Running to the Dark Side

As the hype of the London Marathon dominated my social media feeds I could not help but contemplate on the decision I made to defer my place to 2020.

Watching the stories of runners working their way around the course led me to reminiscing about my own race two years ago. Thoughts of those who came out to support me on the day (some no longer with us), the adrenaline on the day and the atmosphere created by the wonderful people of London cheering the runners on. There is a reason why they say the London Marathon is the greatest marathon in the world – the public coming together made for the most 26.2 enjoyable miles I have ever run.

It is no surprise that in watching this years race I decided to give myself a hard time. Yes, I had made the most sensible decision at the time, but I started to think maybe I gave in a little too easy.

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Hindsight is a wonderful thing and had I been feeling how I feel now, then, I would have been in a different position. But I wasn’t and instead I developed further issues beyond my physical injury that have kept me from running.

Since I developed the love for pounding the pavement and being outdoors, I have always been an advocate of the impact it has on my mental health. The more active I became, the more I was able to control my state of mind. If I had a good day, I ran to be free and active. If I had a bad day, I ran to shake it off. My mind could be controlled by the simplicity of running.

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But what happens when the one thing that keeps you balanced, becomes the one thing that makes you feel unstable?

My decision to defer came not only from the physical injury, but the anxiety I developed around running post diagnosis. I became paranoid. Paranoid that I would injure myself again, paranoid I was behind in training miles and paranoid that I would not be fit enough for the big day.

I believed in dialling back the pressure, in deferring my place, would enable me to ease back into a gentle running pattern. To learn to love running again.

Instead the anxiety became worse. A fear of running developed. My half marathon training races came and went without me attending, and my absence from running club continued. With the longer nights I promised myself I would get back to it, just starting with a short, solo run to remind myself I still can.

But I am still waiting for my moment.

 

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Everyone talks about the love of running, the mental and physical benefits. But no one mentions the dark place you can go to when your confidence is lost. I believed there must be something wrong with me. Despite some suggesting I should contact the running club for advice and some attempting to coax me out for a short run, I just wanted to retreat into the shadows.

Until one night several weeks ago I was contacted by a friend.

With a couple of weeks to go before the London Marathon, she was experiencing high levels of anxiety when faced with running. Especially the long runs. Like me, she was considering dropping out, with thoughts of the long runs and the missed miles, causing extreme levels of stress and doubt.

Despite being distressed that she felt this way, I was so relieved to find out I was not on my own. Weeks later, she made it to London and she crossed the finish line. Making me realise if she can get back out there and complete 26.2 miles feeling the way she did, then I can put one foot in front of the other to start again.

And that is what I intend to do. It may not be tomorrow, this week or next. But I will get back to running club, I will get to parkrun and I will learn to love running again.

With twelve months until the London Marathon 2020 I have a goal!

The London Marathon: Decision to Defer

When you enter into a challenge, no matter how big or small, the last thing you think about is the possibility that you will have to admit defeat and defer.

During the training for the London Marathon back in 2017 I found myself with a few niggles, strains and even a small groin injury that put me on a week long time out. But generally I ploughed through the pain and boredom of training with little complaint.

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Second time round it seems that I have been riddled with injuries. The beginning of my training schedule saw me struggle with the annoyance that is shin splints. Then, as documented several weeks back, as I attempted to increase mileage I hit a major stumbling block.

Diagnosed with Peroneal Tendonitis and ligament damage in my ankle put me on a serious time out. Easing off the training and instead resting, whilst carrying out a variety of strengthening exercises.

The last three weeks have not been easy. As I struggled to come to terms with “rest” and panicking about time slipping out of my hands, attempts to run were filled with stress and anxiety.

This weekend I had planned to spend it picking up the miles again. But yesterday morning I lay motionless, summoning myself to pull myself together and to get running. With my anxiety level through the roof I managed to get out the front door and pounding the pavement, only to find that dull ache in my ankle increasing and the sense of failure overwhelming.

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I knew right then I had to make a decision. Do I push myself through the pain when I am clearly not ready and hope that 10 weeks is enough to pick everything back up? Or do I make the most disappointing, but probably most sensible decision to defer my entry to 2020?

