Week In Review – Positive Action

I want to start with a thank you to everyone who has been in touch with kind thoughts since I shared that I had to say goodbye to my beautiful cat last weekend. I really appreciate all your messages.

As a result, this past week was strange but I found it helpful to have my training routine. It gave me a focus and helped me to make some decisions (more about that at the end of this post).

I have continued with regular yoga (most days that I didn’t have a class) and my week ended up like this:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike reps + a swim
Wednesday – short run
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 10 miles

Monday was, quite frankly, awful. I was a bit of a tearful mess and while I did manage to keep it together to teach my classes (a welcome distraction) by the time I got to my yoga class I was definitely feeling emotional. I knew that yoga would soothe me and I always feel better afterwards. I did, but in a different way. People have said to me before that yoga can release emotions, that they have found themselves crying during their practice, but since it’s always made me feel relaxed and happy, I was convinced it wouldn’t have that effect on me. Turns out, it is possible to shed a few tears in downward dog without anyone realising! I suspect the release helped though.

I felt a little better on Tuesday – I even risked some mascara (although realised on my drive to work that it may have been a mistake!). After work I headed to the gym for my bike reps. There had been a little snow around but nothing as I drove back and headed towards the gym. By the time I had changed and emerged from the changing room, there was heavy snow falling outside! I added two reps to the set of intervals I completed last week and already felt stronger completing them. After that I went for my first swim in AGES. It was perhaps not my best effort, but by the end of my session I was feeling like I was getting my rhythm back again.

There had to be a bit of a change on Wednesday because of the snow. I was supposed to do some hill reps, but thanks to a bit more snow during the day, Steve told me the underfoot conditions just weren’t good enough for my planned workout but that a short run in the snow would be possible. I got myself all bundled up in winter kit and headed out. It was tough going as the snow seemed to sap all my energy, but I loved it. There’s something invigorating about running in fresh snow that can’t be beaten. It was only as I was running that it crossed my mind I could have gone to the gym and run on the treadmill instead, but I think the fact that I never even considered that as an option tells you how I feel about that!

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IMG_5354Orchestra was cancelled because of the weather so post-run Steve and I were able to eat together then watch a little tv. I’m still finding things like this a little difficult as I’m so used to the cat curling up on my lap as soon as I commit myself to a seat. That’s going to take a bit of getting used to!

Thursday was cold and there was still snow on the ground, but I was really looking forward to my Ashtanga class. I’ve been doing a little yoga most days this month and feel stronger and more focused because of it. It felt so good to work through the Ashtanga poses (the class I go to works through about half of the postures under the guidance of our teacher) and there were no tears so I was obviously feeling a bit more at peace with the events of last weekend.

On Friday I was back at the studio with Steve for a PT session. My focus is on exercises that will benefit my running, principally by improving my strength and mobility. For me this means working around my upper back, my hip mobility and knee drive so this week’s session included the TRX, bar bell and Core Momentum Trainer. Quite tough on my arms so I was feeling it afterwards!

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Guess who jumped in the shot again!

Still in need of cheer, I decided to break out one of the other pairs of leggings I ordered recently. These ones depict my favourite Disney movie (and favourite Disney princess!) so they did make me feel a little better. Clearly the key to cheering me up is new workout leggings – the crazier the better!

IMG_5355As we went to bed that night we were aware that a number of parkruns not too far from us had already been called off so we weren’t sure what the morning would bring. Ours was provisionally on, but it was 50/50 depending on how much the snow/ice froze overnight. Saturday morning was cold (below freezing again at -4C) but thanks to a light dusting of snow the course was runnable and we were able to go ahead on the usual route. Clearly not a day to run hard, so I decided to ditch my earphones, ran at a comfortable pace and enjoyed the experience. Running in the crunchy snow, I’m finding, is something I rather enjoy and it seems that 183 other people agreed with me!

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IMG_5373In the picture below, there are two paths hidden. Our route takes us initially to the right then returns from the left. No sign of any path right now!

IMG_5434I felt invigorated after the run, as well as pleasantly surprised at my time. Once I was more sure of my footing I got progressively faster to finish with the revered Royal Flush Negative Split and, having expected to be around 27 minutes (a 9-ish minute mile feels good in these conditions) I did it a bit quicker.

IMG_5393As usual it was a quick freshen up at home then back out to meet Steve’s brother for our Saturday coffee. The place we like to go to always shuts for a couple of weeks at the start of the year but was open again so it was back to the bacon croissants. I really missed those!

IMG_5433The rest of the day was pretty relaxing. Steve and I headed out to the farm shop for some things in the afternoon and decided to stay for a mint hot chocolate and scone. Both were delicious!

IMG_5435 I also spent the whole day with a fairly persistent earworm…

I awoke fairly early on Sunday, had some breakfast (porridge with honey is my choice right now) and got organised to run. The snow was still there (not enough change in temperature for it to start melting) so rather than worry about my planned approach of every third mile faster, I simply decided to run. I knew that I wanted to re-visit the woodland path I ran on last week as part of my run so I could see it in the snow and getting there by a slightly different route meant that my run would total 10 miles.

IMG_5438I ran to feel and largely ignored my watch as pace was irrelevant. At this point in training a run is a run and I’m convinced that running in the snow is making me stronger as I’m working hard on changeable terrain. As a result, I thoroughly enjoyed my run and would have happily gone further. The woodland path was lovely (no heron this week though) and I passed so many dog walkers and families out enjoying the snow (quite a few with sledges). What a great way to start the day!

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IMG_5439It may have been a strange week, but these snowy runs have really made me feel a bit better as I’ve enjoyed the change of pace and scenery. The cold air has cleared my mind and while I’m still sad and missing my wee cat, the pain is easing.

Another reason for this is the decision I made about how to channel my energies in a positive way moving forward. I got my cat from Cats Protection, a charity which seeks to create a world where every cat is treated with kindness and an understanding of its needs, when she was just 6 weeks old. She had been found living under a shed, presumably abandoned, and I loved her from the start as we quickly formed a tight bond. It breaks my heart to think that there are so many cats who don’t get that opportunity, and while I will likely bring more cats into my life in future, I can’t give a home to all of them. What I can do is raise funds to help improve the lives of cats in the care of Cats Protection. CP will never put a healthy cat down and will do whatever they can to find the cats in their care a loving home. But this, of course, takes money. In 2018 I will be dedicating my miles to the memory of my cat and raising funds for my local Cats Protection branch. It just feels like the right thing to do and I know my cat would approve.

First up is the Stirling marathon, where I will run in a CP top. Having this motivation will help to get me out the door on the coldest days and work towards my next goal. I’d love it if you could support me by making a donation. The equivalent cost of just one cup of coffee could enrich the life of a cat who deserves some love. Thank you.

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‘Your Pace or Mine?’ Follow Up: A Running Record

In my recent review of Lisa Jackson’s Your Pace or Mine, I noted that the final section of the book is given over to the reader to use as a record of their running. I really liked this idea, but since I read the book on my Kindle rather than in paper format, I didn’t have the opportunity to fill my record in. Instead, I thought it might be fun to write up my record book (to date) as a blog post. It’s going to be a long one so put the kettle on!

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Favourite Race Photo
I have a few photos that I like: some from mid-race, some post-race medal shots and some of me leaping around like a loony after a run. But when it comes to actual race photos, my all-time favourite is this one from the Paris Marathon in 2016. I was undertrained thanks to being stopped in my tracks by a stress fracture at the end of 2015, but on race day I was injury-free and determined to get out there and enjoy a self-conducted running tour of my favourite city. I ran it my own way, stopped to take photos and enjoyed a buffet of orange segments, sugar lumps and that pink sports drink they hand out that acts like rocket fuel! When the photographers snapped me in the finishing straight, I looked like I’d had an awesome time, even though I was completely exhausted and my legs were begging for mercy. Sometimes you just have to forget your race goals and go out there to have fun.

