fairweatherrunner

running blog


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I’m Back

Really back this time.

I’m running a marathon tomorrow.

Yes I know I should have blogged about it earlier.  I did get a nag from Cathy for not updating my marathon training and mentions from Sharon and Alma which nudged me back to my blog but I felt a bit of a fraud having a running blog when I wasn’t really running.

I have dabbled during Juneathon and Janathon, writing  a bit about my excuses for not running and the odd BMF class, parkrun or classy plank.

I’ve had false starts, comebacks and ‘return’ races.  I managed a 2 week run streak during Juneathon this year and a comeback 10K at the end of Janathon but I have not seriously run or trained for any event since the London Marathon in 2014.

Then two things happened.  I stood on the scales at Easter to weigh my son’s suitcase and I went to cheer this years London Marathon.  The mean old scales told me the truth I didn’t want to hear and watching the marathon made me think that maybe it wasn’t as bad as my memories were telling me.  I set about losing some blubber and my subconscious started thinking about running another marathon.

Facebook and wine don’t mix.  On May Bank Holiday Sunday evening I found myself entering a marathon with Cathy, Helen and Cassie.  It’s a flat one and the medal and goodie bag (beer and cake) are fantastic. (We’ll worry about the strong winds on the Kent coastal sea wall tomorrow!)

Fast forward to this Autumn and after a slow start I finally got into my marathon training.  I said I would run it –  so I had to grit my teeth and get on with it.   But I started to enjoy myself.  Regular running and being 12 pounds lighter have done wonders for my pace and stamina.  In October I ran a good HM at the Exeter Great West Run and felt really strong on a hilly course.  If I hadn’t had to make an unplanned loo stop I would have pipped my HM PB by a few seconds.  Mojo returned.

My previous attempts at marathon training have felt like a chore, hating the really long, long runs.  I can’t say I love them now,  and I could do with running a few more of them, but for the last weeks of my training I have had a new business like attitude to training and focus on my plan.

The icing on the cake was running a 10K PB of 49.06 two weeks ago.  I ran 50.38 in 2010 and have been trying to get back there, or under 50 minutes ever since but 52  is the closest I’ve managed.

Marathon training rocks!

We’ll see what tomorrow brings!

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Bath Half Marathon

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My ambitious marathon training plan (the one I follow when things are going well and I’m feeling good) called for a sub 2 hour half marathon last weekend.  Fortunately my other plan (which I refer to more often when I’m feeling exhausted and a little fed up with marathon training) only required 14 miles of me so I had a back up plan if I needed it!

But I was also keen to run under 2 hours again for myself (even if only by seconds) having done so in all 4 Half Marathons I ran in 2012 but not in any I ran in 2013.

So after a lovely day on Saturday with lots of good company, shopping , eating and all round fun, race day arrived.  We had a leisurely start having treated ourselves to a hotel only a short walk from the start so we were not out in the cold rain for too long before the off.

It was busy at the race start and I wasn’t too happy to find myself in the crowds stuck towards the back of my start zone where there were also people wearing the coloured race numbers for the zone behind.  I also overheard someone around me discussing her planed pace and my heart sank. I realised I would have some work to do to weave in and out and get ahead if I wanted to stick to my planned pace of 9 mins per mile, a whole minute faster than that. (Note to self on my honesty and accuracy of predicted finish time for mass, popular races!).

I had decided not to be an idiot and try for a PB or a fast race, but to start out at a good solid pace and stick to it. That should take me round just under the magic 2 hour mark, to give me confidence in the eyes of my ambitious marathon plan and be a good even paced test of how my training was going.

As feared it was very busy and In the pack I had to really work at settling into and maintaining my pace without wearing myself out from weaving in and out in a sort of fast-slow race interval run. The Bath Half is ‘Bath flat’ as I found out last year . I was disappointed not to be able to take the opportunity of the downhill just after the start and bank 30 seconds or so of faster pace for later as the first few miles were very crowded.