It is very easy to slap on a brave face and push through both the physical and mental pain. I am not one to admit defeat. I love the thrill and accomplishment you get from working hard to achieve things you never thought possible.

That said, at times you can do more harm than good carrying through when your mind and body just has other ideas.

So, after much deliberation and with a heavy heart, I made the move to defer my London Marathon space.

Instead I will be concentrating on building up strength, both physically and mentally, and most importantly I will be concentrating on learning to love running again. With the pressure off I can head back to the simplicity of running just because I can, not because I have to. To spend Saturday mornings enjoying the local parkrun and weekday evenings pounding the track and streets with Harlow running club.

It’s time to shake off the disappointment, to start loving running again and to focus on the London Marathon 2020!

 

 

 

 

London Marathon Training: Week Three

It has taken me some time to put words together that can summarise the third week in my London Marathon training – mainly because I have been a week long strop.

I began the week with the ultimate rest day, waking up at the Champneys resort in Henlow.

The temptation to book myself into high intensity classes and go for a country run was extremely high. However, with a slight niggle in my ankle from the previous weekends activity and a poor night sleep due to lack of heating in my room, I gave myself a stern talking to. Simply allowing myself to relax by the poolside before my treatments later in the day was the one thing I needed right there and then.

Tuesday, still in a rather relaxed state post treatments, I allowed myself a gentle day of walking before ramping up the mileage at the latter end of the weekend.

The rest of the week started well with spinning sessions and treadmill running. But on Thursday evening, whilst attempting to complete my long (10 mile) run that little niggle I felt in my ankle during the week got progressively worse.

Only 3 miles away from my 10 mile goal, running was no longer an option. I started to experience shooting pain all the way from the ankle joint to the hamstring – bringing training to a complete halt.

Hobbling home, I made a swift decision to book myself into the sports therapist the next day. Lucky enough, SV Therapy were quick to respond to my desperate messages and a tough session followed to determine the source of my pain.

The verdict: Peroneal Tendonitis.

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Not only did I have a touch of this painful condition, but I also had ligament damage and scar tissue from a previous ankle injury that had not healed correctly.

It is safe to say that my session with the therapist was not easy. The pain was intense and I left for the second time in two weeks feeling rather bruised and battered – but also relieved to have a action plan to strengthen my ankle.

First port of call? Rest. My least favourite activity. Meaning no running for a good few days. In addition lots of exercises and icing the affected area.

You can imagine the mood of a runner who has been benched, particularly when training for a big race. It was not great.

Riddled with another injury made me question, yet again, if I should be taking on such a enormous challenge. Despite many assurances by others that it was still only week three and I still had plenty of time to get the miles in – once I had recovered – I have spent every “rest day” since the diagnosis thinking I should defer my place. With loosing valuable running time I keep thinking of the long runs I would be doing had I not had this set back.

Analysing and overthinking the situation does nothing for confidence. So yet again I had to start then new training week telling myself to forget about the miles I have not achieved and take each day at a time.

And so, as I entered week four, my only goal was to take baby steps, to plan my training a day at a time and to find myself fit enough to run the London Winter Run this coming weekend.

But most importantly – I need to stop beating myself up about miles and training I have not been able to do.

 

 

 

 

 

London Marathon Training: Week Two

As with most things in life, plans just turn out how you hoped.

Week two of my London Marathon training was case and point. I had goals in mind, I had targets to reach and training all mapped out. However life inevitably got in the way, with work commitments taking me on the road and cold weather hindering my training outside.

So how did training plan out for the week?

Monday: much needed rest day and sports massage (ouch).

Tuesday: 1 Miles. Treadmill

Wednesday: 3 Miles. Treadmill

Thursday: 5 Miles. Outdoor. Sub zero temperatures.

Friday: Rest Day

Saturday: 8 Miles. Treadmill

Sunday: 9.5 Mile walk

Total running mileage: 17 Miles

Starting the week with a rest day and sports massage sounded idyllic in theory. Then, half way into the massage it starts to sink in that the planned run for the following day will be difficult. The painful process of easing out the muscles was intense, though strangely satisfying. The only issue – feeling like a tenderised piece of meat the next morning.

