Luckily though, I wasn’t there that long before the start and they got us going promptly at 8am.

The race started rather ridiculously early because the Swindon Outlet Centre are assholes that forced the organisers to start it too early or not get permission to start it at all. In fact, the likelihood of there being another Swindon Half Marathon is in jeopardy quite possibly because of the council forcing it into the same day as bigger runs (like the Great North Run) and several other regionally local half marathons and the McArthur Glen Outlet Centre forcing it to be so early that they put off runners.

So we set off through the edge of the Magic Roundabout and onto Queens Drive for a long slight incline. I was prepared for this as I have walked, run and cycled this route and knew that Queens Drive is slightly uphill. No big deal. Down to the Marlborough Roundabout and left onto Dorcan Way. Not bad for the first bit but then Dorcan Way goes a bit more uphill (which I was well aware of already) and back down again to Morrison’s. This was about the 5K (3 mile) mark. Onward from there still on Dorcan we had a reasonably flat like bit of road and our first aid station. I had my Clif Blok and some water (500ml bottles that no one was drinking more than a couple hundred millilitres so a bit too big for needs) and disposed of the litter in the bins provided. I can’t really run and eat/drink so had to stop for a few moments by the bin.

From the end of Dorcan we headed over the roundabout by Greenbridge Shopping Centre and up our first real hill on Swindon Road (I might not have the right name there but it at least leads to it) and at the top left down into the road by the Dockle Farmhouse pub (want to say Gypsy lane but that might be wrong as well). Around this point I really started to notice an older man in a flannel shirt and trousers running ahead of me but stopping regularly to recite poetry and engage with the crowds. He needs to share some of that energy.

Up past Wicks and left onto Great Western Way. Now this bit I was sure I remembered being pretty quickly downhill and a good downhill as that but we got there and damned if it wasn’t uphill first and not slightly. You don’t notice in a car but on foot it is so obvious! This became a theme for the rest of the race. We did get our downhill bit to the roundabout heading over toward Tesco. We went straight over there and the next to run along next to Swindon College and get to our halfway point at the Oasis leisure centre. I had my second Clif Blok and a bit more water and back out again. See I had this goal of running at least half without walking which I did and ran out of there to see how far I actually could get.

I didn’t fully chew the Blok before heading out on the next bit of run and quickly realised before getting to the bins that I couldn’t breath and chew at the same time and my heart rate was spiking because of it so I did walk while chewing and ran again as soon as I could swallow. It was only a minute tops but technically this was walking. I don’t fully count it as walking but if you want to be pedantic I walked for the first time around 10.5 km. I did immediately get myself back up to pace through Hawkworth Industrial Estate, left under the Bruce Street Bridges and onto the road toward the outlet centre. Again this road is flat in a car but it is definitely an incline when on foot. Up the long straight bit to a right at the roundabout and a left to take us down past the Steam Museum and behind the Outlet Centre (you know so that there was no impact on them anyway regardless of the time of day) over a bridge and into the residential area on the other side.

At 7 Miles I was waiting a bit but I just kept finding a point in the distance to push on to and when I got there chose the next until a felt a bit of a confidence again. Past the Weighbridge Pub through another industrial estate and down to Wooten Bassett Road. We crossed over the road and headed up into Wichelstowe. Along this bit (that was very narrow considering the situation) a first responder came blaring past followed shortly by an ambulance. Luckily by the time the ambulance was making its way past I could get on the footpath but for the first responder all I could do was run right up against the curb as there were spectators on the footpath. It turned out to be for a lady that had hurt her foot or ankle but nothing serious. This bit of road is also a smidge uphill and shortly before 9miles (14km) I walked for a minute or two. I was really happy to have pushed on this long and got myself going again to the aid station and my third Blok and water.

At this aid station I stopped completely to eat the Blok and have a bit of water as I knew it would work against me to try chewing and running again. It was only a minute or two tops but it was the right choice. I headed back out and ran to just after the 10 mile sign and this is when the walking/running really started not far from the Bayberry pub. At this point I knew it was 5km to the finish and I was 2:04 into my run so I would manage under 3hr. I also knew I had to will myself even more though as walking seemed like an option for the duration. I was stronger than my inclination though. Uphill to the crossing and onto the hardest part of the race….Pipers Way.

I have run Pipers Way before. The first time was 11 years ago in a fun run for the old Swindon half marathon. Since than I have done it twice in practice. I knew on race day I was walking Pipers and I did for most of it. At Nationwide we had to run into the campus a bit so I ran that bit to the water station but walked up until I reached Intel. From there I ran so slowly it was pathetic but I did it. I didn’t last long before the last bit of hill into Old Town reared it’s ugly head and I walked up that.

At Wood Street I plucked up my courage with the cheering crowds and ran again. At the end of Wood St there was a lady with a sign that said “down hill bit” which gave me a spark of self-confidence to push on down Victoria Hill. I say a friend just before the bottom that spurred me on again. Down around Regent Circus and just the slightest hill like incline for a short distance. Walked that 50m and at the right turn could see the finish. I got the guy beside me who was clearly wiped out too going again and we ran in to finish.

My husband was on the right side of the road cheering me and my kids a bit farther down. I tried so hard to push a sprint out of me but just could not speed up beyond my average pace. I ran in through the finish line and stopped my watch.

I didn’t look immediately at the time nor saw the clock. I knew it was under 3hr which was the best I was truly expecting. I had three time goals: satisfied was just finishing in 4hrs and getting my medal; happy was under 3hrs; over the moon elated was 2:45. I finished in 2:45:11.9. I am so happy with that and happy it is over.