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Name
Allison a.k.a The Running Princess

Date When Started Running
I don’t have the exact date for this one as my diaries from that part of my life are not all that detailed. That said, I can remember the day itself clearly. It was the beginning of term in August of 2005. We actually started on my birthday that year and it’s entirely possible that it was actually on my birthday that I went for my first run. My friend who is a PE teacher (and at the time we were car sharing for work as well) took me to the local park and told me to start running at the pace I thought was about right. Predictably, I set off far too fast and didn’t get very far at all. My friend then sorted out my pace and so began weeks of building up the length of time I could run before having a walk break (which had to be shorter then the running time). The first time I ran all the way round the park (about a mile and a  half) without stopping was my first big running milestone.

Age When Started Running
I was just about clinging on to my twenties when I took those first tentative steps, however I was in my early thirties before meeting Steve and venturing beyond the odd slow 5k plod.

Reasons Why I Run
My first ever blog post was all about why I run, but I suppose that was really only about why I started, not why I run now. At first it was all about a personal challenge and wanting to raise funds for charity in memory of my gran; now, running is a habit. In many ways it continues to be a personal challenge as I look to improve my times or push myself in new ways, but even without that challenge I would still want to run and it only takes a spell of injury to remind me of how important running is for clearing my head, helping me to manage stress, releasing endorphins and giving my thoughts some clarity. I love how running makes me feel both mentally and physically as it helps me to keep sane as well as fit. Running makes my body lean and strong. And it also makes me hungry! I love the appetite running gives me and surprising people with exactly how much food I can put away!

IMG_0605Proudest Running Moments
Running has given me lots of opportunities to feel proud of myself, so narrowing it down to just a few was a bit challenging! Here are some of my highlights:

  1. Completing my first ever marathon in Paris in 2010
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  2. Running my first ever sub-2 hour half marathon at Aviemore in 2012
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  3. Topping the podium for the first time ever when I won my age group at the Cool Summer Mornings 5k in 2013
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  4. Running my marathon PB in Paris in 2014
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  5. That time I ran 4 races in one weekend at the Edinburgh Marathon Festival 2015
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  6. Finishing as second female and ninth overall!) in the Caped Crusader 5k in 2016
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‘Dreaming Big’ Goals (Races, Places, Times)
I love this heading. A chance for me to think about the things I would do if there was absolutely nothing to stop me. I would love to run all the marathon majors, something which isn’t an option for me right now as they don’t all fit in with my school holidays. I’ve run London, but would love to go back again with a Good For Age time. Right now that would be sub 3:45, a full 20 minutes faster than my current PB. We are dreaming big though! I would also love to do a Run Disney race. I know there’s a half marathon at Disneyland Paris now, but my ultimate dream would be the Walt Disney World marathon. My sister has done this, but again I’m held back by my school terms. Finally, there’s this year’s goal of some race PBs: if I’m dreaming big then it’s a sub-4 marathon, a sub-1:55 half marathon and a sub-50 10k. My other dream is to run in Central Park. It doesn’t have to be a race, I’d just love the experience of lacing up my trainers and heading off for a run in such a famous location.

Most Memorable Races
I’ve got a lot of wonderful memories from racing, but I think I’m going to pick my “firsts”:

  1. My first ever “proper” race – the Kinross 10k in 2009
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  2. My first ever half marathon – Aviemore in 2009. Memorable because Steve proposed the night before so all I can remember of the race is running along lost in thoughts of wedding dresses, possible venues and the most fun way to tell my parents later that day!
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  3. My first ever marathon – Paris in 2010
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  4. My first ever experience of the Paris Breakfast Run in 2014
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I’d also like to include running around the race circuit at Knockhill for the Graham Clark Memorial race, running over the Forth Road Bridge as part of a 10k race, and, of course, that time I ran a 10k PB (by one second!) at the Great Scottish Run then proudly announced my achievement to one of my running heroes, Paula Radcliffe!
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And although not technically a race, I’m including an honourable mention for parkrun during the I Am Team GB weekend when I got to meet a local Olympian and see a Rio medal up close.

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Favourite Running Motto/Mantra/Race Sign/Motivational Quote
My favourite mantra is “I can, I am, I’m strong” which I came up with for my first marathon. I had picked up an injury and seemed to be surrounded by people telling me that running my marathon was impossible. My mantra was a way to fight back against all the people saying, “you can’t” and remind myself that anything is possible.
I don’t often remember race signs, but I do love seeing all the firemen out in force in Paris with signs slung from their ladders declaring “les pompiers sont avec vous” (the firemen are with you). As for a motivational quote, it has to be this one:

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Funniest Running Moments/Favourite Stories Heard on Runs
Well, there was that time I got charged at by some scary looking cows whilst taking part in a trail race. Unfortunately the race route was such that I then had to run back through the same field on my return. Thankfully the cows had moved on to another part of the field by then!
There was also the time I did the Edinburgh Winter Run around Arthur’s Seat. It was freezing cold and as I came down off the hill it started snowing. I thought this was absolutely hilarious so the official photos showed me laughing like an idiot in the middle of a blizzard!

Favourite Medals/Race T-shirts
Funnily enough, I have a fair few of these! After a bit of thinking, I’ve decided on the medal and finisher’s T-shirt from Paris in 2010 (my first marathon), my London Marathon medal and, as a collection, my 4 Paris Marathon medals and the commemorative T-shirt I bought to mark the 40th edition last year. As a bonus, I’m also going to include a medal from a virtual race – the Platform 9 3/4k from the Hogwarts Running Club, an event I’ve participated in 3 times now.

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Charities Fundraised For and Amounts Raised
Since I began running to raise funds for charity, you’d think I would know exactly what my total is. But I don’t. Back then donations were made by sponsorship form, however I think across the 3 times I’ve run the 5k Race For Life I’ve probably raised around £150 for Cancer Research.

An early example of my signature "medal pose"!

In 2011 I pledged my support to a local charity, PKAVS (Perth & Kinross Association of Voluntary Services). They provide support to a number of different groups, perhaps most especially known for supporting young carers. I was inspired to help as a friend works for the charity and listening to her describing the challenges some people faced made me feel I should do something about it. Working alongside the charity, we set up the idea of “going that extra mile”, with participants joining teams for the Edinburgh Marathon Relay. Most were new to running and Steve put on weekly training sessions (often aided by moi) to help everyone prepare. For me, it was actually an extra 26.2 miles as I committed to running both the London and Edinburgh marathons which were just a few weeks apart. It was my first really big challenge which I completed, with a PB (since beaten) in Edinburgh and a total of £800 raised for a good cause. It was a real family affair as Steve also ran the marathon while both my dad and my sister were in relay teams.

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More recently, Steve and I took on an even bigger challenge when we decided to fundraise for Macmillan Cancer Support following our experiences of seeing family members and others close to us battling cancer. In 2014 I was supposed to run 3 marathons (Paris, Edinburgh and Loch Ness) however injury forced me to withdraw from Loch Ness and replace it with an all-new challenge: cycling! I took to two wheels and completed Cycletta Scotland which had Macmillan as the title sponsor. In 2015 I decided to take care of my unfinished business by running the Paris marathon for Macmillan in order to complete that triple marathon challenge I had set. But, being one who never does things by half, I also decided to go bigger with my cycling and take on the Etape Caledonia. I then rounded off what was basically a spring challenge by taking on the Edinburgh Marathon Festival – 5k and 10k on Saturday then half marathon and final leg of the relay on Sunday (logisitcs meant it wasn’t possible for me to go from the half to the full marathon). With over £5000 raised in 2014 (with massive thanks to my friend Ian and his clients for their support) and a further £1000 in 2015, that made a grand total of over £6000 raised for Macmillan. Phew!

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Biggest Challenges Overcome in Races
Generally speaking, my biggest challenge is injury. I have completed marathons despite being in a great deal of the wrong kind of discomfort (I’m looking at you Lochaber Marathon of Pain!) and also when undertrained as a result of injury. This is why I believe I’ve never truly demonstrated what I’m capable of over 26.2 miles.  But the fact that I’ve completed those races demonstrates that I can overcome challenges, usually with an altered goal.