It eased a little and I was able to keep close enough to my plan for the rest of the two lapped course.  At mile 10 I was smug in overtaking a couple who had been ahead of me until then and had annoyed me by ignoring the marshals always running outside the cones on the right hand side of the course reserved for the overtaking front-runners as they lapped us.

The last 3 miles felt like a marathon in themselves, not just ‘a parkrun to go’.  I was still having to overtake and squeeze through gaps of people running three abreast.  The uphill before the last turn to the finish didn’t help either.  On the turn to the finish I glanced at my watch and realised I was dangerously close to 2 hours. I was a few seconds over target average pace plus because of garmin inaccuracy  and/or too much weaving in and out of the crowds I was going to run a bit over 13.1 miles so needed a good sprint finish to duck under 2 hours.

It was close, but I did it with 15 seconds to spare!

A big, well organised and supported race in a lovely city.  This year was a bit too crowded for my liking so although it’s a great race I think I’ll be giving it a miss for a few years before I come back again.

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East London Half Marathon

A race in two halves. A race I didn’t enjoy.

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The first half (and lap one of the two lap course).

I started a little fast but then, although slowing with the increasing heat, was working well to maintain an overall average pace below 8.50. I found the course convoluted and a little dull. Much of it was on a cycle track the Greenway. This was the part I liked least. It wasn’t very green, all I remember is concrete and discarded water bottles. We started in the middle and did an ‘out and back’ in each direction with runners going both ways next to each other on the narrow course. At one end there was an extra out and back on a bit of dual carriageway (right next to a queue of buses and cars) and under a flyover.

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Back to West Ham Park and on to the second lap.

Can’t I just take the 10K finish funnel and call it a day? I can’t face running that over again. My mind is weakening and I’m sure I’m not feeling at all great. Is there anyone else running this race feeling the same? Fancy a trip to the pub instead?

But I had got up at 6am and travelled across London. I had to finish what I’d started and get the damn medal. If I left it as unfinished business I’d have to come back and do it again. That would be far worse than a second lap! I forced myself on but once the mind has lost its determination, holding pace is impossible and all the niggles surface. I stopped looking at my watch, it was hot and I was thirsty but drinking water made my stomach ache and my left calf and knee were cramping badly. I dragged myself to the end and for the first time ever didn’t raise a little sprint to the finish.

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The race, organised by the Tessa Sanderson foundation had some organisational issues. Most were due to the increased scale of the new Half Marathon this year. We queued for 30 mins to put our bags into the baggage drop and then more than 30 mins to retrieve them. The Marshalls were friendly and willing but it was obvious that those manning some of the water stations had no experience of what works and what doesn’t. A little briefing could have made a big difference.

On balance I had a bad day which I contributed to myself. I was probably too optimistic in my starting pace for the warmest day in over 6 months and for my recent training. In hindsight I wore the wrong shoes which had made the outside of my knee and calf a little tight when I wore them over Easter so it’s not surprising I suffered over 13 miles. I also got my hydration and fuelling wrong for the hot day.

On the day there just wasn’t the atmosphere or environment to help me push through regardless. I won’t be back for another run of this race, mainly because I didn’t enjoy the course, but I suppose I’m glad I tried it once.

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Long Runs and Buses

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At times my long runs are much less reliable than buses but when I’m marathon training I (usually) manage to do them a bit more often.

Sometimes frequent buses are just what you need when fatigue sets in, it’s getting late, cold, you’re feeling knackered and just want to get home.

That’s what happened to me on Sunday. Thirteen plus miles on my feet and I had just plain had enough.  Trouble was I was at least 3 miles from home.  Stagger on? Walk and take even longer? or phone a friend (OH)?  A that moment a bus came round the corner.  I have never ever been so pleased to see a 295 bus in all my life! (and for my habit of always carrying my oyster card and some cash).  And so I was rescued from deepest Fulham.

After last weekend’s Half Marathon I had gone out on my planned long run.  It turned out to be a step up in mileage too far having had time out with injury and 16 miles was just a bit too much for only my 3rd long run post injury.  Either that or I have thought too much recently about Half Marathon being the perfect distance and my current favourite race.