I beat my goal of running half. I ran for nearly 9 Miles. I pushed through the burning legs and didn’t walk even when I knew I could reach my happy goal and walk the rest of the race. I will excuse that last 11.9 seconds and say I reached to over the moon elated goal. I am sore as hell the next morning and I have no intention of doing any more runs of this length. Races can be 10k from now on. Now on to my next challenge….the Isle of Wight Challenge (walking) in May.

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Half training

The scene is a cold, wet morning at about 8am in a large English town. The roads are quiet and only a few people are out for walks in full trousers and coats. Then two bedraggled “runners” in the shorts and t-shirts come lumbering along the footpaths in training for the half-marathon that sounded like a good idea back in February. Let’s say this was the high point of the run.

I thought through my clothes and what I would bring with me in prep for my last long run before my half in 2 weeks time. Being a late summer run I had my shorts with a pocket big enough for my phone, debit card and clif blocks and my bright orange but so lightweight you could miss it top. I knew it was be chilly to start but last I saw it would be dry until 11am so I was ok. It was not dry until 11am!

The rain started around the 7 km mark. The run had been good and steady without walking breaks (one stop to buy water) and I was feeling confident. I was being as careful as I could to keep my speed slow at about 7:30-8 minute kilometres so I could run for as long as possible. But just as my husband postulated the idea of extending out run to the full 13 Miles the rain began to spit and splatter. I tolerated this but my hands had chilly right back down within a kilometre. We pushed on.

Around about the 10-11 km mark the toilet was my complete focus. Luckily for me the outlet mall as open at least enough to use the toilet. This was unexpected. Just moments before we noticed people going in we had our second clif blocks after struggling to get mine out of my pocket. Between the rain, wind and general chilliness I could not use my hand properly. My fingers just didn’t work. But the mall was open so I relieved myself of about two litres of pee and washed my seized up hands in the hot water. With a wipe down of my glasses we were off again.

I thought peeing would help relax me enough for the running to be a bit less hard….it was not. My average speed dropped a bit at this point and I never got it back. I was frozen through and soaked so badly I couldn’t see anything due to wet glasses and rain in my eyes as well. The rest of the run was like running in a shower….everything was blurry and distorted. I did keep to a slow run though until the point we decided to cut things short (which was still about the same mileage we guesstimated we were doing on the long route). I am not sure what mileage point this detour happened at as my watch decided to stop showing me my distance and pace but perhaps near the 12-13km mark.

The detour was slightly uphill all the way for about 2 Miles so this is where walking started to happen. I am very happy with how long I lasted. We still ran up more than half of this path playing a bit of tag with an older gentleman who was about 70+ and clearly in better fitness than me. The rain continued all the way home (and hasn’t stopped yet an hour and a half on) and I think the temperature might have dipped farther.

When we got to the point that it was pretty much downhill all the way home I got us running again. There were still a couple of short walks but only about 3 minutes in about a 2 mile distance. At the last underpass before home the rain/sweat was burning my eye so badly I had to stop and dry my face out a bit. While there we directed a lost mum and small boy to the nearest bus stop into town and once across the road ran the last 3/4 kilometre home. By the time I was on my own road I was running down the centre ready to fight any car that messed with me.

Total distance was 17.72 km which I have figured in my head is about 11 Miles. If we had done the longer route I suspect we would have added at least another mile. My time for this was 2:32 with a toilet break and a shop break along with some walking in the last few miles. I think this is a very good sign especially considering I ran Parkrun and walked another 6 Miles yesterday so was not completely fresh. I am praying for a dry run for the half-marathon. I would not have seized up so badly from cold had I not been soaked through. I goal is to complete my 13.1 Miles in 3 hours which I believe is very much doable. Happy thoughts.

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Hot, overtrained and a challenge for the future

I don’t know if it has been due to the heat or maybe overtraining a bit but I have hit a wall. I have no energy and my chest and side have been extra achy for a couple weeks. It has definitely interfered with my half-marathon training and even my day to day life. Usually I can ignore the ache in my chest and move on but not lately.

My last race was in June and this summer was just meant to be focused on my half marathon training. The plan was Parkrun on Saturdays, long walk on Sundays, gym for body balance on Mondays, Tuesdays off, Wednesdays was long run ranging from about 12-20k, Thursdays gym for weights and Friday off. The long run day was always actually a walk/run situation as I just can’t run that far but I think I have been pushing it too hard. The thing is that I am running with other people and they are all faster than me by far and I am the only one that can’t run at least 15k continuously. I don’t want to hold them back so try to give my everything. Thing is I think they got everything and now I am paying the price.

In addition to pushing too hard it has been HOT out there, in here and everywhere. Even now when it has cooled down it is still hot for anything active. I swear I felt like I would drown in my own sweat over the weekend in Bristol. Being at home is of course no relief as there is no air conditioning. Even the local hospital (where I had an appointment for tests that didn’t happen) there is no air conditioning. No relief much of anywhere. The gym has a/c but then they expect you to workout and build up a sweat which is still not relieving the heat issue.

In the last couple weeks I have done almost no running. I used the treadmill at the gym for a couple of Mondays in a row but due to circumstances beyond my control parkrun has not been a option, and long run on Wednesday last week didn’t happen because my husband needed to watch the England game (I was happy to have the day off). The gym has mostly been a bit hit or miss as well.

This week marks getting the running going again though. Long run is happening on Wednesday this week and it is the 20k route that is planned. Parkrun is back in play for me on Saturdays again for the foreseeable future as well. The heat issue has calmed but it is still troublingly hot for running. I will try to use my gym time for some treadmill work. As I mentioned in a previous post, I have had trouble pacing myself to keep going lately so my treadmill time will be to work on finding my pace.