Races With Best Snacks/Entertainment/Crowd Support
Without a doubt the best snacks have been at US races, particularly the Cool Summer Mornings 5k which often has post-race hot dogs, pretzels, beer, etc despite the fact that these will be consumed around 8am! The Chocolate Sundae Run, while a bit of a boring route, did have the draw of ice cream at the finish line! I also enjoy the on course “buffet” at the Paris Marathon as they lay out raisins, sugar lumps, sliced banana and orange segments. I can say without a word of a lie that those oranges have been the greatest thing I’ve ever tasted and a sugar lump late on the in race provides a fantastic boost to get you moving.
IMG_6102 When it comes to both entertainment and crowd support, the title needs to be shared by both London and Paris. I run with one earphone in so I can tune into my music if I need to without having to faff about, but I have absolutely no recollection at all of actually listening to my playlist in London thanks to all the various places blaring out music along the route, the wall of noise in Canary Wharf and the unwavering crowd support in the final stages along the Embankment when every fibre of your being is screaming to stop but every time you do, someone shouts at you to keep on going. In Paris there has always been phenomenal support from “Les Pompiers” but perhaps not as big a crowd as in London. That all changed in 2016 when, probably in an act of defiance at the atrocities that have taken place in the city in recent times, the streets were lined with supporters cheering the runners on and fighting back against those who commit such terrible acts. Paris also prides itself on the huge number of “animations” (entertainment) along the route. There are an assortment of bands in just about every genre you can think of from rock and pop to a bit of German oompahpah and the always fun samba bands. Many have dancers as well and the lift the entertainment gives the runners is visible.

Favourite Fancy-Dress Outfits
Running in fancy dress is not really my thing, but it has happened:

  1. Taking part in a Santa Run every year
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  2. Wearing my kilt for both the Perth Kilt Run and the Paris Breakfast Run
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3. Celebrating our parkun’s birthday with fancy dress. So far a beach party theme (in November!) and a superhero theme. To be honest, I quite enjoyed running as Supergirl!
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Most Beautiful Places Run In
I live in Scotland so beautiful places to run are often just a few minutes away and I love nothing more in nice weather (it can be a bit miserable and lonely when the weather isn’t so good).
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Away from my standard training runs, the Lochaber Marathon was beautiful, even if I didn’t really enjoy the race thanks to an injury flaring up. And of course, there’s my beloved Paris. What a beautiful city to run in !
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Countries I’ve Run In
Scotland (obviously), England (London Marathon), France (Paris Marathon), USA (training runs and events in Florida every July). I’m really going to have to work on adding to that list!

Cities I’ve Run In
6/7 of the Scottish Cities: Perth, Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling, Inverness
London
Paris
Davenport, Florida
Winter Park, Florida
Tampa, Florida
Clermont, Florida

Marathon Majors Completed
Only London. One day…

Friends I’ve Made Through Running
Running has brought a lot of people into my life, from those I’ve trained for marathons with (connected for life!) to those I consider my “parkrun family”. Running also led me to blogging and there are several people I’ve come into contact with through blogging that I would probably never have met otherwise like Jaynie, Danielle and Kyla. It’s also what ultimately brought me to the Tough Girl Tribe and the fantastic women there. Running is such a fantastically inclusive community and provides a shared experience to base a friendship on or just start a conversation. Just one of the many reasons why I love it.
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Personal Bests (Time/Date) 5k, 10k, 13.1, 26.2, Ultra, Tri
I’ve got these listed on my Race History tab, but here they are again:

5k – 23:14 @ Perth parkrun 2015
10k – 50:14 @ Great Scottish Run 10k 2015 (aka That Time I Met Paula!)
13.1 – 1:56:35 @ Aviemore Highland Half Marathon 2012
26.2 – 4:05:07 @ Schneider Electric Marathon de Paris 2014

Race Record
This is a list that could go on for a while! All my race reports since I started the blog are under the Race Reports tab, but to summarise (and account for those pre-blog years!):

5k x 33 (inc Christmas events)
Parkrun x 66
5 mile x 2
10k x 20
10 mile x 3
Half marathon x 13
Marathon x 8
Other distances (e.g. EMF Relay, CHAS Devil Dash) x 10

Total = 155 events (89 if you don’t count parkrun) – phew!

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And now it’s your turn! Either write a post of your own to create your record book or share some memories in the comments below. I can’t wait to read them…!

Devilishly Good – The CHAS 6.66km Devil Dash (Race Report)

This time of year traditionally marks the start of “fun run” season for me. My goal races for the year are done, I’m building a base ahead of spring marathon training and there are a number of opportunities to have a bit of fun in some less competitive events or events where fancy dress is a requirement. I picked up a flyer ages ago for this Hallowe’en-themed event organised by CHAS (Children’s Hospice Association Scotland), a fantastic children’s charity, but was unsure whether or not I would take part given the situation with my hip. However with some pain-free running under my belt over the past three weeks I decided it was time to tweet how I fared with my usual weekend routine of back-to-back runs, and since Steve was providing the warmup for the CHAS event, I made a last-minute decision to go along and run rather than heading out for a wee solo plod.

I had no idea whether or not I would be able to sign up on the day, but was reluctant to sign up in advance as I wanted to wait and see how I felt after parkrun on the Saturday morning, however checking the event website later on Saturday online entry had closed but it said I could go along on Sunday morning and pay my entry fee. Entries in advance were £12.50 to run, £15 to run and get an event T-shirt. I turned up around 10:15 on Saturday morning to give myself plenty of time to sort out my entry, return to the car with the bits and pieces I didn’t need to run and nip to the toilet before the start. I was greeted by very friendly volunteers and registration was really simple: I just had to fill out the back of a race number with my details and they made note of those on their records while I collected my T-shirt and various devil accoutrements. The on the day entry prices were the same as in advance, which is not always the case, and since it was for a charity I paid the extra £2.50 for the Tshirt.

The race started and finished at the George Duncan athletics track, a familiar location for me, and I knew I would be able to park the car nearby and have use of the arena toilets before the event. All very civilised. Once organised and ready to run (I opted to leave my forked tail and pitchfork in the car, but donned my horns and hoped they would stay put!) I returned to the arena to chat to Steve and take in the atmosphere for a few minutes.

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It being a fun run, there were lots of families and less experienced runners as well as a few more competitive-looking types. Steve had decided not to run, instead running to the track, conducting the warmup and running home so he would get a longer training run, so this was a solo effort for me. I did spot some people I knew though, so was able to chat a bit around the warmup (even when it’s Steve I’m still not a fan of the mass warmup and take part reluctantly) and on the start line.

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Remembering my experience at the Caped Crusader 5k back in July, I decided to start right up front, as did my friend Marianne who is a fantastic short distance runner.

After one or two announcements about the route and the facilities available, we were counted UP to 6.66(!) and we were off.

Very quickly, I found myself one of the front runners. I had no idea what I had as it’s been a few weeks since I ran on consecutive days and I’m in that place where my legs want to go faster than the rest of my body is ready for, but having maintained a really even 8 minutes per mile average at parkrun the day before, I figured something around 8:15 per mile might happen since I would have another mile or so to run. (Side note, I hadn’t entirely settled in my own head what 6.66km would be. I worked it out to be about 4.1 miles, but course measurement at fun runs can be a little rough so figured on anything between 4 and 4.5). But even without knowing exactly how far the course was as a number of miles, I knew the course geographically so at any time knew exactly how far I still had to go.

With each run I’ve been feeling better and better, so given the race environment (and my possibly arrogant feeling that I could place quite far up the field) I went out quite hard to really blow the cobwebs away and ended up with a first mile of 7:45! Looking at my Garmin stats, what followed was a gradual mile-by-mile slowing of my pace, ending up with an 8:03 per mile average. What that doesn’t take into account is the conditions. Having started hard I felt I actually ran fairly consistently around an 8 minute mile, however there was a bit of a headwind in places which inevitably had an effect. Still, given my lack of running at any pace, let alone speedy running lately, I’m pleased with how my body handled it  – I even picked up a few Strava PRs!

The route took us from the track, down a short path which leads to the North Inch where we ran two laps before retracing our steps back to the track to finish. As the field stretched out I reckoned I was the second female (after Marianne) and maybe in around 4th position overall, but with a local club runner and his grandson right behind me so I fully expected them to pass me at some point.

The course was really well marshalled with lots of friendly volunteers and there was a water stop, which I didn’t use, about halfway around the Inch so we passed it twice. By the time I was on my second lap I was catching up with groups who were walking the course (there was something quite amusing about coming up behind lots of people with horns and forked tails!) but they all moved aside to allow the runners to pass. The Inch was also fairly busy with general Sunday dog walkers, cyclists and groups taking the air on a sunny and mild day, but there was still plenty of space to run.

