Week In Review – The Corona Chronicles Part 79

At this point we were deep into the new term: far enough in to be noticing how tired we were all getting, but not yet close enough to glimpse the October break! Head down and dig in time. Work aside, my running was consistent and there was some fun in store at the end of the week:

Monday – 4.1 miles + Hatha yoga via Zoom
Tuesday – 5 miles
Wednesday – 5 miles
Thursday – 4.25 miles + home yoga
Friday – 4 miles + garden workout + home yoga
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 10 miles

Monday morning was chilly and damp. It was the strangest thing as by our house it was actually clear so I headed out in my short-sleeved top, but there was this one low cloud that was sitting right across the town. As I ran by the river my arms felt chilly and I was very aware of the moisture in the air. It did look beautiful, but I definitely felt the changing season as by the time I got home my hands were cold and numb, making any tasks involving fine motor skills pretty tricky until I warmed up!

Conditions were much better on the Tuesday morning. A solid 5 miles before work and still a bit of daylight for me at the end. But as the day wore on I realised I was feeling really tired so opted to head home a little sharper than normal to indulge in a quick nap. Sometimes it’s the only thing to do!

The Wednesday morning was a Together Run day. Sadly I had neglected to charge my Garmin the day before (chalk that one up to being so tired) and it died about half way round so I switched over to the Strava app instead. A run in two parts!

Wednesday was a pretty long day as we had a parents’ evening. We still can’t have these in the “traditional” format so instead we trialled using a video system to allow us to have conversations around progress. Although I was a little wary, I ended up really liking it as the system automatically pulls up each meeting and ends them on time so we can’t over-run. That was definitely a plus point!

Also part of my Wednesday was finishing up another book. This one is a YA novel and loads of my pupils have been reading it so a colleague’s daughter lent me her copy so I could give it a go. Although there were a couple of things that bothered me from an adult perspective, it was a great story and did accurately capture how teenagers would likely respond in a variety of situations.

Unsurprisingly, I felt pretty tired on the Thursday morning so went for a slightly shorter run than normal. I did have these beautiful views to soothe my soul though:

During the course of the day I was actually able to get my flu jab done at school. Teachers are on the priority list for these this year, and although I’ve had a flu jab every winter since I got the flu (a hideous experience I’m in no hurry to repeat) the good news for me was that this meant I didn’t have to pay to have it done privately this year. With this added to my Covid jabs, I’m doing everything I can to help make my immune system as robust as possible as we head into the winter.

But a combination of a vaccination plus a late work night on the Wednesday meant I was pretty exhausted so made a point of heading home pretty quickly at the end of the school day so I could give myself a bit of a break and recharge.

The Friday began with a bit of a rude awakening. I woke up hearing “voices” coming from somewhere downstairs. At first I thought maybe somebody outside, for instance a neighbour heading out really early, but moving onto the landing I knew it was coming from inside our house. Too loud for an intruder, but a confusing moment until Steve and I checked downstairs to find the tv had come on! I have absolutely no idea how this happened. Easy to blame a cat, but the remote control was in a pocket on the arm of a chair so maybe some kind of power surge that tripped the controls? Either way, it was a weird wake-up call and once we had gotten up, the cats thought it must be time to start the day!

Fortunately after that the day improved. It was a pretty windy morning but I got my run done and felt refreshed ready to start the day. I can tell you I was pretty relieved to reach the end of the working week given how tiring it had been!

When I got home I did manage to fit in my first (and only) workout of the week and it was nice enough to be in the garden to work with the TRX and ViPR. I’ll miss garden workouts when the changing weather forces us inside again.

The Saturday, however, had a bit of excitement to look forward to. Of course I was going to parkrun, but this time doing something a little different. One of my friends who was a training buddy way back when I did the London marathon (back before I started this blog!) was getting married the following Saturday. She is currently undergoing treatment and asked that rather than presents, donations were made to Macmillan, a charity I have supported extensively in the past. She then came up with the idea of running this parkrun in a wedding dress and creating a  whole “wedding party”. I was one of many bridesmaids and actually borrowed a dress from the blushing bride. I can tell you, I NEVER expected to run wearing a Monsoon evening dress!

The run itself I took pretty easy as I was sticking very much with the others running as part of this group. Probably a good thing as I’m not sure how well I would have been able to breathe if I tried to run faster! It may be my slowest parkrun time to date, but probably the most fun.