How much you want to bet I will continue overdoing it and be worn out again. I would think it a safe bet with a poor payout personally. I just have to be as prepared as I can be for the half marathon in September. I really can’t see me doing anything longer than a half and really don’t feel a need to attempt any more half marathons after Swindon so this shall be a one off. After this half I shall focus on a new challenge for building up to walk the Isle of Wight Challenge next year.

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For about the last 3 weeks or so I have not been able to maintain my pace at all. I run for a while, wear myself out and walk over and over again. I am running at a faster pace (and just can’t seem to slow it down consistently) which I cannot maintain. That last race, Lethbridge, that was mostly downhill for the first half seems to have triggered a speed up in me but my lungs can’t keep up with my legs.

I don’t know how to deal with this pacing issue. My best strategy has been to let it be and just keep running as much as I can keep running in hopes that I will eventually get to a continuous run again as I did before. Will it work? Parkrun have been a struggle and long runs just about a joke because of this. I know the whole time on feet thing and just keep moving but ugh!

I wondered if doing some speed intervals might help so had a go on the treadmill on Monday before Body Balance. I warmed up with a 10 min walk than did intervals for 20 min, walk for 5min and another run for 5 min. I think I underestimated the “jog” speed by using a decent walk instead of a slow jog. I also underestimated my “run” to 9kph. In the last 2 min of my intervals I actually sped up the run to 9.5kph and was good for 2 min straight so not sure I used enough speed to help anything in the end. On a side note though the body balance went well but had enough squatting in it that my thighs are still groaning.

Long run is tonight and I am running with my husband who is a normal fast, my friend who is a slower fast and her son who is like lightning. It is also a heatwave at the moment….that is a relative term but it is quite warm and looking a bit drought like these days. I have a feeling it will be four frustrated runners out this evening wishing they had all stayed on the sofa and binge watched Netflix instead.

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Snail pace runners

I was just reading Women’s Running magazine and it hit me that I haven’t seen a regular piece written by a back of the pack runner in ages and I don’t think ever in Women’s Running. This is a shame as many of us who run in the snail pace section at the back might be put off by the untouchable abilities of those that regularly contribute to the magazine. I read articles about runs where the person goes on about being slow but still finishes a 10k in under an hour. I run races myself where people declare they are tortoises and then streak off in front of me. I am working on my speed and endurance but the fact of the matter is I am not fast and it would be really motivating to hear from someone at the back.

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Lethbridge 10k

Mid week 10k run. The weather was a bit chilly for mid-June. The day had been nice enough but the evening run was a bit of a chilly start. Starting from a local sports centre, we lined up in the sports field with a bit of a shiver waiting for the warm up flail about to finish so the run could start and really get warm. I found my way to the back of the pack where I belong and chatted with a couple of other ladies who felt equally slow before we set out.

The first bit was running around the field before heading up the road. I quite immediately found myself the last runner before even exiting the field. Up out of the field, up out of the car park and up the road. Lots of up. Around under a bridge and around a corner and up a hill heading for the cycle path (45). Thankfully that was the last of the up for the first half at least. By this time I had passed a couple people that had set off too fast.

Along the cycle path we found ourselves running pretty much downhill (though not steeply and at times hardly noticeable) for about 3.5 km. I found myself running too fast but struggling to slow myself down even though I had known exactly what to expect. I found myself forcing myself not to pass the ladies in front of me to avoid burning myself out completely. Down off the cycle path and down a little barely used road until we turn around and head back and across to a closed off road. At about 4.5 km I had to walk and get my breath back on the flat area. By 5k I was already back to running until I got to the water station for a drink shortly on. I can’t drink and run at the same time for some odd reason.

I started right back to running after the drink and headed down the road, back under the cycle path and down to the BMW dealership to rejoin the footpath. On the footpath we followed around the dealership with the rail tracks on our right and back up to the cycle path. Now remember the cycle path was downhill all the way down so of course it is uphill all the way up. I had a little walk just up the first bit of steeper hill before running and from the top. This was not to last.

Run, walk, run, walk…..that was the rest of my run. I just tried to keep the ladies behind me there and focused on trying to catch up to the lady ahead of me also doing the run/walk thing. I never did catch up to her but the ladies behind did stay behind. I ran as best as I could but the hill continuous for such a distance rally did kick my butt. Run, walk, run, walk but I pushed on. About the 9k mark I passed a man….yup that was a first. The declared he was injured and couldn’t run another step…he ran past me by the 9.5k mark. I did walk the first minute of 9k but then I got running again and I made myself keep going and ran the rest of the race. Down out of the cycle path and across a bit of industrial estate with a right turn through a bit of housing before the end.

Down a footpath in front of houses and another right turn down a little path. A right turn into the funnel and I could see the finish line. I sped up as best as I could manage. I always like to sprint finish. I really didn’t have any sprint in me but I managed as much run as I had left in my lungs. I crossed the finish line just behind the lady I was trying to catch and clicked my watch to stop. That was the moment that I knew I had a new personal best. Not a little pb either but a big one. I had taken 4 minutes and 42 seconds off my pervious time. My new pb is 1:13:38. I was gob-smacked.

Even better than getting a new personal best was what happened a couple minutes later. I had gotten my t-shirt and medal and was about to turn and head to my car when some ladies stopped me. These were the ladies behind me wanting to thank me for helping them run back to finish. I was desperate to be sure I wasn’t last but they were pacing off of me it turned out. I was a “pacer” which made me feel so very useful. I feel great pride in knowing I was actually able to help people.