Leaving the Inch for the return to the track, I was passed by the club runner and his grandson (we had been back and forth throughout the race) and with that finish line energy that only kids can produce, they shot away leaving me no hope of catching them once more. I could see them finishing just as I entered the track for the final few metres and enjoyed the springy surface under my feet. I crossed the line and stopped my watch at 32:43, having run a bit beyond 4 miles. I was handed a goody bag and Marianne was waiting with the news that I was indeed second lady. She ran brilliantly and was not only first lady, but second overall, which is fantastic. There are no official results, but I think I was sixth overall, so a top ten finish.

I spent a few minutes chatting to Marianne since I’ve not seen her in a while and then realised that she had a medal. I wasn’t sure if they were for all participants or just the top finishers, so headed off to ask. It turned out that they were originally intended for everyone, but a last minute flurry of entries had left them a little short so they were prioritising the top three finishers and the children, which is fair enough. Marianne pointed out that I was second lady and the volunteer said there might be some left at the end, but I was heading off and didn’t want to wait. She took my details and promised to send one out to me. It would be nice to have a medal, but since I wasn’t expecting one and think it’s important that the children get one, I was quite happy with the situation as it was. It would have been a different story if that was a really serious race and I had signed up well in advance rather than a charity fun run I entered at the last minute!

After a bit more chatting I headed home and had a bit of fun donning all my various devilish accessories for some photos.

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I also dug into my goody bag where I found the usual array of leaflets, a balloon, a pack of inflatable “noise makers”, some sweets and what may very well be the greatest (and most random) thing I’ve ever received in a race goody bag: one of those plastic parachutist toys! I haven’t seen one of those in years but am definitely not too old to have a play with it, quite possibly by chucking it over the bannister and watching it float down the stairs!

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All in all, I had a fantastic morning. It was great to run hard again and see where my fitness is right now; it was lovely to catch up with Marianne; and finishing as second lady was a nice boost to my confidence after some difficult and disappointing weeks as far as my running is concerned. Sometimes turning up to an event like this is just the thing to make you feel good about your running again, while also helping out a deserving charity. Oh, and those devil horns did stay in place the whole time. Impressive!

Race Report – The Glasgow Mo Run 5k

These days November has become synonymous with the mo…ustache, that is! We have become used to seeing men sporting facial hair in the name of fundraising for men’s health and as part of the Movember cause, there are now 17 Mo Runs taking place across the UK and Ireland. Having read some blog posts about previous events, Steve and I decided to sign up. In Scotland we had the choice of either Edinburgh on the Saturday or Glasgow on the Sunday, and since Sunday is a much more convenient day for us to travel to a race, Glasgow it was.

Since we’ve been concentrating on building up a good base and some speed ahead of our marathon training, we opted for the 5k option. Not only would we get the same race goodies, but having checked past results, we felt we had a chance of being quite competitive over this distance. We paid £18 (10% of which goes directly to the Movember Foundation, the rest to the assorted costs of staging the event) and for that were promised a nice route around Glasgow Green, chip timing, instant results, a medal, a headband and snacks/drinks. That seemed fair enough. There were also prizes on offer for the winners and for the best fancy dress, although runners were encouraged to sport a moustache for the event. Unable to grow my own, I opted not to stick or draw one on as I knew a stick-on would annoy me and a drawn on one would either be smeared across my face by the end or, worse, tricky to wash off and with me for days like in that episode of Friends where Ross and Rachel draw on each other’s faces!

Our race was at 10am so we set off sound 7:30 to give us plenty of time to drive through, park, make our way to Glasgow Green and collect our race packs. Rather than park at Glasgow Green, we wanted to park in our usual car park in the centre and walk down as we wanted to call into some shops on our way back. The only issue was that some heavy rain was forecast which could potentially overlap with our race so we had to be prepared with a change of clothes in case we got drenched. This meant a bit of extra preparation, but I still found time to lay out my “flat runner” for a photo…which got infiltrated by a cat!

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It wasn’t overly cold, but a bit chillier than of late so I opted for my Skins 3/4 tights and a very lightweight long-sleeved top. I also packed a light gilet in case of rain.

Once parked, we made a sneaky stop at a well-known coffee establishment for a toilet break and some pre-race caffeine. I was quite pleased to get a seasonal red cup, not realising that these were apparently causing some controversy :-0

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We know our way to Glasgow Green (which was also where we finished the Great Scottish Run 10k last month) so the walk was easy enough and we had no problems finding the race HQ. We collected our race packs then got ourselves in the toilet queue. After that, we simply soaked up the atmosphere for a bit until it was time to hand our bags into the baggage tent.

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Mo Running, brought to you by the 1980s…I didn’t think the headband suited me, hence the face!

Since it was Remembrance Sunday, we observed a 2 minute silence before being led to the start line. Although chip timed, we had been told that placings would be based on gun time and that anyone “in it to win it” should position themselves at the front. So we did just that. I was quite amused by the photographer who leapt out of the way of the charging runners right as we started, but he did manage to get the photo below. Steve looks great with both feet off the ground, while I look like I’m trying to calculate the 37 times table! No idea why I look so serious – I must have had my competitive head on!

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Photo from Mo Running Facebook page

The race itself was one loop of the course around the green (the 10k was two loops). We completed a kind of smaller loop which brought us back around close to the start line again, then an out-and-back section along by the water. Outwards was downhill along a leaf-covered and tree-rooted path which meant I had to watch my footing, then after turning around at the 2 mile point we returned back uphill towards the finish line.

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Since I was racing and wanted to run hard, I probably headed out a bit too fast and had to reign it in a bit. Mile one ticked by in 7:47 (nobody to dodge around) but I was slower over mile two as the wind was starting to get up, I tired a bit and I was cautious of my footing over the squelchy path so clocked in at 8:09.

Throughout the second mile, I had been running a few paces behind another girl and as we turned for the return portion of the course I found myself cruising past her. This was the slightly uphill section and the wind was becoming stronger (a pre-cursor to the forecast rain!) but I ran strongly and stayed ahead of her.

By this time I was pretty much running alone – I couldn’t even see the runners ahead of me – but now had an excellent view of all the runners behind me making their way down the path. With about half a mile to go, the leader of the 10k race began to make his way down the path behind the lead cyclist (that race stated 10 minutes after mine) and I shouted some encouragement.

Still running strong, my watch bleeped to mark the third mile in 7:50 before I turned into the home straight. I had intended a nice sprint finish, but found myself running head first into a pretty strong wind. On the plus side, there were two photographers along that stretch and no runners around me so there was no doubt that I would be photographed – one of the photographers even gave me a few words of encouragement as I passed by.

I crossed the line and stopped my watch at 24:49. Not my fastest 5k, but as fast as I was going to do on the day. I was able to get a printout of my result straight away to confirm it.

I also collected my medal and a bottle of Lucozade before heading over to reclaim my bag. The rain was starting and we wanted to get away quite quickly so as not to get soaked, but not without taking a couple of photos first!

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Once in some warm clothes, it was time for a coffee and a little treat. I picked a spicy mocha and pain aux raisins to tide me over until lunch (some yummy Mexican!)

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Checking the results later on, we were pleased to find that Steve had been 6th overall and I had been 20th out of a field of 230 5k runners. I was also 4th out of 129 female runners. Given that the top 3 all ran faster than my 5k PB, I’m really pleased with that 🙂

Overall, this was a great event. It was well organised with loads of friendly staff. I particularly remember the marshals along the route being brilliant in their encouragement, especially the one positioned at the turn into the home straight. For me, this was £18 well spent for a nice race which supports a charity and gave us a couple of nice race goodies. If you haven’t tried a Mo Run, then I would definitely recommend checking them out next November.

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An Overwhelming October

After some tough times in August and September, October offered much more positivity and I found myself rather busy. I began the month by volunteering at parkrun in order to save my legs to race in the Great Scottish Run 10k the following day. That particular Saturday was International Parkrun Day, a day to celebrate the 11th anniversary of the very first parkrun. I was barcode scanning and enjoyed congratulating runners as they finished.