So I have had to make a few more adjustments along the road towards my marathon.  I will do 16 miles next week and not run the first of my 20 mile races on Sunday as it just feels too soon.  I will save that distance for the week after and maybe again during April.

Top tip for other would-be bus hoppers during long runs.  You can’t stay on the bus too long before you cool down and start to get chilled.  I did get off the bus in traffic nearer home and run (at a much faster pace) most of the last mile home rounding my run up to 14.4 miles.


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Bath Half Marathon

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I had a great trip away in Bath with Alma this weekend.  Bath is a lovely city and the Half Marathon was well organised and friendly. It’s a mass participation event that didn’t feel too big and the race is run on wide roads which were not over congested. It’s not a hilly or undulating course but there are some changes in gradient, probably best described as ‘Bath flat!’

Our experience was enhanced by the fact that we were staying in a hotel within walking distance from the station and only 5 minutes from the race start. There are not many race mornings when there is no rude early alarm and you can be sitting under a duvet, drinking tea and eating breakfast whilst watching the TV at 8.30 in the morning.

In the days before the race I was chewing over what sort of pace to run at. What pace could I realistically keep up for 13 miles? I knew because of injury and only 2 weeks training with a longest run of 10 miles (longest since my marathon in November! Tut Tut) that PB pace was out of the question (could maybe manage 3 or 4 miles at that!)  So was matching recent HM paces and even sub 2 (that might get me to half way?). I also considered marathon pace, whatever that should be, as this was really a training run.

In the end I decided to stop thinking too much and just relax and enjoy it and see how my legs and recently recovered glutes coped with the distance.  So I plugged in my race playlist, started my garmin and pulled my sleeve down over it to cover it up and just ran.  I tried to hold a steady pace which maintained a consistent effort, which was not too easy but also not enough to make me breathless or raise my heart rate which I felt I could keep up for the whole race.

When I downloaded my splits last night I was rather proud of my consistent pacing.  I don’t think I could have done any better watching my Garmin all the way round.  Being free just to run and take in the course without worrying about pace and time was wonderful.

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Royal Parks Half Marathon

Today was the second of my autumn races in the build up to my marathon (in 4 weeks time Eek!), my 9th Half Marathon (yes, my 10th will be a full marathon) and the 4th time I’ve run this race.

Running two half marathons only a week apart at a decent pace is pretty hard work! Especially when you’ve banked 3 miles on the way to the second one because you’re not supposed to be running a Half Marathon but bashing out 18 miles of marathon training. The original plan was to race Ealing last weekend and then treat today as an easy training run, enjoy the event and scenery and add a few miles to make up my long run. But I’m afraid I just can’t run a race without trying, whatever I tell myself! Last year I ran this one with friends taking it easy, enjoying the atmosphere and sights because I was just coming back from injury so there was no way I wasn’t going to have a good race this time.

So I started out with lofty ambitions of attacking my PB or beating last weeks pace. I was a bit miffed that I was in the blue start zone (having been in the one ahead before. Am I the only one who puts an honest expected finish time down?) and I was preparing myself to be cross about the overcrowding. It was a very busy race and I did have to do a fair bit of darting in between gaps and had to be patient a few times where the course narrowed to get round people running slower in pairs particularly on slight uphill stretches.

My first wobble came early, around 8 miles (more like 11 for us reminded my militant legs) and because my legs really did ache a bit I had to get realistic and think about adopting plan c, to finish sub 2 and for the next few miles just dug in to hold my average pace below 9 min miles. At 11 miles I manned up with only 2 miles to go helped by a lovely marshal shouting ‘ just think how you’ll feel when you cross the finish line!’ and started to push forward weaving past and overtaking people around me.