Lethbridge 10k is my husband’s favourite race so I have heard nothing but it’s praises for months. I can’t say I deem it my favourite or that I even have one but it was a good race. I likely will do it again next year. If you are up to a couple miles of constant uphill in the second half then it is definitely a personal best course as it is impossible not to run quickly in the first half.

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Isle of Wight 10K

What do you do on vacation? Relax or maybe read a book? That sounds so much more sensible then what I did. Isle of Wight Festival of Running was the first weekend of June. They had a 5K, 10K, half marathon and a full marathon. Now while on holiday I could have chosen to keep it a bit lighter at least but no….I did the 10K.

We left for the Isle of Wight on the Wednesday before so as to relax a bit and not be traveling hours on the day. The travel started with a 2 hour car ride with my husband and 4 teenagers (the eldest brought her boyfriend along) in a smaller people carrier with luggage for 6 days and bedding for the sofa bed at the house we rented. Let’s just say that youngest was buried alive in the back most seat. After the drive we had to board a ferry and travel another hour to get to the island. Just as we were setting off we noticed to the side of us was the Queen Mary 2 so had to get pictures of that. I desperately want to go on a transatlantic cruise. Upon arrival it was another 30 minute drive to the town in which we had an Air BnB house rented. So you can see why travel on the day of the run was not a good idea.

We stayed in Sandown in a particularly run down but well located holiday park. The clubhouse was derelict but the little bitty 2 bedroom houses were efficient and cosy. The coastal path was a two minute walk from the house as it bordered on the park. From there we have a nice cliff and beach side walk into Sandown. I didn’t find Sandown the most interesting place to be honest. It had that neglected, old fashioned holiday destination feel to it but it also had everything we needed from beachside bar to a big Morrison’s and it had a lovely sandy beach.

On the first day I managed 13K steps despite most of the day traveling and the rest of the holiday followed suit. On the Thursday we attended the Queen Victoria’s birthday garden party in the rain. Osborne House was a nice tour and the little shows in the garden were nice. They had a lovely lady playing the part of Queen Victoria telling the kids about life in Victorian times. Another stall had a man explaining the role of the various household servants. As he would tell us about each of the more lowly jobs he would get a kid doing some part of it. The girl charged with carrying a heavy bucket of coal around needs credit for keeping a smile on her face. By the end of that talk we discovered the wages a modern day butler makes and I was thinking of putting my son into service. The food was good and I was able to get a lovely veggie lentil burger with grilled onions. I snared an umbrella at another stall along with a bit of fudge and a bottle of mead. There was also a horse show….dressage I think it was called, a man preforming with fire and several other bits. Had it been nicer weather we likely would have wondered the grounds but after lunch we just wanted to head back. That afternoon we walked up to a cliff side pub (Culver Haven Inn I think) for drinks with my husband’s cousin who lives on the island and a walk back. Managed about 15K steps that day.

Friday was the day before a 10K race so what did we do? Went on a 10 mile walk after eating a lovely cooked breakfast at a cafe. I must say that I found the island restaurants very good at catering for a vegetarian diet however no one seemed to have heard of supplying non-dairy milks. After the breakfast we headed in the direction of Shanklin along the beachside path that go all the way from Sandown to the Shanklin Chine. From the Chine we headed up into the old village area for a cup of tea at a Tavern come tea room. The weather was improving so sitting outside was a joy. We meandered down into the shopping area and I got a text that the youngest had an eye issue so we cut the walk short of an all day affair and headed back to Sandown. After much confusion we managed to get the girl to a pharmacy to have them look at her eye and give advice only to be told to try a warm compress. At least we didn’t need to try and see a doctor. Before heading back to the house we had dinner at Driftwood Beachside bar and grill. The food a excellent and the view of the Solent wonderful. Managed about 26K steps over the course of the day.

Saturday was race day. We got up and dressed then walked down to have another cooked breakfast. I was sensible and had a simple veggie breakfast while my husband went for the mega breakfast that had 4 of everything from sausages and bacon to eggs and hash browns with lots of sides as well. When we left there my husband needed rolling back to the house. What went through his mind to order that on race day. He really did eat it all and finished the leftovers of my breakfast.

At about noon we set out with the car full of people again. Luckily this was just a 30 minute drive to the Freshwater area. We had the youngest not running as she complains so much about running that the idea of running away without her is golden. The eldest and boyfriend were originally signed up for a 5K but had managed to peer pressure each other enough that they switched to the 10K. Please note that they did absolutely NO training. Husband, son and I were all prepared for our 10K run.

At 3pm we headed out on the trail run from the leisure centre, across the field, down and across a street and turned into a trail. The beginning was reasonably open then into a very narrow path that meant single file running. This also tended to mean that it was a bit stop start like so didn’t push me too hard. The eldest and boyfriend were within sight in front of me getting on with it. Once we finally came out of the narrow wooded section the eldest and boyfriend stopped to sort out he shoes and I passed them up. I didn’t see them again until they finished.

After the wooded section it was running through a corn field. I seem to remember some uphill at this point. I think I may be blocking out the harder parts but I know there were two hills that I walked up. For the most part I tried to run as long as it wasn’t too steep but both hills kicked my butt. After the corn field there was a bit of road with the second hill then back into another corn field . We crossed a street into more field I think. I was pretty wiped out from the hills and bright, direct sun. It was hot. I recall a bit of a golf course and running downhill through stinging nettle, a bit of a country road, across a busier road then into another wooded bit.

