London Hike with Ultra Challenges

After the disappointment I felt for not finishing the full Isle of Wight Challenge I decided I needed to find a way to redeem myself, to prove that I had the ability should I put my mind to it and to get back on track with training.

The perfect opportunity arose with the London Hike. A shorter distance than that I faced in the Isle of Wight, with a route seeing a marathon distance through the streets of London, along the Thames path all the way to Hampton Court. With just 26.2 miles to cover it was a great way for me to focus on my own pace, to focus on me.

It was a perfect walking day. It was warm, yet slightly overcast with a gentle breeze. The polar opposite from the weather experienced on the Isle of Wight. I felt good, I had been back training on Sunday mornings, regularly clocking up an easy 9-10 miles without any issues. The training, combined with the good walking weather, made me feel ready.

Around 250 people set off from Southwark Park at 8:30am; with a split of participants walking a half marathon and full marathon distance. I was one of the full marathon walkers.

I wanted to get a good time, I wanted to push myself. So I put myself right at the front of the starting line. I wanted to have as few people to over take as possible – thinking that having to overtake others would just cause time delays.

So I headed off, at a fast pace – the pace I was used to during training. As the distance was shorter than the Isle of Wight I could afford to push myself from the beginning.

And I did just that.

The kilometres started to tick down, with very few people over taking. Those who did overtake were the lone walkers – just like me.

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The first check point passed in a breeze, after following the route over many iconic London bridges – including Tower Bridge. I did not pause at the check point, I simply just kept going. I was in the zone and there were no other walkers around me.

Just before the half way check point, I caught up with another participant who had a fear of bridges. He simply could not cross them, and therefore had to take alternative routes. He managed to cross one whilst talking to me, before branching off again as we approached the Fulham area.

Half way check point was reached in good time. I did not feel the need for much fuel at this point – I had regularly taken snacks during the first half – so I did not pick up much food, against the advice of others. I did, however, take a sugary drink and took some time to change my socks and footwear before setting off for the second half.

I quickly picked up speed as we headed towards the Thames path, through Barnes, Kew, Richmond and Kingston.

The path here was extremely dull, though offering complete shade (something that was lacking on the Isle of Wight challenge). Although I was covering the distance at a great pace, I was missing the company of my training buddies. Long distance walking can become incredibly boring on your own, especially if there is nothing to look at to take your mind off the distance.

Along the river path there were a couple of participants who over took me, which only spurred me on. I did not manage to keep up with them, but I was determined that no one else would over take me from then out.

And no one did. As I reached the 20 mile marker, then the started to count down the last six miles, it became more and more exhausting. I wanted to stop, but knew if I did then I would not get going again.

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The final stretch saw us walk through the stunning Bushy Park, with wild roaming deer, before passing Hampton Court Palace and picking up the river path again to the finish. Every step at this point was forced, I was ticking down the steps to the finish line, which was further than expected. Whilst the 26 mile marker passed, the finish did not actually come until 28.8 miles – slightly over the marathon distance, for which I felt every step.

However, pushing myself means that I was rewarded. Coming over the finish line in 9th place and the 4th female to finish.

It was an achievement I was ever so proud of. Though it was not the distance I signed up for at the Isle of Wight, It was still something to be celebrated.

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Finishing in the position I had made me realise I am perfectly capable of achieving anything I set out to do.

So no matter how bad a race goes, you have to pick yourself back up, get back into training and try again.

Pretty Muddy Kids

As my niece and nephews get older I find it increasingly difficult to buy something they would like for Birthdays and Christmases. When they were younger it was much easier to buy the latest toy, that they would inevitably grow out of in months, but now as they are getting to the point in their life where they cherish days out and making memories buying experiences and adventures for special occasions is something that I prefer to do.

At Easter, when most kids were being spoilt with mounds of chocolate, I took it upon myself to purchase an entry to Pretty Muddy Kids instead. After taking my Niece (12) and Nephew (7) to their first Park Run back in January and booking them into the 1K kids run with the Willow Foundation back in October, they have embraced the racing life and love the thought of getting their hands of a bit of bling at the end. Perhaps they take after their Auntie with their passion for medals and adventure?

