Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Hen Do parkrun

I know I know, getting up early on your Hen Do to go and run 5k is not a normal thing to do. I do know this! However when my lovely sisters asked what I wanted to do during my big send off before getting married in July, my only request was that we didn't do anything we wouldn't want to do during a normal weekend. I have zero interest in decorating a pineapple, sewing my own pants or painting pottery (all legit Hen Do activities folks) on any normal weekends, so why would I want to do it on my Hen Do and make all my friends suffer along with me? No thanks. So I decided that we would all suffer by running with raging hangovers instead! Much better!


Doing a parkrun meant that we were doing one of my favourite ever things - running! And doing this with my best pals who might not have run one before, and potentially introducing some of them to the wonder that is parkrun, was just the icing on the cake. The early morning start also meant we weren't lying around festering in our hangovers all morning. No, we were warriors, sweating out last night's booze instead.

Dressed in obligatory matching t-shirts and wearing a rather fetching sash, badges and a beautiful and not-at-all-tacky veil, we arrived via minibus at Bath Skyline parkrun. Everyone was SO friendly there and loads of volunteers came to ask me about the wedding and wish me congratulations. Out of 14 of us, 8 did the parkrun while the others supported. I'm not going to lie, I don't even remember getting to bed the previous night so waking up early to go run I was feeling more than delicate. I had no plans to run fast and my only goal for this particular parkrun was to not vom at any point.

The course was beautiful, starting off under a canopy of trees and incorporating lots of trails through fields, paths and with a stunning view of Bath at points. As always, the marshals were really friendly and encouraging. I ran the whole way with my sister Katie, which was great as we had a lovely chat the whole way and I was able to watch out while she did a nature wee and narrowly avoided getting stung on the bum by stingy nettles. Sisterly love eh?

After we finished my mum was jsut behind us, so I ran back to find her and finish together. She was amazing - this was the furthest she's ever run and she did brilliantly! As did everyone.

Run done, we went straight for some classic post run re-hydration - strong bloody mary's and a bottomless brunch. The early start meant we were home by midday for a lovely nap before the shenanigans continued. This is probably my favourite parkrun experience EVER and one of the best parts of my hen do! Thanks for coming ladies!

Thursday, 26 April 2018

The London Marathon 2018

It is no secret the I love the London Marathon. Like, really really love it. I've done it three times now and it is just the best! I love the circus that surrounds it, the TV coverage, the anticipation and of course, the amazing crowds. Last year it gave me my first Boston Qualifier time, but I knew I could run faster, so this year I decided to try something I'd been toying with for a while: I decided to run two marathons in two weeks.

My plan was to get the time I'd been working for at Manchester Marathon, and then use my GFA place to also run London! A type of celebratory victory lap if it all went well in Manchester. So after securing a PB of 3.30 two weeks ago, my aim for Sunday in *that* heat was to just enjoy myself. Something I had to keep reminding myself of mid run.

So how was it? Well in one word HOT. In two, hot and hard. Really really hard. Definitely the hardest race I've ever done.
High fives all round at mile 20ish
Running for fun is great and Saturday night before the big day I felt really chilled. The only stress I really felt was when I realised how relaxed and unfocused on the marathon I was. Sunday morning, I made my way to the Green start and found some shade to stand in while I waited to get into my pen. I knew I'd be in the sun for far longer than I'd like whilst running, so didn't want to be in it waiting to set off too. Even walking across Blackheath before 9am I was warm, and was dressed just in the shorts and vest I was running in. Certainly no need for extra clothes to keep warm at the start this time. I made my way into my pen and bumped in to Sarah of Goldilocks running. Having chatted back and forth all week we suddenly realised we were stood right next to each other waiting to set off. We had a little chat and before we knew it the Queen was on the big screen and pressing that button to get us started.

As always it was busy, but the heat was there even from the start. I was so glad I'd made the last minute decision to stick my visor on. At 4 miles I thought, 'there is still 22 to go!' This was remarkably different to Manchester when I couldn't believe we were already at the 18 mile mark. That seemed a looong way away this time.

I ran on feel and started off at about 7.45 minute miles which I knew was too fast but I knew I'd slow down in the heat and so figured if I wanted to run at that pace at that moment I could! I was glad to get to Cutty Sark and see Jamie at our designated lamppost in Greenwich around 7 miles, but after that Tower Bridge seemed like a lifetime away. I usually find the first half of the marathon fun and passes quickly, but I really found myself mentally challenged from around this point. In a way running without a 'goal' other than to enjoy it, was really tough especially on a baking hot day. At times I wondered why I was doing it. Although there was no time pressure, this also meant there was nothing to focus on and dig deep for. I found this really hard. I decided my goal was to get a GFA time in sub 3.45. During the race my goal varied depending on how hard it got. Other goals included: finish without stopping, finish in one piece and just GET THAT MEDAL. I'm glad to say I managed them all.

As we turned the corner to Tower Bridge my spirits soared. It's always just so amazing running over it and always gives me goosebumps. I figured this was the race to get a selfie on Tower Bridge so I whipped out my phone and soaked up the cheers from the crowds. It was brilliant as always. There really is no other feeling like it, it's like you're a running rockstar and everyone is there just for you!
Tower Bridge
People were really affected by the heat and I saw a lot of runners needing help and support on course. It was hard to keep your head in it all and really worrying too. My tactic was to grab a bottle at every water stop and either take a sip or swill my mouth out, and then drench myself with water all over. Whenever a little patch of shade appeared everyone ran over to that side of the road, and I was glad I had slapped on my factor 50. Sunburn AND marathon legs the following day would be too awful!