So it is safe to say my planned run for Tuesday did not go well. One mile in my battered muscles were not playing ball.

Work! We have all had times when work gets in the way of training – and last week was one of those for me. Driving to the south coast on Wednesday meant an early start, six hours behind the wheel and missing my usual spinning session.

Thursday, again I was back to the south coast and thinking it will be another bad day for training. Luckily I managed to get home at a reasonable time, fitting in a five mile steady run. However, the sub zero temperatures saw my breathing struggle and made me re-evaluate my training plan should the temperature drop further.

After 12 hours driving the days prior, I knew my usual early morning spinning class on Friday would not happen. Being on the road for two days on the trot had completely wiped me out. A second rest day was on the cards as I prepared for a long run on Saturday.

Baring in mind the temperature drop I headed straight to the treadmill on Saturday morning, getting the planned eight miles under my belt as a result. At least one day went to plan!!

Sunday saw me rise early and join my usual walking buddies. Again, sub zero temperatures and before sunrise too, we headed out to complete an impressive 9.5 miles before most had risen from their beds.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing at Champneys Henlow (review to follow soon), making the most of the hot tub, pool and thalassotherapy treatments – easing the achy muscles.

So – the week did not go as planned. Too much got in the way and my mileage goal was not met. But, that was just one week.

I am now well into week three and am determined not to be distracted.

Goals for the week:

  • Reach 25-30 miles
  • Get my spinning classes back on schedule
  • Complete a long run of 10 miles

Let’s see how it goes……..

London Marathon Training: Week One

Yesterday saw the end of week one in the London Marathon training schedule. After a shaky start to the year, with what appeared to be shin splints threatening my plan, I finally found myself back into a rhythm. I found myself finally coming to terms with my ballot place and gently working through the week – looking no further than the day ahead rather than the bigger picture.

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So what did I manage to get into the schedule this week?

Monday: 4 Miles outdoor, undulating terrain. Steady, yet wary of the shin issues.

Tuesday: 4.6 Miles. Running club speed work on the track, with warm up/ down runs to and from home.

Wednesday: Spinning.

Thursday: 6 Miles. Indoor. Treadmill.

Friday: Spinning

Saturday: 5.4 Miles. Indoor. Treadmill.

Sunday: 7 Mile walk. Hilly terrain, Epping Forest

Total Running Mileage: 20

Considering I was concerned about my physical ability the week prior, I am pleased with such a solid number to build on in coming weeks.

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If I compare this to my training for the same week in 2017, when my last marathon training schedule kicked in, there is a increase of 6.5 miles. So already I am getting off to a better start. Perhaps having experience this time round is working in my favour.

So the shin pain has eased, my mileage has doubled on the previous week and I have finally got back into routine. However, as with all plans there is room for improvement. For instance, yes I completed a good week of training, but where in that schedule was a rest day? There was not one. I unintentionally carried on training as I did not feel like I needed one. A mistake I cannot make again. Rest days are equally as important as training itself.

As I enter into week two I have a few goals in mind:

  • TAKE A REST DAY.
  • Get back into food preparation.
  • Have a sports massage to work out any niggles.
  • Increase mileage (aim for an extra 5 miles).
  • Plan an outdoor route for Saturdays long run.
  • Add in some weight training (return to Body Pump).

With many goals there is no time to waste. It’s time to get into week two!

London Marathon Training: The Treadmill

With Christmas and New Year now a distant memory it is time to prepare for the most important time in the running calendar….Marathon Season.

I’m not going to lie, getting myself motivated to train for the London Marathon the second time round has been rather tedious. With the festive season taking precious running time away, bad weather, injuries and re-occurring bouts of illness, getting out to pound the street has been difficult.

I have never been a fan of the treadmill. The monotonous pounding on the belt, going nowhere, staring at a wall and watching the clock slowly tick away simply bores me. I have always been a runner who prefers getting outside, running in the fresh air and picking picturesque routes to stimulate my mind.

However, the past few months have meant that I have had no choice but to jump on the dreaded treadmill (or “dreadmill” as I like to call it), to keep my legs ticking over and to work through injuries and illness without the harsh impact of the pavement or weather aggravating my ailments.