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If you’ve been reading the blog recently then you will already know how much I enjoyed the Great Scottish Run, the highlight for me being the chance to meet Paula Radcliffe. Paula has long been a hero of mine and that experience even overshadowed my new PB! We also enjoyed catching up with our friends from Macmillan and posing for some photos:

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And I was greatly amused by this tweet from Traffic Scotland with a shot from the traffic cameras on the Kingston Bridge!

In the days after GSR I received the not unexpected news that I had not been successful in the London Marathon ballot. I have to say that on this occasion I wasn’t really disappointed as I already have my entry for Paris 2016 sorted out. I would, however, really like to run London again in the future so continue to enter the ballot in the hopes that sheer persistence will eventually pay off. On the plus side, my Spiderman magazine was accompanied by this year’s “consolation prize”, a long-sleeved running top. I rather liked the one I got last year and have worn it quite a lot to go to and from PT sessions, etc. This one looks to be pretty good too, although I’ve not had a chance to wear it yet.

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But for me the real high point of my October was the school trip to Normandy and Paris, an “intimate” gathering of 44 (4 teachers and 40 of our pupils). As always it was a real whirlwind of a visit, but I loved being back in Paris, soaking up the atmosphere and thinking back to my last visit earlier this year for the marathon. By the time I came back I was exhausted, but ready to start focusing on a new training programme to prepare my body for the demands of marathon training proper in the new year.

For those wondering what we get up to on the trip, here’s a bit of a photo dump with some memorable moments:

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I bought these almost as soon as I arrived. When in France…!

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This tribute to WW2 soldiers was not far from our accommodation in Normandy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stunning views from above Arromanches looking down to Gold beach.

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Omaha beach below the American cemetery. Very sobering to think of the events which unfolded there on D-Day.

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A simple but poignant memorial at the American cemetery

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I never tire of taking photos of the Eiffel Tower!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A beautiful sky above the Sacré Cœur

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Some unexpected hill sprints in Montmartre!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A visit to the famous Shakespeare and Co bookshop. If you’re a bookworm then I highly recommend it!

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A return visit to Bertie’s Cupcakery. Amazing cupcakes and another of my recommendations near Notre Dame

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Arc de Triomphe by night (there are A LOT of stairs to get to the top!)

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The Eiffel Tower all lit up and sparkling. I love seeing it like this

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, we crammed in rather a lot, so by the time I got back I needed a bit of rest. However that didn’t stop me heading to parkrun that weekend. Not only did I have an October virtual 5k time to run, but it was Perth’s 100th event and there was no way I was going to miss out. Having run almost exclusively in shorts/summer kit until I went away, it was a real shock to wake up to a decidedly wintery day and find myself hunting for winter kit. I still throughly enjoyed the event, took it easy since I was tired and enjoyed a bit of cake at the end. Perfect!

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Looking cold and tired before the run!

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My October medal

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Amazing cake – and it tasted fab too! Pic from Perth parkrun Facebook page.

Whilst in Paris, I also discovered that I had won a twitter competition and my prize was an Absolute 360 tech T-shirt. I hadn’t come across the brand before, but a few people seem to be trying out their compression kit and I certainly found my T-shirt (not compression) really comfortable to run in:

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The remaining highlights of October included Back to the Future Day, in which I got completely over-excited, geeked out over my favourite film and earned a really cool virtual race medal!

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And finishing as I began, with parkrun. It was Hallowe’en and there were lots of decorations and things set up around town as part of the celebrations. Typically, I couldn’t resist a photo!

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So there you have it – parkrun, Paris and prizes! Looking back, it was a really busy month, but I also used my October break from school to have a bit of downtime from my training. I think it’s important to have a proper break from training a couple of times a year in order to allow the body to recover and hopefully avoid overtraining/injury. I had a couple of weeks off in the spring after the marathon, and even though my autumn races were shorter, I wanted to recharge my batteries ready to begin a new cycle of training. Now I’m back at work I’m settling into the routine of my new training programme and looking forward to building up a solid base of strength and fitness over the remaining weeks of 2015. I can’t wait!

How was your October?
What are your plans/goals for the remainder of the year?

Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads!

Ok, that’s a bit of a lie. As a road runner, I definitely need roads, however today is Back to the Future Day and when else will I get the opportunity to use that line from the film as my post title?

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But you might be wondering why on earth I’m writing about a film on what is ostensibly a running blog. The answer is simple. Quite apart form this being my absolute all-time favourite film, today I was even able to make my run Back to the Future themed thanks to a virtual race I found out about. Hosted by Virtual Nerd Runs, the event raised funds for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Theoretically it could be run at any time, but of course most wanted to run on October 21st 2015, aka Back to the Future Day (the day Marty and the Doc travelled to in Back to the Future 2).

There was also no particular distance required, leaving me free to come up with my own ideas. I played around with all the significant numbers from the films: the date, 88mph, etc but in the end decided to stick to a short run since I’ve been feeling a little congested this week. So in honour of 21/10/15, I ran for 21 minutes and 10 seconds. Had I been feeling healthier, I would probably have done either 8.8 miles or 8.8km, but in reality the distance didn’t matter. What did matter, was the fact that so many people were donating to charity (and the fantastic medal I had waiting for me after my slightly geeky run!).

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Time circuits on!

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My race bib

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Really cool medal!

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And yes, I listened to the film soundtrack while I ran – if you’re going to be a geek, best to go all in! Turns out, it’s pretty good to run to…

To round off my day, I’ll be going to the cinema with my sister to see a triple bill of Back to the Future films. This is pretty exciting for me as I’ve had so few opportunities to see them on the big screen. I was a little too young when the first film was released and saw it a year or so later when I was given a VHS copy (which I proceeded to wear out!). I remember being disappointed that the “to be continued” at the end of the film was intended as joke and there were no sequels, so when the further films were released I was absolutely beside myself and can remember going to the cinema to see them with my family. Apart from that, all my viewings have been at home (I have a VHS boxset and two – yes, two! – DVD boxsets. The films are on TV quite a lot too!) except for one opportunity to see the original film at the cinema around 5 years ago when it was the 25th anniversary.

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Even when I travel, I tend to have the first film loaded on my iPad so I always have something to watch, despite the fact that I probably have the script memorised! And would you believe, I even have a T-shirt (a gift from my sister) which combines my love of BTTF with my love of running? Of course I do!

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So there you go, my geek cards are on the table. While some may be excited about the forthcoming Star Wars film, it’s all about Back to the Future for me – a certain online retailer has even “forced” me to buy another DVD boxset since there’s a new 30th anniversary edition! The only downside to today was that I had to lace up my own trainers and had no hoverboard to play with after my run…yet! At least I know I’m not the only one getting a bit carried away today:

What’s your all-time favourite film?
Are you marking Back to the Future Day in any way?
Ever take part in any virtual races?

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At Universal, Florida in 2013. I couldn’t resist!

A Super(ish) September

Although September began on a sad note with the funeral of Steve’s mum, having that closure meant that we both felt it was time to get back to a normal routine and return to regular training – after all, we had a half marathon fast approaching! I still had some lingering remnants of a cold, but I was certainly able to run (so long as I carried a few tissues!). The weather remained very pleasant for the time of year and I enjoyed sticking to running in my summer kit for a bit longer:

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I also had a bit of virtual running to do. First up, a September virtual 5k which I completed at parkrun:

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And then, something very exciting. I recently discovered the Hogwarts Running Club, which can be “joined” simply by liking their Facebook page. They organise six virtual races every year with a Harry Potter theme, and I found myself particularly taken with the Platform 9 3/4 km event. I paid my registration fee and downloaded my custom race bib:

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The race could be completed at any time, however participants were encouraged to run on the 1st of September as that was the date Harry returned to Hogwarts. I wasn’t able to run that day, so my trip on the Hogwarts Express was delayed by a week, but it was definitely worth it for this really cool medal depicting Harry and Ron’s eventful journey in the 2nd book:

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Front

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Back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The medal actually arrived on the same day as the Scottish Half Marathon, a race I didn’t particularly enjoy for a variety of reasons, so arriving home to find a medal waiting for me was great. It’s a fairly hefty bit of bling, and holds its own nicely next to the frankly huge medal I got from the half marathon:

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Since the half marathon took place on a Saturday (highly unusual!), the following day afforded us a rare Sunday off, so we decided to make the most of it by heading out for breakfast – yum!