Once we were done with “wedding photos” we were all treated to a hot roll from a nearby cafe which we enjoyed al fresco to protect everyone (especially the bride) from potential germs.

After all that excitement, my Sunday run was much calmer. I set off to head for the woodland park but along the way I noticed what looked like swans on the river close to the opposite bank. I don’t think I’ve seen that before so stopped to watch for a moment.

It was really peaceful in the woodland park and I enjoyed my run through noticing the signs of autumn. I actually felt really strong on this run which was a surprise after feeling so tired all week, but I’m definitely not complaining about that!

So one more week done. It was a tough one, but I made it through.

What’s your most fun running memory?
Have you ever run an event in “regular” clothes?

‘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!

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.

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!

Proudest 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
  2. Running my first ever sub-2 hour half marathon at Aviemore in 2012
  3. Topping the podium for the first time ever when I won my age group at the Cool Summer Mornings 5k in 2013
  4. Running my marathon PB in Paris in 2014
  5. That time I ran 4 races in one weekend at the Edinburgh Marathon Festival 2015
  6. Finishing as second female and ninth overall!) in the Caped Crusader 5k in 2016

‘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
  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!
  3. My first ever marathon – Paris in 2010
  4. My first ever experience of the Paris Breakfast Run in 2014

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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:

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.


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.

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.

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!

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.

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
  2. Wearing my kilt for both the Perth Kilt Run and the Paris Breakfast Run

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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). 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 !

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.

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!

 

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…!

2015: An End of Year Report

Unbelievably, another year has ticked by and now we are all locked in “Crimbo Limbo”, an odd time of year when we’re not entirely sure what’s going on and most small talk (after the obligatory comments about the weather!) begins with, “did you have a nice Christmas?” then segues seamlessly to, “anything planned for New Year?” ( in case you’re wondering, my answers are “yes, thank you” and “no, just a quiet one”). It’s a time of year when we inevitably begin assessing what we’ve done with our lives over the past 12 months and consider how we might make the next 12 even better, so what better time than now to look back over my challenges from 2015 and think about some of my personal highlights..

 

I suppose it all started this time last year when I set out my challenge for 2015: one marathon (hopefully with a PB), one cycling event, and a frankly crazy weekend of multiple races, all completed by the end of May. After being hampered by injury in the second half of 2014, I didn’t want to plan any further ahead than that, preferring a cautious approach to my race plans, and it paid off – despite a strain to my left quad affecting the final weeks of my marathon training, the only plans I had to change were my expectations of a marathon PB, instead setting out to simply complete the race and have fun. It may not have been my greatest ever marathon finish time, but I finished it, had fun and, in the words of one friend, “became the selfie queen of Paris!”.
Paris Marathon done and part one of my challenge complete √

 

Next up was the cycling event, and with my strained muscle preventing me from running, I got a bit of bonus time in the saddle, even going so far as to enter an extra event as a warm-up the week before. I may sound quite flippant about it all now, but in reality this was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. You may recall that I only began cycling in the summer of 2014 and bought my first road bike that autumn just before my first ever sportive, now here I was contemplating an 81 mile event which went over a mountain! I found the whole thing really daunting – the distance, the climbs, the risk of mechanical failure and the risk of rider failure(!) – yet somehow I managed it. The weather was apocalyptic (up on that mountain was particularly horrendous!) but both my trusty steed Trixie Trek and I held it together to cross the finish line of the Etape Caledonia and complete the second part of the challenge.
Cycling, done! √

 

But I think the real stand-out moment of the year for me has to be the third part of the challenge. Back in 2014 Steve became infamous for his challenge to complete all 4 races of the Edinburgh Marathon Festival, a feat involving lots of running, a very swift half marathon and a willing friend with a motorbike. I was incredibly proud of what he achieved that weekend, but also intrigued. It may have been a long, long way to run, but Steve seemed to really enjoy it and get a real buzz from the experience, so when I was looking for something new to do, my thoughts turned once more to Edinburgh. I knew that my race pace versus the event logistics would rule me out of mimicking Steve’s challenge, but thought a variation might be possible: rather than going from the half marathon to the full marathon (the bit the logistics made impossible for me), what if I then went on to complete a leg of the team relay instead? From that seed of an idea, the concept began to take shape, and at the end of May it all came to fruition: I ran four races in one weekend, I got treated like a rock star by Macmillan, my chosen charity, and do you know what? I loved it all!
Four races, two days, one challenge completed!! √