I knew my Harrier pals were on the course at around mile 14 so I focused on getting to them. They were leaning over the barriers screaming their heads off and I soaked it up, waving and blowing them kisses! Seriously anything to get you through! The race then became 'just get to your next supporters'. I was once again so thankful to have Jamie at all our usual spots on the course. I really wanted to walk and thought I would get to mile 17 and stop and see Jamie and our friend Catherine and tell them how hard it was. 'Just get there and you can walk' I promised myself. But then I realised that they wouldn't allow that and would urge me on, and if I did walk it would just prolong the race. So many people were walking in the heat and the buildings of Canary Wharf offered little shade.  The run became a real battle but my spirits were high-ish.  I ran through every shower rainbow, waved at everyone who called my name and smiled at all the cameras I saw. The miles took ages and even at mile 24 knowing there were just 2 more miles to go didn't help. The support as always was amazing though. I smiled and waved and thumbed up at everyone who cheered for me. I read somewhere that smiling when you're in pain really helps and I did this A LOT on Sunday and I can confirm that it works - it does lift your spirits! The crowds always help push you on in a marathon but on Sunday they were a lifeline and I was so lucky to have supporters all along the course.

Finally I was at mile 24, 25 then I saw Big Ben and soon there was just 800m to go. I pushed as much as I could, raised my hands in the air and ran over the finish line. A medal was hung around my neck and as usual I burst into tears. It was done. I was elated with a GFA of 3.44.04 especially in the heat and just two weeks after PBing at Manchester.

London you were amazing as always, but goodness you were a hot little challenge this year.

Crossing the finish line

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Manchester Marathon and Finally Achieving 3.30

After last year's London Marathon I knew I wanted to run Manchester this year. I was still searching for that elusive 3.30 time and was hoping the flat course and smaller running field would help me get it, before running London Marathon with my Good For Age time for 'fun' a couple of weeks later.

The day was absolutely brilliant! I kept trying to channel positivity and not get too stressed before hand and it seemed to work. Having run Manchester a few years ago I really thought this would be a head down and get on with it type race, but the support was amazing and the atmosphere on course was much better than in other years. It was just great. 

Teamwork makes the dream work
My training had been quite different to last year. I'd logged fewer miles but ran with more purpose - thinking quality not quantity was the aim of the game. I also started doing more strength training (hello early morning Kettlebells) and I even wrote a race plan the day before which I really thought about and stuck to. This was quite a revelation for me and really helped me focus and stick to my guns during the race. My plan was go out steady at 8ish minute miles until 20 miles. Then see how I felt and push it if I felt strong. I used the Compete training journal which has loads of good advice and tips for competing and racing. I read how racing with integrity means racing to your plan and that really stuck with me on the day. I also didn't drink for over 8 (loooong) weeks and really concentrated on my nutrition and sleep the two weeks before the race.

Who run the world?
But by far the biggest change in this years marathon was running with my pals Hannah and Heather from my running club. Hannah and I had talked about running together a few weeks before and were glad when Heather joined us too on the day. We also had fellow Harrier Anne join us mid race who absolutely stormed her run! She kept saying how relaxed we were and we were like, 'but Anne, you're running with us!' Having such strong ladies around me meant I didn't let myself off the hook at any point as I needed to keep up pace with them. I also didn't have any of the negative thoughts which usually plague me during the marathon and I just kept believing I was going to do it. 

Three or four ladies running together in the same vest really has its advantages and at about the 16 mile mark I noticed we were getting loads of attention from the crowds. People kept yelling 'Looking strong ladies' and giving us loads of support. It was brilliant. Running together also meant we had each others' supporters to look out for along the course, as well as our own. I had prearranged with Jamie where he would be and I managed to see him at three different spots which was brilliant. Supporters are such a huge part of the day, as well as being really understanding and supportive throughout the the whole training cycle. We were also lucky enough to have a few fellow harriers cheering us all on too.

Running together meant we could have a bit of a chat and the miles seemed to fly by. Then came the 'quiet' miles where it was head down time. I could see Hannah was focused and she pushed on at mile 18 but I knew I wasn't ready to do that yet and thought of my plan. So I stuck to it and waited until about 21 miles until I pushed on. Mile 25 was torture but the crowd were brilliant, really calling your name and pushing you onwards. I could feel cramp threatening but managed to keep it at bay until then end. I thought I had time in the bank but not quite enough. Finally mile 26 came and then I could see the finish. I pushed as much as I could with my legs screaming at me and trotted over the line in 3.30.06 - exactly what I'd aimed for. It took over three years but I finally got there. A new PB, my second BQ and another London GFA. ELATED! I didn't even care about those 6 seconds...

I definitely could not have done it without all the support on course and without Hannah, Heather and Anne. We were a right little badass group and this is one marathon with memories I will savour for a long long time. 

Manchester you were BRILLIANT.

Now, to London!

Finish line hugs

The best running club in the world