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In doing so, I have found a way to carry training when factors outside my control prevent me from getting outside. With the trusty iPad covering the time and distance, I can now work around anything that is thrown my way between now and marathon day.

Although I will never be a lover of the treadmill, spending time racking up the miles on the dreaded machine, I have come to appreciate there are benefits of getting indoors to train.

Its safe and convenient!

As the last few months have taught me, treadmill running allows you to focus on training without the risk of slipping on uneven surfaces or the aches and pains that you gain from the harsh pavement. Running in cold weather takes its toll on our bodies, as it takes a while to warm up muscles – using up precious energy. A treadmill workout allows us to invest energy into the job at hand – the training.

After running in the cold, and subsequently coming down with a rotten cold on several occasions, I have made the decision to take my running indoors in wet weather over the next few months. The idea of completing long runs on the treadmill fills me with dread, but loosing weeks of training due to illness is not ideal either. The treadmill allows me to adapt my plan to the weather.

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Running indoors is also safer. Dark winter mornings and nights are not ideal for women running alone. You can keep to the most well lit paths and still be at risk, especially if you go into your own running world like I do. During the dark hours I try my best to stick to busy areas, main roads and routes where I know I can get help quickly should I need it. That said, I would not risk training on dark mornings, when there are few people around. This is another occasion where the treadmill offers an alternative solution.

Control the pace!

Although they can be a bore, the treadmill is a great way to control a steady pace or training yourself to run at a faster pace for a bit of interval training. Adjusting the incline can also help your stimulate races, with pre-loaded race profiles to aid your training.

Improve your form!

According to Runners World, researchers discovered that runners have reduced stride lengths and higher stride frequencies on the treadmill compared to running outdoors, due to the feeling of instability when running on a treadmill. This in turn can help to improve form and reduce impact on the joints.

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Treadmill running is by no means the same as road running, and certainly not a form of training I enjoy. However, it offers a perfect way to keep my training for the London Marathon going during busy times and unpredictable weather. I definitely intend to take the vast majority of training outdoors. But, if I find myself on the “dreadmill” at times too, that is perfectly okay!

 

 

London Marathon Training: Fearing the known

When I discovered I had secured a space in the London Marathon 2017 I had a number of fears, with a little excitement. Despite any fears I had I threw myself into training, embracing all the highs and lows as and when they arose.

From the boredom and loneliness of training, to the fear of the unknown. It was a period in my life where everything was uncertain. Having never experienced a marathon before I was clueless as to what I should expect or how I would feel. As the miles increased week by week, so did the fear.

Whilst at the time this fear, the fear of the unknown, was unbelievably overwhelming there was some comfort in not knowing what exactly I had to face. Ignorance was pure bliss.

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Its been a good couple of months since I discovered I have received a ballot place in the London Marathon 2019 and I am finding myself feeling a higher sense of trepidation than before. I have not thrown myself into training, as I did back then. Instead I am finding excuses to pass on vital running miles with the hope that I will “get into it” in the New Year. That is not to say that I have not been training at all, I am still throwing myself into Spinning, walking and shorter running distances. However, I seem to have an aversion to racking up the miles and getting out there no matter the weather.

And the reason for this? The fear of the known!

I am putting off getting into the swing of training, not because I am lazy or that I don’t want to run the Marathon or do my best.

My mind just knows what is to come over the next few months: the early morning runs in the cold, the boredom of the long run, the worry of injury and knowing that in a couple of months the pain from training will be so immense that it feels like your legs will never be ache free again. And as such, it is not playing ball.

As with all training, it is not just the body that needs work its the mind too. And my mind is working overtime in attempt to combat my nerves and anxieties for the months ahead. Whilst the only way to alleviate these feelings is to simply get out there and run, sometimes it is just not that easy.

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So in an attempt to get my marathon regime under way I have to find new ways to push myself, to work around my fears and take my mind off the end goal. Its time to break down the training, to put a plan in place and to take training one week at a time.

It’s time for the work to begin.

