running blog


Race your Pace Half Marathon

Having missed my planned February Half Marathon last week because of family commitments I was pleased to be able to run Race your Pace Half Marathon at Dorney lake yesterday. I didn’t want to waste all the miles I’d run during Janathon and long HM training runs, especially as I thought I was pretty well prepared for once! Over the past weeks I’ve had some good runs at target pace and ran 12 miles last weekend at 9 min mile pace so I was feeling strong and confident.

The only hurdles I had to overcome were avoiding my sons who were both full of cold this week (fortunately with teenagers keeping a good distance away is welcomed!) and coping with late nights (making sure son finished homework and got to bed!). And then a few anxious moments caused by both sons inability to get up and ready on time yesterday so long-suffering OH had to drive me to Maidenhead, so I wouldn’t be late, and return to London to collect the boys so they could still meet me after the race to go away for the weekend!

My first impression was how bleak and windy it was. Dorney lake is in a wide flat open area that the wind howls across! It was freezing when I got out of the car and I was grateful for the few extra layers, hat and gloves which I’d left in the car after BMF last week and to find a changing room where I could exchange my sleeveless running top for a long-sleeved one. The start was delayed by 15 minutes which left many of us runners sheltering from the wind huddled like penguins behind a small building near the start. Anyone turning up looking comfortable in shorts was considered a hardcore outside penguin!

This race is advertised as a training run for Spring Marathons or to ‘race your pace’, bag a PB or test out training for other events. I expected to see more pacers than I did and there was a crowd around the few I did so it was not easy to get close. The start was not well organised with no pens and just a huddle to get on to the road behind the start. Fortunately most runners appeared to be disciplined and generally tried to position themselves in the correct huddle for their target pace. I was in sight of the 9 min mile pacer before the start but in the slow shuffle to start lost them in the crowd and apart from being lapped during the middle of the race by the 1.30 pack and then lapping the 12 min milers towards the end that’s all the pacers I saw until the finish when I finally caught up and finished just behind the 9m/m pacer.

The race was as I expected. 4 nice flat laps of a long thin lake. Not too inspiring but less monotonous than I feared. (The best views were courtesy of some of the over-taking front-runners in their far too revealing race shorts being blown off in the wind! Kept me going – thanks chaps!) There were good water and Lucosade stations at either end of the loop but that was about it. Apart from the wind. Did I mention the wind?

The outward stretch of the loop was against a strong headwind (which shows in my mile splits for miles, 2,5,8 and 11) and then the return leg (during the early part of the race) had a useful tail wind. Unfortunately the wind increased as the race went on and become a cross wind so that my pony tail was at right angles and I had the feeling that I was being blown into the lake!

I had aimed to run at 9 min mile pace but went along with the group a little bit quicker to start, I thought about pulling myself back but found my rhythm with my garmin showing overall average pace 8.48 most of the time, so stuck at it. The 4 laps whilst slightly boring were useful in pacing, knowing what was to come and giving me satisfaction that I had got to a certain point again. I could steel myself for battling the tough mile out into the wind and look forward to the return loop where I felt stronger and could push the pace a little.

Fortunately my wheels didn’t fall off around the 8 to 10 mile stretch like my last half marathon. My legs did have a short wobble and ache around 11.5 miles but I told them to hurt away all they liked, however they were still going to keep up the pace for the last mile and a bit and bag me a PB!

Would I run it again? Maybe, maybe not. But certainly not in a hurry. It’s expensive for what it is, no goody bag, a basic medal and not much atmosphere. A good option for checking pace during marathon training and good if you’re chasing a PB.

It delivered a PB for me yesterday so I have no complaints!


Gosport Half Marathon

It is so nice to be able to write my anniversary blog post about a really good race. Yes, the Gosport Half Marathon does what it says on the tin… Its flat, fast and has pb potential. I didn’t manage a pb, (that’s more about my training than the race) but I had an enjoyable race on a wonderful autumn morning. (If a little unseasonably warm, but I imagine far better than any potential November alternative!) The race is a good size (2000 entrants), friendly and extremely well organised and marshalled. Highly recommended. I’ll be back next year (with a wee bit more training) to have another go at bagging a pb!

Our morning went well, we were up and out, without too much hassle from the teenagers (they did get tea in bed!) before 7.30am and left the Isle of Wight on time on the 8am ferry. I was dropped off at the race around 9.15 and needn’t have worried about cutting it fine for a 10am start because I walked past some Sea Cadets trying to inflate the start/finish on the way in, plus the organisation at race HQ (a school) was slick and I collected my timing chip and deposited my bag very quickly. There were also minimal queues for the loos!

We assembled at the start where I lined up about 2/3 of the way towards the back. There was no jostling or elbowing to get to the front in fact most of us were discussing whether we should slide a bit further back and it was an over polite matter of ‘after you’, ‘no after you’… to move forward and fill up the gaps!

The race started on closed roads where the field of runners took over the road. Before mile 1 we were directed onto a cycle path where we could run 3 or 4 abreast. I took care to keep checking my speed and easing off as the pack was moving at a good pace and I was mindful of how I’d feel 10 miles further on. After mile 2 we entered Daedalus Airfield for a first 3 mile loop. It was here where the water stations were and lovely marshalls offering Jelly Babies. I was on target pace, slightly ahead of Mr Virtual Partner and going well. A friendly crowd with a few passing conversations along the way. At one stage I was asked by a passing runner for the time and pace and was happy to give stats having been in that situation last race myself.