The wooded bits would have been almost blissful had I not been so completely exhausted. I ran , I walked, I chatted a bit too. I just kept pushing myself on. We got to a road again crossing over and finding ourselves back on the last bit of road, then field to the finish line. I knew it was almost over but I just couldn’t keep up runnning for this last half a kilometre. I just kept on walking and running in turns. I was coming out of the field and could see the finish and clock ahead and started running and pushing myself as hard as I could.

When I caught sight of the clock in front of me I realised I was actually going to get a personal best if I just kept running. Oh my God was I hot and tired but I couldn’t not put everything I had left in me to work. I sped up when all I wanted to do was slow down. By the time I reached the funnel I was running as fast s I possibly could and finished in 1:18:20. I am still not sure how I pulled off a PB as I walked so much during this race. I had totally expected to have my worst time ever but it was my best.

Husband had his worse 10K time ever as you had probably guessed. My son managed a respectable 1:03 which wasn’t a pb but as we struggles with pacing himself and gets frustrated I think it was a great time. The eldest and the boyfriend ran through the finish line holding hands…..how sickeningly sweet. With no training they managed their first 10K in 1:23. Oh to be young. Honestly, my girl could be an amazing runner if she would just do it but was put off running by a PE instructor that gave her earned competition spot to the girl that finished 11th instead with no explanation which she is still bitter about 4 years on.

Now you would think that having walked miles everyday of the holiday, run a 10K and the temperatures rising throughout the week that on our last full day we would have hung out on the beach for a ell earned rest…nope. On the Sunday, my husband and I went for a walk to the next town over in the opposite direction of the previous walk. We aimed at Bembridge. When we got there we had a bit of breakfast but it seemed too soon to head back so we kept walking. Eventually we found ourselves having a drink at a beach bar and husband’s leg was starting to have some niggles. We looked at the map and realised that walking on the Ryde was a shorter walk then turning back home so we pushed on in hopes of getting a bus back to Sandown. We got lost a bit but made our way back to the coastal path and on into Ryde. We found a pub for a drink (they had limited food options) and headed back to the esplanade to find food. Before finding anywhere we wanted to eat we found the bus so headed back to Sandown. Husband stopped his watch which was recording the walk at 21.57 KM. That is about a half marathon. We still had to walk back to the house after eating a late lunch and by the time we went to bed I was on 37k steps for the day.

So relaxing on holiday didn’t really work for us. Instead we completely exhausted ourselves. The teens did play at the beach a bit though. I was more relaxed though. Walking does that for me. Running is hell but walking is heaven. Had it not been for the knowledge that we were getting back to the grind and a long car ride with too many people I might have even held onto that relaxation but it was not meant to be. By the time we got home on Monday I was ripping everyone’s heads off. Ah…..the life of a mother. Oh and for anyone thinking that all the activity might mean weight loss…..ha ha ha! I gained 3 lbs in a week.

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Neolithic 10k

Enjoyed this run….well as far as I am able to enjoy running. Running and I are frenemies at best. Weather was bipolar, the boy was challenging and my husband’s half marathon started in a different location so needed a bus but the organisation was excellent and I have to give credit to them for providing a great event.

The Neolithic Marathon which has races for half, 10k, 5k, canicross and cycling of various distances is a charity event for Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. The various events within the overall event started from three different locations with coaches provided to get everyone where they needed to go provided by Barnes Coaches. All the events traverse the Salisbury Plain (normally used by the UK army for tank practice) so the Army had to make the area ready (safe) for our races. All the unexplored ordinance was cleared out and we luckily did not have to deal with dodging tanks along the way.

We arrived at the Old Carter Barracks carpark outside of Tidworth at about 8am as my husband needed to get the 8:30am coach to the half marathon location. He was meant to do the marathon but due to injury so lack of training it was a half instead. Now the weather was grey and raining (in fact at one point pouring down) so we mostly hid out in the car until my husband left. There was not a huge number of people taking part in each race so the handful of portaloos were somehow sufficient and not once did I need to wait in line which with three trips before the 10am start time was greatly appreciated.

My son (16.5yo) and I were running the 10k though she is a spring chicken and I am a knarled old hen he should have been well in front of me. In fact in the past he has run 10k in 58minutes so I expected to be on my own the whole way. I was wrong!

The run started out on a primitive paved road material which surprised me very much. I guess my imagination of a tank practice site didn’t involve paved roads. The first mile was all up hill. I don’t know where they found this hill to bring to the Plains special for this run that I expected to be quite flat but nevertheless it was right there in the first mile. Now I failed to mention that the day before this race I unexpectedly did a personal best at parkrun of 35:40 and failed to sleep for more than an hour and a half the night before so I was exhausted and this was a fucking HILL! I was really questioning my ability to finish without walking most all of this. It was near the top of this hill that I caught up with my son who was walking.

The walking boy was annoyed because he found the signs confusing as they didn’t state 10K or 5K on them. In fact they actually did have colour coding but he didn’t know what colour we were and didn’t understand that half of our race was the same route as the 5K. I explained and after some complaint of being unable to pace himself he sprinted off. I kept my snail pace of about 7:20 min/kilometre going which I knew was a bit fast but I also am not good at pacing. We are still following along the paved road at around about 3k when we get to the point that the 5K turned right and we turned left. The boy is with me again because of course sprinting off is not good pacing and we have a cup of water at the water station and move on. It is shortly after this that the frustrated, hungry (he neglected to eat breakfast that morning) boy excised to walk after begging me to let him do 5k instead (I am mean and made him do 10). I jogged on and left him behind. Somewhere near to 5K we came to a left turn into a mucky, unsaved tank track for our off road piece.