Royal Parks Half Marathon

On Sunday 14th October I took part in my sixth half marathon, at the Royal Parks. For many years I have entered the ballot in the hope that I would be able to take part in one of the most sought after runs in the racing calendar. Every year I failed, with this year being no exception. So I opted for a charity place. I was already raising money for Mind, so I used this as an opportunity to keep the fundraising going.

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In the lead up to the event, I picked up a cold and did not get in the distance I would have liked. So I knew ahead of the race I would have to accept the fact that there wouldn’t be any PB’s. With my recent news of a place in the London Marathon ballot I simply decided to use this as a training run to work out where I am right now and give me a goal to work towards the next half marathon.

The day started early, getting to Epping Station long before the trains had started running. It was dark, it was cooler than recent days and the forecasted wet weather was definitely starting to show its face.

Heavens opened as soon as I arrived at the event village. Before I had the opportunity to sort myself out and drop off my bag, I was soaked to the bone. With wet feet, clothing and hair frizzing with the humidity I simply resembled a drowned rat. And we had not even started. It was safe to say I was keen to get the race over and done with before I had a chance to catch a chill.

There was not much of a wait. In the yellow wave, I was rather close to the back, but did not have to wait too long before crossing the start line.

At 9:30am I was on my way.

The first 2 miles proved to be rather crowded. A total of 16,000 runners took part in the event, meaning that despite with the even waves, trying to get around the slower runners and form any kind of steady pace was impossible.

So I spent the first few miles just trying to get into the run, to warm up the legs and soak up the crowd – which in true London style came in their thousands to cheer everyone on. These miles saw us run out of Hyde Park, through the Wellington Arch, down Constitution Hill to the front of Buckingham Palace before working our way down Birdcage Walk and round St James Park before doubling back on Whitehall.

The route then follows many races I have taken part in before: the London Winter Run and London Landmarks Half Marathon, to name a few. As they were roads I was accustomed to running you would have thought I would have found the route a breeze. It was simply not the case. Between mile 3 and 4, as I double backed along the Strand, I found my pace slowing, feeling rather sluggish. By mile 5, as we headed along The Mall I was in desperate need for the bathroom – I had obviously over hydrated in the lead up to the event.

Toilet break taken, I plowed on. Back up Constitution Hill (yes it is actually a hill. Something you don’t realise until running it), towards Hyde Park and the screaming crowds yet again. The spectators and the cheer stations gave me the momentum I needed at this point. I had written my name on my bib and had random strangers screaming words of encouragement – I could not stop with so many eyes on me.

On I went zig zagging along the route through Hyde Park, finding the inclines somewhat of a struggle between mile 7 and 8, feeling my legs tighten between miles 9 and 10 and then feeling rather grumpy by the time I reached mile 11, when the heavens decided to open yet again.

I was stomping along, reminding myself I had just over two miles to get through, mostly down hill, but finding it rather difficult to keep myself motivated.

With the heavy rain unrelenting I simply had to get through as quickly as humanly possible – dry clothes and a hot tub session was calling.

It was then I passed the Mind cheering station. Wearing the charity vest with pride, I was spotted quickly and received the most almighty cheers from the volunteers. Giving me just what I needed to get through to the finish.

A few more turns in the course and the 800 metre marker was in sight (on an incline mind you), followed shortly after the 400 metre and then finally the finish line was in clear view, so I picked up the pace. No slowing down now, the end was near. I had made it yet again.

Not the best, yet not the worst timing for a half marathon. In fact the time of 2:33 ranked third in the six halves I had completed.

Although I had not fully prepared for the distance in the lead up, it showed that my training with Harlow Running Club was paying off. It was a significant improvement to my timing at the London Landmarks Half earlier this year, despite walking some of the route.

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It was not the result I wanted – I always secretly want to see an improvement. But It gives me a benchmark for training, It gives me an idea as to the work I need to do for the London Marathon and a new goal for the two half marathons I have booked for the Spring.

Despite being one hell of a grump throughout this race, it is a beautiful route in our city, and one that I would love to run again.

So I eagerly await the ballot entry email to sign up for the Royal Parks Half Marathon in 2019, in the hope that I can experience it again perhaps without the rain.

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Running the London Marathon…..again!

As I crossed the iconic finish line at the London Marathon in 2017 I believe the first words that came out my mouth were “Never Again!”