My first wobble came at about 8 miles just after we entered the airfield for a second time for a reverse loop. My glutes and achilles were getting painful, my legs felt heavy and my pace was falling. I zipped up my man suit, sprayed on some ‘Man up Spray’ and with Mr VP telling me he had overtaken me for the first time it was enough to spur me on to keep up a little more effort and for the next bit I managed to keep from loosing it completely by anger – at Mr VP (smugly telling me he’d finish sub 2 before me!) and other runners for rattling, overtaking on the inside or sniffing.

My spirits were lifted as we left the airfield after mile 10 with a wonderful view of yachts on the Solent and the Isle of Wight looming through the clearing fog. Yes it was a flat race but the two small ramps down and then up, to and from the sea front arround mile 11 to 12 were killers on my poor dead legs! My wheels fell off at mile 12 where my legs and glutes were really painful, my legs felt like lead and I was shuffling, hardly able to lift my legs. It really was a matter of mind over matter and mental grit at that point, not to give up and walk but to keep up some effort. Before mile 13 I was overtaken by a couple and I hitched a ride tucking in behind them using their energy to follow and try to keep up with them to the last corner.

Funny how the human body is…. feeling completely beat at mile 12 to soldier on and find at mile 13 a few more beans and even muster enough umph for a moderate sprint finish!

Great medal, nice reusable cloth goodie bag and including the best bit of all, a nice slab of delicious ginger cake! Yum!

No, it wasnt a PB but I’m pleased to be where I am. I managed to maintain my target pace for 7 miles. Not too shoddy a performance seeing as I was a bit light on training mileage and I have to remember that I have only been back running after injury for 7 weeks. Race experience helps and I’m learning that for my target HM time, I probably need to include a couple of runs of at least 13-14 miles and more mileage so I can keep pace for 13 miles. However, my finish time is in line with pre-injury times and only 3 mins off my PB. So all in all a good run. Onwards and upwards!

Post Script.

My family report a very interesting morning at one of Gosport’s excellent museums – Explosion, Museum of Naval Firepower after a breakfast of hot chocolate and bacon butties on Lee on Solent sea front. So it’s not all bad having to get up at the crack of dawn on a Sunday because of ‘Mother’s’ running habit!


Royal Parks Half Marathon

I made it! I was injury free, I ran it and I enjoyed it!

Weetabix and banana before dawn, (Why are races so early?) then off to meet fortnightflo, abradypus and plustenner at the tube station and a quick coffee before we made our way to the park. By the time I got to the station it was no longer raining and had warmed up so half my clothing was not required. I was relieved to find that I was not the only one who’d brought along the kitchen sink! We got to the park just after 8.30 and prioritized the loo queue over bag drop. We cleared bag drop just as it was time to head to the start pen.

My race plan was to get round and to enjoy it. I started with the others whose planned pace sounded ideal knowing, because of lack of recent mileage, I only had a few miles running in me at the sort of pace I manged last year. It was very enjoyable running with company and we chatted as we went along and the miles appeared to pass remarkably quickly. Abradypus pushed on ahead while we paused at the water stop at 4 miles and the rest of us carried on at a nice steady pace. I decided to check how I was at the half way or at 10 miles and whether to go on ahead at a faster pace. At half way I could feel my legs tiring and was very comfortable at the pace we were running and enjoying being free from the self pressure of clock watching and pushing myself on. Between 10 or 11 miles I probably could have upped my pace and gone on alone but was feeling a little lazy! Finally, just after 11 miles, when the others slowed for a brief walk break I decided to go on so plugged in my iPod and went ahead weaving through the slowing runners ahead. I pushed the pace for the last mile and ducked in just under 2 and a half hours at 2.29.45.

Thankyou plustenner and fortnight flo for the great company! A month ago you suggested I should come and run it with you if I could get back from injury and that became my goal. Mission accomplished, thankyou!

The beer afterwards tasted fantastic! Then it was on for pizza, another beer and post race catch up with Jogblog, helsbels and I like to count.

And for those intereted in the stats these are my mile split times…


VLM ballot

Well somebody is pleased to have a new fleece!

I entered the London Marathon ballot on a whim not expecting to get a place and being a little worried recently what I’d do if I actually did get a place!  Fortunately today I got the ‘Dear John’ response  and the commiseration fleece so no worries there.

I was actually disappointed for a few hours this afternoon, especially getting caught up in the hype and excitement on twitter when a few people heard earlier on that they had places.  I even researched other possible marathons in 2012 such as the new Milton Keynes Marathon.

However common sense has set in, having asked myself,  ‘Do you really want to run 26.2 miles next spring?’  Erm.. Not really!   I’m not even half marathon fit at the moment after injury!  All sorted.  I am going to concentrate on rebuilding my fitness and set myself a few goals to improve my 5K, 10K and HM times by running a few more of these races in 2012.

I always did say that I would run a marathon when I was very very old and therefore could have the excuse of stopping for a cuppa tea en route!