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A half marathon the day before meant we had earned this!

Then that evening we headed to Perth Concert Hall to see Twin Atlantic, a band from Glasgow, who were playing as part of the 10th anniversary of the venue. They’re not a band I know terribly well, but the show was great. I thought they were talented musicians and they played my favourite song of theirs as part of the encore, which made me happy.

Another highlight of September was the annual Macmillan fundraiser, the world’s biggest coffee morning, which my school has supported for several years. I’m not much of a baker so my contribution was some bits and pieces from my Macmillan fundraising kit (which somehow resulted in me standing in the home economics department ironing sashes the night before the event!), but the pupils put on an impressive spread and raised over £500 for the charity simply through selling tea, coffee and cakes to the staff. A fantastic effort!

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But I think my September highlight came the following Saturday. I took a few days off running after the half marathon in order to allow my body to recover, so parkrun was my first run in a week. As I walked over to the start, it struck me that conditions were perfect for a good time – cool and still. I had been posting some decent times recently and began to wonder if this was the day to try and shave a few more seconds off my 23:49 PB. I decided that I would go out hard, try to hold on and see what happened. If I got a PB, great; if not, I would know I had given it my best shot.

I got myself in a good starting position and set off at a fairly brisk pace. Glancing at my Garmin, I really wasn’t sure I could maintain it, but felt reasonably comfortable so got myself “locked in” to the pace and kept going.

Mile 1 ticked by in 7:28 (7:28?!?)

Mile 2 over the grass was a steady 7:32.

Mile 3, tiring somewhat, I clocked 7:36. My previous PB was based on a 7:40ish average so all I had to do was keep going to the line and a new PB was mine…

And this was when it got really difficult. I could see the finish line and my natural instinct was to speed up, but I had finally found my maximum effort level, so there was nothing else left. Despite slowing in the last 100m or so, I took a whopping 35 seconds off my PB, setting a new best of 23:14 (an average pace of 7:32 per mile). I couldn’t believe it! Actually I really wanted a lie down and had to have a nap that afternoon to recover! I still can’t believe that my legs moved at that pace – I never think of myself as someone who can put in mile splits like that. Not only that, but I somehow managed to claim 3rd female overall in the field that day – a triumph indeed!

The following day, conscious that I’d asked a lot of my body, I opted for an easy-paced recovery run and enjoyed the sunshine by the river rather than churning out “junk” miles and risking injury.

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Sadly, after the joy of a new PB, the fates weren’t quite done with me and September finished on a sour note with the news that my dad had been involved in a car accident. Thankfully there were no serious injuries, but he has done some damage to his knee so he’ll be in a knee brace and using crutches for a while, meaning golf and running are both firmly off the agenda. He’s also got loads of bruises from his seatbelt and airbag and, unfortunately, his car is beyond repair so there’s a lot of insurance stuff to sort out. And none of it was his fault – another driver shot out of a side road right into him as he was driving home from a round of golf. It just goes to show how things can change in the blink of an eye. As you can imagine, we all got a real shock, especially when he had to be taken to hospital to be checked over, and it’s awful seeing him unable to do the things he loves. Fingers crossed for a speedy recovery or I can predict him getting rather grumpy!

Hopefully, that’s me done with misfortune for a while – I’m certainly ready for some more positive experiences and October looks set to bring some fun. Watch this space…

How was your September?
Any exciting plans for October?

Race Report – Great Scottish Run 10k 2015

I kept this one under the radar as far as my blog was concerned, but the truth is I was REALLY excited to go and race 10k in Glasgow this weekend. I’ve always really enjoyed taking part in races in Glasgow and have fond memories of the 2012 Great Scottish Run half marathon (which I finished beaming from ear-to-ear and desperate to take part again), the Great Women’s 10k (which last year afforded a shock PB of 50:15) and the festive high jinks of the Santa Dash. I knew that this year I had my first chance since 2012 to return to the GSR and it’s been in the back of my mind all year to sign up – the only reason I waited was my new policy of not getting carried away and entering loads of races only to get injured and miss out. When I decided to join Steve at the Scottish Half Marathon in Edinburgh in September, I thought that might be it for big autumn races as I didn’t think I’d fancy another half marathon just two weeks later – then I remembered the 10k.

My mind was made up when it was announced that the great Haile Gebrselassie was set to bid farewell to competitive running at the GSR 10k and that 10 lucky runners would have the chance to have a meet and greet with the legend before lining up next to him at the start. Sadly Gebrselassie later had to pull out due to his sister being seriously ill (I had been hopeful of a chance to run with him) but I was still excited about the race and my excitement levels only increased with the news that the official starter for the race would be my running hero/inspiration Paula Radcliffe. She might not have been running, but the chance to see Paula far outweighed (for me) the chance to see Haile!

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I had no idea what sort of shape I was in for 10k, but was sure I could beat my Perth 10k time of 52:36 as I had run with a cold that day. I wasn’t convinced I was in PB shape for the distance (anything under 50:15), but was still curious to know how close I could come so opted to volunteer at parkrun the day before so I would be racing on fresh legs. Even the weather forecast was promising, with cool, dry conditions and not too much sun after some warm days recently. It was all going to come down to my performance on the day. I wasn’t putting myself under pressure, but still wanted to finish knowing I had done my absolute best and with a clear idea of where my fitness is right now.

Organising my kit the night before, I opted for my favourite running skirt (by Under Armour), my pink argyle calf sleeves (these attract a lot of attention and are by Bondi Band), my Macmillan running T-shirt, Nike arm warmers to keep the chill off at the start and my Adidas Glide Boosts (my favourite 10k shoes).

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We were both in the white (front) wave and were due to start running at 9:45am so left Perth just after 8am for the drive to Glasgow. We’ve pretty much got it worked out now so that we know exactly where to park, exactly what toilet options we have in order to avoid long portaloo queues and exactly what we need in our post-race bag so that by the time we reach the start area at George Square we can just squeeze ourselves into our start pen and set off. Just after dropping our bag off at the baggage bus I was really pleased to bump into two former pupils who were also running the race – it might even have been their first. We had a quick chat then went our separate ways for the start pens where the mass warm up was underway (I passed since I can’t bear mass warm ups where there’s approximately one square centimetre of room to work!). We had to wait outside our pen, but once the elite wave set off we were able to move inside and find some room.

While we were waiting, I was delighted to hear that for the first time ever there were more females signed up to races over this weekend than males. Absolutely brilliant news and a trend I’d love to see continue.

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Pre-race selfie

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Start line selfie!

Start line selfie!

As our wave got underway, I kept an eye out for Paula Radcliffe and spotted her cheering runners on by the start. I remember being struck by how amazing she looked and feeling really pleased to have run close by her, then I was crossing the start line and heading towards the St Vincent Street hill which accounts for much of the first mile. I felt that I ran strongly up the hill and was pleased when I heard my name shouted by someone we know who was going to be running the half marathon later in the morning.

For me, all the best bits of the half marathon route feature in the 10k: hitting some streets I ordinarily run on dressed as Santa (it crossed my mind that it seemed a little odd to be in “normal” running gear), running over the Kingston Bridge (technically motorway so normally out of bounds for pedestrians) and crossing the Clyde on the “Squinty Bridge” before finishing on Glasgow Green.

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I was quite surprised when I completed the first mile in 8:07, despite the uphill slog, however this slowed to 8:26 in mile two as there were some gradual inclines and a couple of pinch points as we headed for the Kingston Bridge and I was conscious that I was running a little slower as there wasn’t the same room to pass people. I enjoyed this section of the course, though, so didn’t let it bother me. Once off the bridge, we were into wide streets and my times ticked by quite consistently from there on: 7:53, 7:56, 7:59, 7:59.

I had realised that a PB might actually be on the cards so was working quite hard, but still really enjoying the on-course support with a piper at every kilometre marker as well as some other entertainment such as a local nightclub who had set up around the 4km mark to play upbeat music, and a drumming group further on in the race. There were also plenty of charity cheer squads and it was great to run past 3 Macmillan cheer points to get some encouragement and support.