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In taking on this challenge, I learned that I am even more tenacious than I knew. Funnily enough, the marathon was the “easy” bit (not often one calls a marathon “easy”!), with the cycling posing the greatest challenge and Edinburgh being a journey into the unknown in terms of keeping on going. Yes, there were tough moments, that’s what makes it a challenge, but the pride in knowing I completed it will stay with me forever. Why did I do it? For one thing, I felt I had unfinished business from my 2014 challenge, so decided to extend it for another year. I feel a sense of satisfaction in completing what I set out to do, and am thrilled to have raised a further £1000+ to add to my total from 2014, bringing my grand total raised for Macmillan Cancer Support to over £6000! That’s £6000 that will make a huge difference to the lives of those affected by cancer and I want to thank everyone who has supported me in any way as I completed my challenges over the last two years.

 

But this year wasn’t just about the challenge, I also had a lot of fun: I discovered the joy of parkrun; I continued to dabble in learning the front crawl; I completed both the Jantastic and 5×50 challenges; I had a fantastic trip to Florida, where I even won running prizes; I ran lots of real and virtual races (as well as creating my own!); I won some competitions; I tried out some new training ideas; and there was that time I met Paula Radcliffe, a real highlight!

 

Oh yeah, and there was A LOT of bling!

Another mini challenge I set for myself was to complete at least one Virtual Runner UK event per month. With a final haul of 14 medals, I’d say I definitely achieved that one too!

 

In total I’ve run 648 miles this year, my highest annual mileage to date, and cycled 270, a bit less than last year. I also found a great graphic to represent my total mileage for the year at Veloviewer, which uses your Strava profile to collate the information:

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Apparently. I climbed Everest this year!

All in all, I’ve had a fantastic year. I hope you’ve enjoyed following it all on the blog and will continue to follow my adventures into 2016. Remember you can also connect with my page on Facebook and use the links on the right hand side of my homepage (if you’re viewing this in a browser) to subscribe to the blog and never miss a post. But for now, I wish you all a very happy new year. Here’s to 2016!

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What have been your highlights of 2015?
Do you have any challenges lined up for 2016 and beyond?

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:

 

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.

 

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:

A tribute to WW2 soldiers in Normandy

Arromanches

Omaha beach

A simple but poignant memorial

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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:

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!

 

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!

 

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?

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:

 

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

 

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:

 

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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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!

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.

 

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!

EcSyu9ap_bankscotland

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).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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:

 

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

 

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:

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 18.03.15

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

 

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.

 

 

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!

 

My Top 5 Running Moments

A while back, I read a post by Charlie at The Runner Beans about her top 5 running moments. I thought it was a great idea for a post so today I thought I’d share mine. The only problem is, narrowing it down to just 5 is not easy!

1. Paris
The most obvious place to start is my favourite city in the world. I’ve run the Paris marathon 3 times now and taken part in the Breakfast Run twice. Paris was my first ever marathon back in 2010, but for the purposes of this post I’m going to pick my second bite of the cherry in 2014 as one of my top 5 running moments. That was the year my training went almost perfectly and I ran a big PB, finishing in 4:05:07. I felt like I executed the ideal race as everything aligned and I got the result I wanted. And being in Paris was the icing on the cake!

 

 

2. London
Throughout marathon weekend, London is an amazing place to be – people are friendlier, strangers make conversation and the atmosphere is fantastic. I’ve been lucky enough to experience this as both as supporter (2009 and 2012 when Steve ran) and as a runner. I was fortunate enough to get a place in the 2011 event, so my second marathon was in London. I’ll never forget the roar of the crowd as I ran over Tower Bridge and the feeling of making the final turn towards the finish line of this iconic race. I’d love to do it again one day.

 

3. Aviemore
After Paris and London, I’ll admit Aviemore seems a little incongruous, but allow me to explain. Back in 2009, I made the transition from what I’ll describe as a “fair weather jogger” to a more regular runner. I had only ever run a (very slow) 5k, but that spring I ran my first ever 10k and began to train for my first ever half marathon – something I had previously believed to be impossible. The night before the race I was nervous, and that’s when Steve employed a somewhat novel tactic to take my mind off things – he proposed! As a result, I remember little of the race itself as my head was filled with plans and ideas (mainly dresses to be honest!) and I was on cloud nine. And when I reached the finish line, Steve was waiting to congratulate me. As a result, Aviemore has become a special place for us and we have returned to this race a couple of times since – I even set my current half marathon PB there!