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I actively encourage their passion. I love being outdoors, I think it imperative that kids embrace the outdoors and get active. And it is the perfect way to get them excited about exercise and make it an every day part of their lives.

So, last weekend, we headed off to Cassiobury Park, in Watford, to take part in Pretty Muddy Kids. Having completed Pretty Muddy myself several years ago I knew it would be a perfect opportunity to get them into the “obstacle races.” With tame, bouncy obstacles and abundance of mud the race offered them a chance to be challenged.

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The route in Cassiobury Park offered a mix of terrain – with grass, gravel and concrete path ways, and a few hills to overcome too. With the heat of the day it was not easy, my Niece went against advice, possibly caused by being overexcited, took off too fast and struggled with the running towards the end. But we slowed the pace, overcame every obstacle and given the choice she even declined the “short cut” that was offered. She did not want to miss a single obstacle.

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Being at the upper age limit of the kids race, she was rather disappointed that she was not able to take part in some of the adult obstacles. Being the same height as me – it would not have caused her any issue – but understandably rules are rules and she simply had to carry on through the kids course.

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And she did just that, loving every minute, and even managed a sprint finish up the hill to the final obstacle.

Buzzing with excitement, medal around her neck, she was already asking when she could do another one.

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So I’m already looking out for the next junior adventure. I will always encourage racing and will happily run along aside them.

Though next time we will have to upgrade the adventure, to give them more thrills.

Perhaps a Nuclear Races Rookie course is waiting…….

Vitality London 10,000

Just a short week ago I participated in Vitality London 10,000 for the first time. The annual event has been running since 2008 and it was my first chance to take part.

Previous years have seen me out of the country over the bank holiday weekend (not that I am complaining), so this year I decided to organise my holiday around the race instead.

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And what a year to be joining thousands of runners through the capital.

The day started warm, muggy and with warnings from the organisers to take extra care in the heat, I knew from the get go I was not going to push for a PB. I had not run much of late, training for the Isle Of Wight Challenge meant that I had very little time to commit to running. So, my plan was to take in the event, enjoy the course and simply complete.

What a race it was. With thousands of runners ready in pens on the Mall between St James Park and Green Park, the atmosphere was filled with excitement and nerves. Not only were there many regular runners taking part, but also Sir Mo Farah.

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Due to the sheer volume of participants it took some time to reach the start line. The pens were evenly distributed to ensure safety on course. Though once there the legend that is Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill was sending runners on their merry way – high fiving them as they passed through, myself included.

The route saw us run from the Mall down the Strand, into the city following many of the same streets as those I pounded during the London Winter Run and London Landmarks Half Marathon.

Though I have run these streets of London on numerous occasions, each race never feels the same. The routes seem so much easier in the Winter Months, when the air is cooler and kinder for runners. On Bank Holiday Monday the temperature was so very different, with the city streets trapping any kind of breeze, very little air and providing the hot and muggy conditions we were promised.

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I took it easy. Stopping a lot more than I normally would; partly due to the heat and partly due to the fact that I had not completed that many training miles in the lead up to the event.

Despite the heat, the route was thoroughly enjoyable. Yet again the atmosphere on the streets of London was infectious. Spectators came out in their thousands, some cheering on loved ones and some just cheering on strangers. Each and every one of them encouraging those who were participating – something I always miss when running local races, where there is a lack of support throughout the routes.

It was not my best time for a 10K and it was not my worst either. What it was was a well organised, enjoyable event which saw runners take on the streets of London whilst passing iconic sights of our great city.

And the best part for me was running that final 800 metres, the same 800 metres I ran during the London Marathon, along Birdcage Walk and where my Uncle was cheering me on just over a year ago.

Starting and finishing where my London Marathon journey ended all that time ago was rather sensational. There is nothing like finishing a race outside Buckingham Palace and if I never have the opportunity to run the London Marathon again, at least I will be able to finish a race in the same spot.

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The Vitality London 10,000 has quickly become one of my favourite 10K races. The organisation, the start and finish on the Mall, the atmosphere and running the iconic streets of London is all second to none.

I have no doubt that it will quickly become a regular in my racing calendar.