Despite saying this then (and every moment since), I, along with thousands of runners, still decide to chance my luck with the public ballot assuming the odds will not be in my favour. But like the lottery, you have to be in it to win it, so after being inspired by thousands of runners in April, you throw you name into the mix and see what happens,  and simply forget about it for several months. With around 17,500 ballot places against over 400,000 entries for 2019, the chances to get a spot is around 5% – so most walk away disappointed with also a sense of relief.

I assumed and prepared for this result myself.

As my social media feeds started filling up with posts picturing the iconic “commiserations” magazine I was expecting my own copy drop through the letter box.

You can imagine my shock (and horror) to discover that the odds actually were in my favour. As I was “In” and heading to the London Marathon for a second time.

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It has taken me a good few days to digest the ballot result. As I shared the news with various people I received messages of congratulations (like I had completed the race already) and from my running club members, who were rather envious.

As the news has sunk in I have begun to realise how privileged I am to receive a ballot place. There were over 400,000 entries and I got a spot. The spaces are like gold dust, with the London Marathon being one of the most sought after races. Who doesn’t want to run in our great city and to be part of the most amazing day in the sporting calendar. And I have the opportunity to run it again. I was chosen!

So as I come to terms with the challenge I now face, I am looking forward to see how the London Marathon will be different for me the second time round.

I know what to expect in 2019. Unlike my attempt in 2017, I will not be be in the dark on race day itself. The course will be familiar, I will remember the sections on route where I found myself struggling and prepare mentally and physically to overcome any issues that may arise. I know that just after the half way point when you see the faster runners coming back towards you I will need to dig deep to push through – as this had a mental impact on my performance in 2017. Knowing what to expect will  go a long way to improve on my previous attempt and help me prepare for race day.

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There is no pressure to fundraise. Although it was amazing to be offered a charity place in 2017 and raise money for the Willow Foundation, the stress of trying to raise such a huge amount did add to the worries of training. If I was not running and thinking about running, I was constantly thinking about creative ways to raise money – often putting a lot of money into raffles and bake sales myself. And whilst it is a fantastic thing to be able to do for a charity I do question the large targets most set when eager runners sign up for such events. Thats not to say I will not be throwing out a fundraising link – because I will continue fundraising for Mind in memory of my Uncle. It just means that I can relax knowing that all I need to do is get the training in and run on race day.

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Back in 2017 I trained alone, with no guidance other than running forums, blogs and advice from friends. In 2019 the shape of my training will be completely different. As I am now a member of Harlow Running Club, I will have set training days which take away the stress of planning routes and motivating myself when I just don’t want to run. I will also have an array of equally crazy people, who are either running a marathon for the first time in Spring 2019 or those who have run multiple events, to train with, to get advice from or simply to encourage me to keep going when I just don’t want to. In addition, training with the club will give me that little extra running ability I just didn’t have from going at it alone.

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Finally, to this day I still remember that finish line that so many friends raved about. During training, when they all said “the finish is so rewarding” they were not lying. It was simply one of the most defining moments in my life. The pain and time had no relevance – I had completed the London Marathon and nothing could beat that feeling of euphoria!

So, I look towards 2019 with a sense of pride, excitement and I must admit, a shred of fear as I prepare to tun the greatest race on earth yet again.

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Adidas City Runs: Clapham

Sunday 16th September saw my return to Adidas City Runs, with the Clapham 10K route. After my pleasant run with them a year previously with the Shoreditch 10K I was looking forward to seeing what South London had to offer.

As with most race days, it started with a very early morning to ensure that I arrived in plenty of time to get myself sorted before the start: multiple toilet breaks, adjustment of kit and filling up my running bladder for the miles ahead.

There was not much time to hang around, as within 30 minutes of my arrival the first waves were being called to the start pens. My wave (wave C) was soon heading in the same direction. Very little time passed before the runners were off!

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Starting at Larkhall Park the route saw participants head north towards Vauxhall before turning back towards Clapham, along Wandsworth Road, skirting the east of Clapham Common before winding round the tree lined streets of Clapham Old town and North Clapham towards the finish line back at Larkhall Park.