Around the 9k mark was the Wall of Support, a massive bank of TV screens with personalised messages of support for runners, triggered by their race number as they neared the screen. I knew there would be no message with my name on it as I hadn’t shared the details with anyone and had missed the deadline to leave myself a message, but there were plenty of messages going up for all the runners and it was lovely to see. At this point I knew my chances of a PB were really tight so I was trying to focus all my energies on getting to the finish and seeing all the messages helped.

Suddenly, a sign saying 400m to go, a bend, 200m to go. My watch ticked over into 50 minutes and I couldn’t quite see the finish gantry. I was giving it my all and my body was starting to protest at the effort, but then I saw it. The announcer was calling out names of runners approaching the line and I heard my name called out, giving me a final boost to sprint for the line – I was running so hard I even forgot to smile for the official photographers so those photos will no doubt be particularly “special”.

As I stopped my watch, I glanced down to see that it read 50:14. Could I actually have a PB? It was a close call, however I had signed up for a free text message with my time and sure enough, it was confirmed as 50:14. A PB by just one second, but a PB nonetheless! I was momentarily disappointed that I hadn’t managed a sub-50, but knew I couldn’t have done any more and was thrilled to be back to what I considered the peak form I had after my marathon training cycle last year (after which I promptly got injured!). It was interesting to note that it was mile 2 which really prevented the PB, not a later mile, so consistent 8 minute miles for the whole thing will get me there – a target for 2016!

I made my way through the finish chute collecting a bottle of water and my goody bag: medal, cotton t-shirt (there was the opportunity to buy a tech t-shirt at sign-up), sports drink, food, space blanket and assorted leaflets.

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Steve was waiting for me and together we went over to catch up with our friends from Macmillan, where we had  a cup of tea and something to eat before getting some photos.

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Being childish with an orange segment!

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Medal selfie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving the Macmillan tent to collect our bag, we discovered there were also a number of official photo ops for us to enjoy.

A race backdrop:

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An official time clock (like when the elites set a world record – a great way to mark a PB!):

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And a big screen recreation of the Wall of Support. We didn’t do this one as there was a massive queue, but I’ve later discovered that by putting my race number in on the website, I can get an image of “my” wall:

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But far and away the most exciting photo op was this one:

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And of course, I was straight in the queue. There was no way I was going to miss the chance to meet Paula Radcliffe! I was more excited about this than my new PB, and couldn’t understand the people who would approach the queue, ask what it was for then shrug and look disinterested when they were told. Why would they not want to meet a world record holder and inspiring runner? I was like a little fan girl and hoping I wouldn’t embarrass myself!

When my turn came, Paula asked me how I had got on in the race and, in my excitement, I merrily told her about my new PB (I’m sure that was the highlight of her day 😉 ) and she graciously congratulated me before signing my race number and posing for a photo.

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After this, we decided to head off as I was yapping away like I’d had several coffees, floating along on the high of a good run and meeting a legend. An absolutely fantastic experience!

So once more Glasgow did not disappoint, in fact on this occasion it presented me with one of my greatest race highlights ever! If you’re considering entering one of the GSR races next year, then I highly recommend it. Both the start and finish are really well organised with plenty of signage to help you to be in the right place at the right time, there are loads of announcements, the course is great, the support vocal and there’s a decent medal and goody bag. Even without the chance to meet a running legend it’s a brilliant day out. Maybe I’ll see you there next year!

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A Mad May

What a month! April may have been awesome, but May did its very best to maintain those high standards as I got back into some “proper” training, took on some big challenges and made a pretty serious addition to my bling collection in a month of utter madness!

The month began in style with a trip to the SSE Hydro in Glasgow to see Take That live. The “boys” always put on a fantastic show and I thoroughly enjoyed myself singing along to all my favourite songs!

My concert experience left me on a high as I found myself up sharp the next day and on my way to Pitcairngreen for the 46 mile Tayside Challenge. This was my longest bike ride to date and I was glad to have the company of my friend Debbie, a much more experienced cyclist than me, as we pedalled (mainly uphill it seemed!) in strong winds, rain and, at times, hail. Let’s just say it was a “character building” experience. There was a brilliant cake stop at half way though – very civilised – and it was a very well organised event overall. I would definitely recommend it to you.

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I used this event as my May virtual race so a few days later a medal popped through the letterbox for me. Brilliant!

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May Medal #1

A week later, I was back in the saddle again for The Big One aka the Etape Caledonia. I was so intimidated by the idea of an 81 mile cycle that I didn’t really mention to anyone that I was doing it. I actually felt fairly confident I could cover the distance, given plenty of time, but was conscious of the infamous “sweep bus” and was quite convinced I would end up on the back of it before long. Nobody was more surprised than me when I actually completed the event, especially given the particularly apocalyptic weather Mother Nature blessed us with that day. It’s not a distance I’m in a hurry to cycle again, and even now I can hardly believe it was me who did it (I actually keep looking at the photos to confirm it!) but that hasn’t stopped me feeling particularly hardcore for taking on such a huge (for me) challenge!

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#ThisGirlCan

 

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May Medal #2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cycling events done, it was time to turn my attention back to running as I had just two weeks to prepare for the final part of my 2015 spring challenge. My previously injured quad muscle was feeling ready to go, and after a week of much more gentle exercise to allow my body to recover from the Etape, I was lacing up my trainers once more. I’d be lying if I said it was easy, because it wasn’t. Cycling had maintained my fitness, but I was lacking conditioning in my legs for running and while I had no problems from my quad muscle (I had done A LOT of strength work there), I did have all the usual issues of tight calves and some tension around the top of my quad to keep on top of as I re-introduced running into my training. It was great to be running again, but I mourned the loss of the form I had earlier in the year.

Yet somehow, it all worked out. The niggles miraculously vanished as race weekend rolled around, and despite my own misgivings about being able to get up and run a half marathon with the 10k and 5k already in my legs, I felt pretty good throughout. Not bad given the less-than-ideal training time.

Completing 4 races in 2 days (10k, 5k, half marathon and Hairy Haggis Team Relay) was an unbelievable experience. I truly didn’t know what to expect, but it turned out to be a very special weekend. I had fantastic support from the team at Macmillan who looked after me throughout (and made me feel like a bit of a celebrity) and there was something very satisfying about walking around with 4 medals around my neck! For me, this was probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I will no doubt run in the EMF again, but to take on this particular challenge again would probably be a mistake as it just wouldn’t be the same. I want to remember my Epic EMF Extravaganza for the special experience it was: an incredible way to round off my challenge and a fabulous way to finish May with a bang!

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May Medals #3 – #6!

What a month indeed! A month I’m incredibly proud of and which is sure to be a highlight of my year.

How was your May? Did you take part in any events?
What are you most proud of?

 

Race Report – EMF Day 2 (Half Marathon and Hairy Haggis Team Relay)

In all honesty, I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel when I woke up on the Sunday morning of the Edinburgh Marathon Festival. I was excited about tackling the challenge ahead, but at the same time had no idea how my body would have stood up to running 10k and 5k the day before. I half expected my legs to have seized up or for a niggle to have resurfaced around my left quad. Yet somehow, I felt good. Despite having only had a fortnight of focused training for these events thanks to spending much of my post-Paris training time on my bike to prepare for the Tayside Challenge and Etape Caledonia, my body had decided that it was ready to go and wasn’t going to hold me back from accomplishing what I set out to do. So after breakfast at our hotel it was time for one last kit check before heading for the start line.

As it happens, sorting out my kit was the most complicated part of my plans as what I was planning was outside of what the race infrastructure would support. To avoid getting caught up collecting a bag after the half marathon, I gave a “drop bag” to the Macmillan team on Saturday so that I would have quick access to everything I needed before heading out to the relay changeover. I also decided to use a hydration pack and carry a few essentials with me throughout the day. This became even more important on the eve of the race when we received the following information from race organisers:

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Just what we all needed to hear!

I was comfortable enough with the kit I had decided to wear, but had to make sure I would have access to warm and dry clothes at various points and a change of kit in case I was completely soaked, so I was glad I had prepared that in advance. Some might say I overpacked, but I prefer to think of myself as “prepared for any eventuality”!