Over the last couple weeks we have had reasonably dry weather so the conditions were not too bad but the last couple days it had been raining so the well packed tracks were sticky muddy. I don’t have trail shoes so the mud just caked on the bottom until I felt like I was running in snow shoes and would find grass to scuff the mud off and repeat. I managed to keep running to almost the 6k mark when I came to a smaller muddy hill. The mud wasn’t bad but I was so tired and decided to walk up the hill. The boy caught back up to me again around this time and wee walked up together.

The boy….ugh. While walking he decided to have a Clif Block (energy thing) which forced him to breath through his nose which he discovered worked well for him. He had stated running and caught up to me which at one point was quite a distance. Of course he ran a bit too fast and needed to walk so joined me for the walk up the hill. This was the end of my running on my own. We didn’t so much run together as we regularly passed each other.

From the top of the hill I ran on for a bit and again walked slightly before we reached back to the paved road. By this time my pace was slowed to around an 8 min/kilometre and the sun had come out. In fact the cool grey skies were now a blazing sun and I was drowning in sweat. The road was totally open to the direct sun and was slightly uphill which I think I noticed on the way along the first time but wasn’t as tired then. It was only a short bit of repeated road and a straight line. I was so hot and tired that much of that short piece involved he running with my eyes closed as they refused to be open in the bright light. We got to the crossroads and collected another cup of water before continuing to the finish…..uphill!

Why is it that downhill seems flat but uphill is always a steep ass mountain?!? I walked up this hill that was at the 8K mark while the boy sprinted up it like an idiot. At the top of the hill I went back to my jog and caught up to the boy quickly as he was walking downhill. I was determined to only run for the last 2k and I did succeed at this however the boy still walked more than he sprinted. Each time I caught up to him he sprinted off again so that he would finish before me. I can’t tell you how annoying I found this. I deserved to have been the turtle beating the hare but he would not allow that.

The last mile of the race and I was so wet with sweat that my shirt that normally weighs about 10g at best felt like it weighed a kilogram. The sun was beating me viciously about the head and shoulders and there was a slight incline that looked like Everest to me but I was not going to walk. After this point in was all downhill. In fact it was sufficiently downhill that I had my fasted kilometre of the race at 7:01 minutes. There was a photographer at this point documenting our certain deaths from heat exhaustion and a lovely lady telling us it was almost over.

As is so very common the 10K event did not end at the 10K mark though. I have done enough of these now to expect a sneaky bit of extra at the end. We turned left down into some trees coming back into where we started. I was almost back up to the boy who was walking again. I told him to run into the finish which he complied with to beat me. I got up my last bit of push going and stretched out my legs for a good, quick finish. This was not a sprint as I didn’t have that much left but it was a respectable speed. I saw the timer saying 1:19:49 and I just wanted to finish under 1:20 as that was my time at the Milton Keynes Festival of Running. I ran with all I had and crossed the chip timer at 1:19:50 for a new personal best. The boy beat me by 9 seconds with his grumpy mostly walking with a bit of sprinting strategy. The tortoise lost to the hare but this tortoise was very happy with her performance.

After the race we were given a medal, lunchbox and two bottles of water. The lunchbox options were ham, cheese, or egg (no vegan options). I got the egg option which had a lovely apple and an apricot flapjack inside. The boy and I sat down on a bale of hay and had a bit of our lunches before he retired to the car to read and I waited on my husband to finish.

The half marathon was meant to have one start time at 11am however the weather at the stat location was bad so they started them off in two batches in the end. Hubby started at 9:30am in what was almost a blinding downpour. I can’t comment on most of this as I wasn’t there but apparently the mud for them was less sticky and more slippery so he found it tough going. His first half was going very well but the second was in that scorching sun and it took its toll on him. He finished in 2:21 according to his watch which is very slow for him but due to the injury and training issues he was still happy. Now I mentioned that he had been signed up for marathon but changed it to a half in the last week. They happily did this and he got his race number fine but something went wrong with timing so he does not have an official time listed on the website. He will be contacting the organisers about this but it is not the end of the world. We collected up his medal and food and headed back to the car.

The events were amazingly well organised especially considering the large number of different races within the overall event. Who I run this again? Yes, I most definitely would do this again. The boy has already asked that next year he be signed up to do a cycling event there and hubby wants to do this again as well. Next year will be another day of everyone going off in different directions but I do look forward to it.

Thank you Wiltshire Wildlife Trust for a great day out. Thank you Barnes Coaches for transporting my husband and so many others to their starting points. Thank you marshals for your support. And thank you British Army for clearing allowing us to run and not blowing anyone up.

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Whole slew of runs

I have a whole slew of runs to talk about but just haven’t had the writing bug. Firstly, Blenheim 7K on April 29th, then it was a new personal best this last Saturday, a long run with a milestone on the Sunday and finally the Freedom Run with special guest runner Jo Pavey on Monday. I have had challenges from temperature to distance, personal bests and an enjoyable encounter.

So Blenheim 7K happens at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. I was looking forward to this mid spring race for two reasons. One reason was that by the last weekend of April I expected that we would be running in not too hot not too cold temperatures with perhaps if I was very lucky sunshine though I knew rain was a possibility (this is England after all).my other reason is that I had yet to manage to run continuously for more than 5K as one thing or another has just made too much.

Well for the weather I got unseasonably cold, grey and searingly windy conditions. I shivered and huddled into my husband as much as possible to attempt to not endure frostbite (or at least to not shiver so much I had no energy left to run). It did not rain on the day though so that was at least something positive. I have never in my life been more ready to run then I was that morning in hopes that my body would heat up. After about 2K I felt warm enough to remove my top layer and tie it around my waist. We went along and found ourselves turning off the paved path onto a trail which is wear the next issue came in.