The race started off well. Despite the recent balmy temperatures the morning was over cast, cool and saw a welcome gentle breeze – making running conditions seem perfect.

From the first to the third kilometre I found myself comfortable, setting a good pace (albeit, slightly faster than previous races due to my training with Harlow Running Club) and generally feeling rather relaxed after a recent break away in the sunshine.

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However, perhaps due to my lack of training in the lead up owed to my holiday or my faster than normal pace, or perhaps a mixture of both, I started to find myself tiring rather quickly between the third and fourth kilometre. Add in a couple of unexpected hills around the “flat route,” slowing down my pace further, I found my spirit wavering slightly – stopping to walk the hills that I would not have caused issues previously. I also started to spend more time looking at my watch, trying to work out if a PB was on the cards. During the first and third kilometres this was looking likely. After four kilometres I started to give up on the PB yet again, deterred by my post holiday fitness level, and to simply use this race as a way to return back to training after a very inactive break away.

The route itself was not without challenges, as mentioned above there were a number of hills thrown into the mix that were completely un-expected, the twists and turns around the residential streets became tiring and to top it off, as with the Shoreditch 10K, residents ignored the signs about road closures and decided they were well within their rights to drive down the closed roads. I saw at least three drivers, with very little regard for the runners around them screaming at the marshalls, obviously putting both at danger with their stupidity to pay attention to the signs around them.

And the water stations? Where were they? There was nothing available until after the 6KM mark. Many runners were overheard asking the marshalls “where is the water station?” And on what transpired to be a rather muggy day once we got well under way, this was an error of judgement on the organisers part. Luckily, I always run with water so it did not cause an issue for me. But there were many participants clearly struggling with the lack of hydration.

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That did not put runners off enjoying the course, however. Many participants around me were clearly enjoying themselves (some more than others) and there were many smiling faces as we approached the final turns to the finish line.

Despite my lack enthusiasm throughout the route, I was undeterred as we came towards that final stretch. Any energy I had was used for a sprint finish, allowing me to come under my British 10K time from July (just).

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Was I bothered about failing to get a PB and a sub 60 minute time yet again? Not really. I had enjoyed my much needed time off, coming back feeling refreshed and ache free. I always say “next time.” And I will get there one day. With the ability I have gained training with Harlow Running club, teamed with regular Spinning classes – I have no doubt that I will eventually reach the goals I set for myself.

In the meantime, it’s time to head off to running club……….

Ride London: Volunteering

A little over two weeks ago I was privileged to take part in the greatest festival of cycling – Ride London. Though my participation was on the other side at this event, volunteering at the start line in Stratford.

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The event, which sees keen cyclists follow the legacy of many Olympic athletes from London 2012, ride along closed roads –  a gruelling 100 miles through the capital out through the suburbs in Surrey and back into London town, with an iconic finish along The Mall.

Some 30,000 cycling enthusiasts were taking part in the event in it’s sixth year. And this year I was able to experience the scale of the event first hand – by being a marshal.

With the first wave of participants due to set off very early on Sunday morning, it is safe to say those volunteering at the start line experienced a wake up call like no other. 02:30 am was a crazy way to start a Sunday. With many part animals heading home from a heavy night – I was heading in the opposite direction to start my shift at Stratford for 04:00.

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Before the crack of dawn I had collected my kit and details of my volunteer role – I was in the thick of it with many others – walking the waves of cyclists to the start line.

And it was a long agonising wait. In the many events I have taken part in, I have always found the wait in the pens the most tedious of all. Wanting to simply get started, but having to wait for thousands in front of you to pass go before it is your turn, when all you want to do is get going. This event was no exception. All the cyclists I was guiding to the start felt the same – they just wanted to go. However, unlike running events, due to the logistics of getting 30,000 cyclists through the wait was so much longer.

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Soon enough I had got the first of my waves through to the start line – without the threatened rain descending upon us.

My second wave, those who were riding the shorter 46 miles, were not as lucky.

The UK heat wave we had experienced for months on end was forecasted to change dramatically, and it did just that. Shortly after 7am thousands of cyclists and volunteers were succumbed to torrential downpours that continued throughout the morning.