I tend to race these days without music. I can concentrate on pace better and enjoy it more without being plugged into my iPod. But I decided to run with music today, knowing it would be harder work on tried legs and because it’s a big busy race where most people are plugged into their own music. I was listening to audiofuel and their Run Wild 2 hour-long run mix for the first time in ages. The timing was perfect, I started it just before the start line and the last 10 mins of the track was fantastic coinciding perfectly with the 12 mile marker and had me sailing across the line on a high. Absolutley delighted to be ony 58 seconds slower than last week.

I was prepared not to enjoy today’s race. I prefer smaller less crowed races where everything takes less time (baggage, loos…) and less crowding gives a better stab at pb pace. I expected to be cross about the crowding and too many slower runners ahead and spectators pushing into the course and the scrum at water stations. Yes there was a bit of all that but it didn’t bother me. It was a lovely autumn day running in a great capital city and beautiful park with great marshalls, many having great fun and encouraging us all along, and a wonderful atmosphere.

So, hard as it is to get into this race via the ballot, its relative high cost, it’s still only 2 miles from home and I enjoy it so I will keep trying to come back for more.

My run today was in 3 parts. An easy run, a half marathon and then I planned to run 2 miles home to make it up to 18. Well I planned to. My militant legs had other ideas… I sent them the message to start running home and the message received back was Pi$$ off! So I walked home trying many times a few pick up ‘jog/shuffles’ but every bit of my legs was agony. All good practice for what it will feel like at mile 25 of the marathon I’m sure!

I was worried, having mainly walked the last 2 miles home, that maybe I hadn’t run my full 18 miles long run. But when I thought about it (I do walk a bit now and then on long runs and am quite ready to walk some of my marathon) I added the time and distances all together which still gives an overall pace which I’d be delighted to run for my marathon! So I am still logging today’s shuffle/walk home as part of my run! I’m sure its time on my feet that counts.

Run 1, ‘Warm up’. Easy 3.11 miles in 32.40

Run 2, Half Marathon. 13.2 miles in 1.57.58

Run 3, ‘Cool down’. 2.16 miles in 33.59

So put it all together and….. Marathon Long run of 18.47 miles in 3.04.45.

RPHM splits


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Ealing Half Marathon

Today’s race was the first of the 4 races I’ve lined up this Autumn as part of my training before my marathon and was my 8th Half Marathon.

For our own reasons when I met up with running buddies and TR24 team mates Louise and Lorraine for the race this morning we all decided to follow the 2 hour pacer. Not that we could get near them in the start funnel but we lined up in the right pen for the start.  The start was delayed because a car had hit a lamp-post somewhere on the course and the police had to get it cleared before he race could get going.  The race twisted and turned  through closed roads in Ealing and surrounding residential areas all very much as expected apart from the changes in gradient.  They didn’t tell me about the hills!  On the plus side the downs  were long and gentle on smooth wide roads where I managed to recoup a lot of lost pace.

I actually found the first 3 miles or so hard work, thank goodness for Louise and Lorraine who looked so strong that I hung in and stayed on pace not wanting let the side down especially as they thought I’d run faster!  Louise could see the 2 hour pacer ahead and I felt as long as the distance stayed the same we’d be ok having started a minute or so behind.

This was my first race where I’d planned a fuel strategy, to take gels at 4, 7 and 10 miles.  I took the first early at 3 miles so by 5 miles as the race gradually moved uphill and the pace began to slacken I was at last beginning to feel strong so decided to push on and moved away from the others.  I caught up with the 2 hour pacers just after 10 miles and then overtook them just after 11 to finish a minute and a bit over my pb but in my second fastest time and feeling very happy that I’d had a good race.

A well organised race, not too big and crowded although bigger than expected. There were several busy points including quite surprisingly the last mile and a bit with the rush to get under 2 hours! The self-selecting start groups behind pacers worked well with most runners being realistic with a few exceptions such as the two girls walking together in the middle of the field just round the first corner who I almost ran straight into!

There was lots of excellent support from local people, with families supporting and the residents of care homes coming out to wave plus great marshalls, plenty of water stops and no queues for the loo or bag drop.  I got a nice bit of bling and decent goody bag including a can of London Pride.  OH is very pleased that I finally got something useful!