There was some thick mud and a puddle which I admit is not nice to run through but then again we know this run was going to have off road elements which in the sodden country means mud. Someone must have come to a stop while others daintily tip toed through it and others climbed the side of a hill to avoid the mud. This slowed everything down to a complete stop for several minutes. Once we got going again in was just a walk pace until we got through the mud which I just trudged right through the side. We got back up to running and I continued on a while up small hills and all until I hit a muddy hill that I just didn’t have traction on and walked up that as well. My goal of running all 7K was gone and the motivation to keep up my pace went with it. There was at least one more monster of a Cotswold type hill that I walked at least half of despite being on paved road.

By the 5K mark I was cold again but didn’t want to give into putting my coat on. I don’t know why I was determined not to put it on, perhaps it was some sort of race confusion issue. I know I thought with only 2K left I could press on but I haven’t taken the note of “the 7K route is slightly more then 7K” seriously enough. Turned out to be 7.48K according to my watch. I did make it with my coat on my waist. Crossed the finish line and was given my medal in a little plastic bag. That was a bit anti-climatic really. I also managed to finish it with about a 8 minute kilometre pace which was my goal to not fall past. There was nothing anyone could do about the weather and though the hills kicked my butt they was lovely scenery. Other than having the medal outside the plastic bag the only other issue was a vastly insufficient number of toilets. The race started with a few dozen people still lined up at a handful of loos provided. The best part of the day was the pizzas that are sold at Blenheim Palace cafe in the garden. That pizza was just the perfect treat….eaten in our car with the heater on as it took hours to warm back up.

My other milestones recently were over this bank holiday weekend which was gloriously sunny and hot. On the Friday at our home education running group I did a personal best on the 2K route of 13:52. On Saturday morning after our ladies night of drinking I scored another personal best at Parkrun of 36:29. I had an inkling throughout that I was doing well. I have a sports watch I love but I try not to look at it during runs as I tend to get to data obsessive. When I realised I had not been lapped by the 20 minute man when I made the turn into lap two I decided that I had a chance of a pb. About halfway around lap two I found myself caught up to someone I mildly recognised as a person that is normally far enough in front that I don’t see her during runs. At just about the last kilometre beep from my watch I found myself along with and passing this person. She had her husband coaching her onto a personal best as well so my strategy was to just stay ahead of her. In the last straight I put in absolutely everything I had left desperately trying to sprint in to the finish (which apparently wasn’t much of a sprint but it felt like flying at that moment). I clicked on my watch and saw that I had taken a full minute of my previous pb. I am not convinced I will beat that one again anytime soon.

Sunday was the long run day and we decided to park at a local farm shop/cafe to run up the cycle path for one hour and run back for the second hour. We walked not quite 0.4K to warm up before starting to run. I purposefully tried to keep my running pace slow as I had decided to have another go at running more than 5K continuously. I got to the 5.4K mark and knew I could keep going and that I was in new running territory. At 7.4K I knew I had run the distance of the Blenheim race ( less the cheeky 0.48 on the end of it). I decided to push on and managed to continuously run 10K. That was not even within my wildest dreams until I did it. I was exhausted and walked more than I run of the last 4.5K of our long run but I felt more successful than I can ever recall.

On Monday e were doing the Freedom Run that is organised cooperatively by parkrun and Swindon Festival of Literature. Guest speaker was world record holder Jo Pavey. The temperature was uncomfortably warm and the sun was blazing at 2pm. I had not run in hot weather before and was right in the deep end of it. It should have been 5K but I only did one lap and finished in 20 odd minutes having done 2.67K. I did however finish before Jo Pavey. Our distances covered are irrelevant and I beat Jo Pavey to the finish line. I also attended to talk after the run and really enjoyed it. I have since bought the book he wrote called “This Mum Runs” and look forward to to arriving today.

So lots of excitement in the last couple weeks and more to happen in the next week including my youngest turning 15 and my first 5 mile race. I must go now and get ready of my next festival of literature talk this afternoon. Stay well everyone.

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Jurassic Coast 10K

So last week I did my first trail 10K. That was a horrible experience. To the running on grass/paths part but the lack of signposting and Marshall’s that didn’t know the correct route to get you back on track. The 10K ended up being 11.8K as I was sent back around for a second loop that only the half marathon people should have been doing.

I signed up my husband, son and I for this run because I wanted to try a trail run and I expected the views to be beautiful. What I got was the only section of England NOT having a heatwave (April 22…same day as the London Marathon) with temperatures of about 10C and fog so thick you could be forgiven for not realising we were on the coast at all. Obviously this is not down to the organisers but it sure didn’t help my mood.

There were a total of three portable toilets for all the runners and spectators to use. This was not the biggest issue for me as I am always careful to pee early but the line did back up a bit. As the temp was low and there was nowhere warm to hide out we went back to our car until 5 minutes before the run.

At the starting line the organiser yelled some stuff for a few minutes and we were off across the parking area and up a hill. I hate hills but learning to run up them is a necessary evil. I managed to not walk up that first one. Ran along at a snails pace across a golf course and down passed the side of a holiday park. Along through the woods to the point when the 5K runners headed right back to the finish line and the 10K runners turned left across a bridge onward for another 5K loop that would eventually lead us back to the same spot with the water and jelly beans. This first bit went without a hitch.