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Despite the shivers of the waiting riders, the atmosphere was still high. All involved were kept entertained at the start with music and I found myself trying to keep the spirts of those taking part up and dancing along to keep warm, whilst being completely soaked through.

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As I finally waved my second group of riders through, wishing them well, I could not help but admire their determination and ability. 100 miles is no mean feat, especially with the weather conditions they were facing. I’m sure many of them wished for a cooler race day than that we had been experiencing, but at the same time no one expected such a dramatic change.

With my shift over at just 09:30 it felt like I had been up for days. Watching the sunrise as the cyclists arrived, getting them to the start and standing for hours in the rain – it definitely felt like a full days work.

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Unlike those taking part in the race itself I was home, showered and in warm clothes within an hour – eagerly waiting on results of those I knew taking part.

It was an absolute pleasure to take part as a volunteer, to experience the scale of the event and to help send the participants on their way.

I have nothing but admiration for all who took part, for the volunteers and spectators who continued to stand in the rain throughout the day to cheer them on and the team who put such an amazing event together.

Yet another fantastic event in our city, allowing all abilities to get out there, get active and take part.

Roll on to Prudential Ride London 2019 – I will be there wearing my volunteering cap again for sure.

 

The British 10K 2018

On Sunday 15th July I took part in the British 10K for the third year. Despite running this event in previous years, I was overwhelmed by the number of runners taking part. In it’s second year run by Virgin Sport it seemed to have attracted far more participants than ever before.

The organisation in the lead up and on the day of the event was spot on. With the UK being hit with a glorious heat wave, all runners were advised to run with caution on the day. “Extreme” weather warnings were in place to ensure that runners remain sensible and organisers informed runners that the day was not one to race for a PB.

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Personally, I was quite happy to take on the advice given. To take it easy, to trot along at an easy pace and ensure I stay hydrated throughout.

Usually getting to the start of this race is rather slow. This day was no exception. With thousands of participants taking part we were set of in waves as expected with a large event. It was a good 40 minutes before I managed to get going from the start line at Piccadilly.

From the get go I maintained an easy going pace, not wanting to over exert myself too soon.

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Once reaching Piccadilly Circus the route saw us turning left up Regent Street, with street entertainment, before a sharp u-turn coming back down in the opposite direction. This then followed a nice downward stretch along Lower Regent Street before heading along Pall Mall to Trafalgar Square, Charing Cross Road and the Strand,  along Victoria Embankment, running alongside the River Thames, across Westminster Bridge, Victoria Street and then finally heading to the finish at Whitehall.

It is a fantastic route, especially if you enjoy taking in the sights of London whilst running. These streets have formed many of my London Road races over the years. The London Marathon has seen me run along the Victoria Embankment in the final miles, London Winter Run follows a similar path along the Strand before entering the city of London and the London Landmarks Half Marathon also sees runners pass through the Strand and finishing Whitehall in the opposite direction.

There is nothing like running in London Town during events like this, when the roads are closed to traffic.

This race was no exception. As usual crowds were out in abundance, cheering on strangers and loved ones. A number of street entertainers lined the streets, from steel drum bands to choirs – all bringing the spirit of London alive.

The temperature on the day was not kind for runners. Despite the city being a fantastic place to run, you do find that there is very little breeze as heat gets trapped between the buildings. On this day London was easily comparable to a rotisserie oven. Even I, the sun worshipper, was diving for the shade or mist showers at any opportunity.

I remained strong and steady for the first half of the race. But at times when I needed to take on water, I slowed to a fast walk, to ensure that I stayed hydrated. I knew being sensible was far more important than attempting a PB, so I took it easy. Perhaps a little too easy for my liking. At times when I could have pushed myself harder, I chose not to. I was more concerned about enjoying the race, finishing and getting my hands on a another piece of bling.

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And I got round. Finishing not with my best time for a 10K race, but beating my time from 2017 by several minutes despite the hotter temperatures.

That to me was a great finish.

I have no doubt in my mind that I will back to attempt the route for the 4th consecutive year with an aim to find a pacer to keep trying for that sub 60 minute goal.

Well done to all runners who took part and thanks to Virgin Sport for another successful, enjoyable British 10K.