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A lot greyer on the start line than the day before, and not just because it was before 8am!

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Last time I wore an emergency pre-race poncho was in Edinburgh last year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was by myself at the start line as the race has 2 start areas and Steve was at the other one, for the speedier runners, while I was at the the front of the second start. We were delayed for a few minutes while the first group got safely underway in the wet conditions (I used the time for one last toilet stop!) and then we were off.

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The route covers the first part of the marathon route, with a turnaround at mile 11 to head back to the finish. For me, this meant it was pretty familiar, having previously run the marathon in 2011 and 2014 as well as the relay in 2010 and 2013. I tend to enjoy the first few miles as there is a downhill start before a run through Holyrood Park and some up and down sections by Leith Links towards Portobello Prom. The only thing that marred my enjoyment slightly was that I had somehow failed to set up my hydration pack properly and was struggling to get any liquid from it. Coming to the conclusion that I must have twisted or blocked the tube, I realised that I would have to go with Plan B: pick up water at the aid stations and waterboard myself every few miles! I also had a brief stop at the 5k water station to remove my waterproof jacket as the predicted rain had failed to materialise and even though it was an extremely lightweight jacket, I was beginning to bake!

Not being in any real hurry time-wise (my prediction was around 2:04), I opted to take walk breaks to take my gels at 5 miles and 10 miles. I wasn’t even too bothered about being overtaken by a carrot and a banana! Instead, I enjoyed the experience, focusing once more on just the race I was in and looking out for the Macmillan cheer squads so I could wave and get shouts of encouragement (nothing like having your name on your race top to make you feel like a rock star!).

A slightly disheartening section for the unprepared comes around mile 9 when the route passes close to the finish area, but instead of peeling off towards Pinkie School and the finish line, we carry on past Musselburgh Racecourse and are treated to the view of the faster runners heading back through their final miles, knowing that we have another couple of miles before we hit the turnaround and join them. I chose to run alongside the boundary line so I could watch out for Steve and any other runners I knew. When I spotted Steve coming towards me, I starting waving like a lunatic and got a quick high five before he ran on and I plodded my way towards the turn which seemed to be taking AGES to materialise.

After the turn it was was a straight run to the finish. Running by the racecourse again is one of the best bits as the crowds are starting to grow, especially right before the entrance to the playing fields which are used as the finish area, and runners get so many shouts and cheers that I can’t help but smile. It also gives an extra boost as we head into the finishing straight.

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Official event photo – 3rd race done!

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Official event photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And despite my stop to remove my jacket, I finished bang on my predicted time with 2:04:18!

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3 out of 4

After crossing the line I joined a queue to collect yet another goody bag, medal and bottle of water before having my photo taken with my medal. I then made my way over to the Macmillan tent to find my drop bag. And this was when things took a surprising turn.

Steve was there.

I had been assuming that he would be back in Edinburgh ready to start the marathon, but it turned out that he had decided to end his challenge after the half marathon and not attempt the full marathon this time. He has written his own post detailing what prompted that decision, and I recommend giving it a read as I’m very proud of what he has achieved over the last couple of years.

He had been waiting for me as Lesley Martin, one of the photographers, was going to take some pictures of us both before I headed off to my relay changeover point. I’m really grateful to her for the fantastic photos she sent us:

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Photo – Lesley Martin

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Photo – Lesley Martin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think the one with the foam hand is one of my favourite post-race photos ever!

I wanted to be away from the finish area by about 11 as I had to walk to my relay changeover point (there was no time for getting back to the centre of Edinburgh to catch one of the relay buses, so it was all down to me). I knew I had plenty of time, but preferred to wait at the changeover than be in a rush, so I had a recovery shake, grabbed some food to take with me, changed into a dry top and fresh socks, put some warm layers on and set off clutching a cup of tea. The best thing was, having expected a wet and lonely trek out to the changeover, it was now dry and I had company in the form of Steve who had decided to go with me.

We followed the route of the marathon, cheering on runners and catching a glimpse of the leaders heading back towards the finish. We even took the chance to stop for a selfie with everyone’s favourite picturesque power station at Cockenzie – always the highlight of the Edinburgh Marathon :-0

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Although only the marathon route goes past it, you can see the power station in EVERY race of the EMF. Trust me!

Shortly before we got to the changeover point, the 2nd leg runner from my team ran past us and a few minutes later we joined her at Port Seton. The wind was definitely much stronger by this point, so we found some shelter behind a tent to pass the time. There was around an hour to wait until the leg 3 runner finished, and it was time for me to get underway for one last time.

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By now, I knew that I would be running straight into a hurricane headwind and that the first part of my section would be slightly uphill. Not so easy on weary legs and I was conscious that most of the runners around me had run almost 22 miles to get to this point. I remembered being in a similar situation in 2011 and knew the struggle they were facing. For me, it was strange: ordinarily in the later stages of the relay I feel a little guilty about running on fresh legs when surrounded by marathoners, yet on this occasion I knew that while fresher than them, my legs still had a lot of miles in them from that weekend. I had also run 22 miles, they were just broken up into sections over the two days!

At first, it was tricky to convince my legs to move yet again, but soon I settled into my pace. It felt like my effort level should have been yielding a much faster pace, but that was more down to the wind than my weary legs. Besides, it was “only” 4.4 miles. For me, those miles just felt like something I had to do to complete my challenge. My team had done a fantastic job of setting me up to finish the event, and now I was “bringing it home”. I got my head down and ploughed on, enjoying the Macmillan cheer point for the last time and soon enough I was back on familiar territory with the racecourse alongside me and the now bigger crowds making me feel like even more of a rock star with their shouts and cheers.

Turning onto the finishing straight felt amazing. I may not have run a full marathon to get there (this time), but I had taken on a big challenge, a challenge I wasn’t sure my body would be up to, and I had done it. Grinning from ear to ear and four fingers aloft to signify my fourth race, I crossed the line for the final time that weekend.

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Official event photo – 4th (and final) race done!

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Once more I collected a medal, goody bag and bottle of water. I then made my way over to the official photo area determined to have a photo taken with my bling haul from the weekend. The photographer looked a little stunned as I jingled over and posed with my 4 medals, but it was totally worth it!

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Official event photo

I sent messages to the others who were on their way back to join me, and made my way over to the Macmillan tent for a hard-earned massage. I love the fact that runners are (quite literally) given the red carpet treatment at the end of the event and I was met by the charity cheerleaders to welcome me in:

Photo – Rob Basson @ Macmillan

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Photo – Rob Basson @ Macmillan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The massage was fantastic, and it turned out my legs were in pretty decent shape – no knots or niggly bits. The massage therapist was quite surprised (as was I!) and kept making me repeat what I had done over the weekend!

When Steve arrived, it was time for a couple more photos then some food as by this point I was starving.

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Challenge completed!

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As one of the official EMF video bloggers, Steve was invited to the VIP tent and had managed to get me added to the list as well. Since we were getting a lift home with my relay team, we didn’t want to spend too long hanging around at the finish, but did make a point of going over to the VIP tent to say hello. It was right by the finish line so a great photo opportunity. They also had some food left, including a giant bowl of tiramisu. Well, it would be rude not to and I’d run a long way!

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All in all, it was an amazing weekend, and not something that could be easily bettered. My strategy of focusing on the race I was in and not thinking about the ones I’d already run or had still to run really worked to keep me running well in each event, it was only later that night when I was enjoying a nice bath that the magnitude of what I had done really hit me. I was reading through all the messages we had received on social media and reflecting on the weekend and just burst into tears. I couldn’t stop crying and there was no real reason for the tears. I suspect a combination of emotion and exhaustion :-0

My EMF Extravaganza was certainly a great way to finish my spring challenge with a bang. I still can’t believe that in the space of two months I ran a marathon, completed an epic cycling event and then took on 4 races in 2 days at the EMF. I think I might be mad (and definitely think it’s time for a rest!).

I’ve had mixed fortunes in Edinburgh over the years, but this year was definitely a highlight. Edinburgh, I thank you.

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I ran 4 races in 2 days partly because I’m crazy, but mainly to raise valuable funds to help Macmillan support those affected by cancer. You can still donate to my page by clicking on the link below and helping me to make a difference. Thank you.

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