Across the bridge and into a field having already done 2.5K and feeling confident when I see the next hill….it isn’t as steep as the cliff face on the other side but it is trying it’s best to give that cliff a run for its money. I tried to run up it. I mean the only way I will learn to run uphill is to just keep trying but this hill beat me and tried to hide me in a bush so I gave in a walked up the hill. Up over the stile and I was on top of a cliff. Headed left and with the exception of waiting at gates to get to the next sections I managed to keep up my run. I got down to some other car park at a beach area with a playground and found my husband waiting for me. He was meant to be running the half-marathon (2 loops of the 10K) but changed his mind and decided I needed his help as there was mud ahead.

There was indeed mud ahead. No I didn’t need his help and I could have managed just fine but it was nice to have him to run with even though my son tended to stick with me for most of that section after the water station. We headed up another hill that wasn’t too bad but by the time e got to the top the mud was getting troublesome. It wasn’t deep and it wasn’t as soggy as you might imagine but it was slippery. Having been given the warning I did heed it and ran/walked gingerly until it was safe again. Back up a little bit of the road in the car park and left back into the fields.

Patience at gates again and mostly down to walking again as it was uphill and I was getting a bit tired. I had managed a glimpse of the ocean but now was headed back up the cliffs to run along them for a while. You look at cliffs and see the sheer drop facing you but from the side those same cliffs are much hillier than you imagine. I ran, I walked, I cussed as I gingerly came down hills that were too steep to safely run. Eventually we made it back to the bridge and water station before the last (or so we thought) 2.5 k to the finish.

Headed out of the water station in good but tired spirits. Followed the orange flags and arrows along the edge of the holiday park ext to the cliffs. On the cliff I see a sign telling us that the cliffs are eroding and we are at risk of death so when the arrow points us across the holiday park I feel relieved. We happily trot across the park behind a dozen or so people only to be told that we are not allowed to go that way. We ask where are we meant to go and are told she doesn’t know. We told her we followed the arrows and they lead to her so we needed to know how to get back on the route. She just started repeating to follow the arrows, follow the arrows, follow the arrows so I followed the arrows that sent us around the route a second time while my husband searched for our son (he is 16 so doesn’t have to run with us). Just before the water station I should not have been passing again a kindly half-marathon runner gave me and another lady the details of how to get back on the correct route which apparently was to stay on the cliffs of imminent death. So I headed back round for another go and this time headed along the cliff (which was not marked with orange flags and did not look like a path at all…..oh and of course had the warning of death) which of course headed uphill again.

As with every hill I try to run up the damned things but I just never get far. That fucker seemed nearly straight up so much that it had stairs. At the top I jogged along until everyone was commenting on the fact the path seemed to be headed off the cliff as it was so steep you couldn’t see any of the hill down. Slowly but surely down until the next motherfucking hill came along and not only could I not pull off a run I finished that hill on all fours crawling. At the top it was all but a sheer drop down to the beach. I used tiny strides while leaning back so far that my back felt like it would touch the hill behind me. That was so freaking slow going and all within the last K of the run.

Now remember I had been diverted into an extra 1.8k loop so before hitting the hills from hell I had already reached my 10k mark in 1 hr and 30 min. I felt very pleased with this. My husband and son had both been lost to me until the bottom of that last hill of Satan. I had just commented to someone that I had lost all my family along the way when I turned around and saw my husband shortly behind me and he pointed out my son who was still a ways up the last hill. We decided to let him finish the hill and catch up to us in his own time so ran on. Now understand that at this point my run is likely slower than my walk but I am determined to make this experience over. Our son catches us up while telling us off for not waiting.

Now we are in about the last 1/2 km when our son trips in a pothole and bloodies his elbow and knee while also twisting his ankle. We got him back up on his feet and at this point just walk with hates of hate and anger from the sheer exhaustion at the 11.? Km Mark of our 10k run. We walked down the road and up a little embarkment into the bottom of the car park. Walked along across that, through another area for which I am not sure the use and into the home stretch where the finish line was. I decided to run in that last 100m to get my medal and my husband joined me while our son walked him bloody self through the finish.

The organiser, who my husband met on his way back to the course after finding our son, who had directed my husband back to the route by saying “the 10K is that fucking way” stopped him at the finish line to apologise for the route arrow having been moved but not for his rude behaviour. I pointed out that his marshal didn’t know the route and was directing people to go around another loop to which he said he doesn’t teach them the route….only their part. Really not good enough! They all ignored the 16yo boy covered in blood and no one offered any assistance and as far as I could see there was no first aid station of any kind. I got my medal which was merely an advertisement for Beyond events with nothing even mentioning the race on it. I have not worn and even removed the thing from my car in the last week as it is meaningless.

After this mess we went back to the car and tended to our son’s wounds….luckily we do have a first aid kit and I am reasonably good at first aid. After that we headed into West Bay for lunch and a wonder. This is the town where Broadchurch was filmed ….particularly the cliffs and police station (which I think might be flats or something in reality). We found a restaurant called The Seagull or something like that and had a lovely meal. It really was exactly the seaside meal I craved. We walked around a bit including down the beach to get a picture of the cliffs for our eldest daughter (she was our bag girl) then back into town for an ice cream. My son bought a fossil ammonite which helped a great deal in making up for the injuries. I didn’t get the name of the ice cream parlour but it was a tiny place that apparently makes its own ice cream and it was glorious. My body can’t usually handle milk and ice cream is my most loved nemesis but I had a scoop anyway and it was the best I have ever had.

As it was cold and foggy we decided to head home. The run was frustrating and miserable but the trail running in general was not bad. I will not do a Beyond Event again as the problems all came down to poor signage, bad organiser attitude and no first aid which are all down to bad organisation. The town of West Bay was lovely though and I do recommend a visit on a warm, clear day. I will likely try to make my way down again when the weather is better.

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