 

4. Edinburgh
I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the Edinburgh marathon: it’s a great course for a PB, but not exactly in Edinburgh; I enjoy the first part of the route, but that out-and-back section along the coast seems never-ending; some of the scenery is quite pleasant, but then there’s the Cockenzie Power Station :-0

Image from Wikipedia

But this year, I had one of the best weekends ever at the Edinburgh Marathon Festival, thanks to my crazy idea of running 4 races in 2 days – 10k and 5k on Saturday, followed by the half marathon and final leg of the marathon relay on Sunday. It wasn’t about running fast and setting PBs, it was about keeping on going through each event and pushing myself a little further. Running past the Macmillan cheer points and hearing people shouting my name made me feel like a rockstar, and there was something pretty satisfying about finishing the weekend with 4 medals around my neck! Without a doubt, a top running moment, and for that reason it’s one I don’t plan to repeat as I know it wouldn’t be the same. I prefer to remember it as the wonderful experience it was.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Christmas Day
For my final choice in my top 5 running moments, I’m going to choose Christmas Day 2014. This was the first time Steve and I had been out for a Christmas Day run, having previously had Christmas as a rest day. On this occasion, however, I was keen to head out for a run together (we normally train separately since we run at such different paces). It was a bright morning and we wore silly Christmas hats for a short run by the river. It was lovely to start the day together, chatting, planning for the year ahead and saying good morning to others who had ventured out to take the air. And unbeknownst to Steve, I had entered us in a virtual event and had medals waiting for us when we got home  – nothing quite like having a medal around your neck while you unwrap presents and sip bucks fizz! We hope to now make that Christmas Day run a tradition. Good thing I kept the hats!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Running has given me so many wonderful moments and incredible memories, that I feel this post only just scratches the surface. Hopefully, there are many more fantastic moments to come.

What are your top 5 running moments? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below or perhaps even read YOUR post…

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.

 

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

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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:

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”!

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.

 

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.

Official race photo

Official race photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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:

Photo – Lesley Martin

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

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.

 

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.

Official race photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

 JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Race Report – EMF Day 1 (10k and 5k)

Oh what an adventure I set up for myself – 4 races in 2 days and one of the biggest logistical challenges I’ve ever faced. The idea had been in my head for so long that I was almost (almost!) blasé about it, yet as the last weekend in May rolled around, I found myself unsure of how my body would hold up given my injury earlier in the year and the consequences for my training. I also found this particular challenge captured the imagination of those around me far more than “simply” running a marathon, despite the fact that my longest single race would “only” be 13.1 miles, and I received far more messages of good luck than I’ve had in a long time. Perhaps they just all thought I was a bit mad. Perhaps they were right…!

An early start was in order on the Saturday morning as the first race took place at 9am. Steve’s brother kindly agreed to drive us through to Edinburgh and we arrived in plenty of time to catch up with our friends at Macmillan who were already set up in the event hub, before dashing off to take our things to the bag drop (first making sure that the bag tag matched the race number I was actually wearing at the time!).

The 10k was up first (numerically, that seems wrong, but it was far preferable to have the shorter of the day’s races second) and the start line was on Queen’s Drive in Holyrood Park. I knew that the first half of the route would take me up and around Arthur’s Seat, just like in the Great Winter Run, but had no idea where the route would take me for the bulk of the second half until it came back into the park for the finish. As I made my way to the start, I realised that I was in the front wave and had my usual panic abut what exactly I’d put as my predicted finish time, but I don’t think there were many waves and mine probably had everyone who predicted less than an hour. I knew I wasn’t on form, but I still expected to be round in roughly 57 minutes (or less if things went well).

Crossing the line, I made sure to set off at a comfortable pace as I knew that within about half a mile I would be climbing. Not only that, but I would have to repeat the climb later on in the 5k! This was my third time running on Arthur’s Seat, so I knew what to expect and just got my head down and got on with it. It was rather “breezy” at the top, but I knew that by the time I was around a mile and a half in, there would be a lovely descent before some mystery miles.

Those mystery miles took me out of Holyrood park in the opposite direction, and it seemed like I ran away from the finish area for ages. The route was pleasant, though, and reasonably flat for the most part as we made our way around Duddingston Loch. We emerged onto a section of main road (which was closed on the side we were using) until we rejoined a path which once formed part of the Innocent Railway and is now one of Edinburgh’s many cycle paths. I noticed a sign as I ran by, but had no time to read about it as I was a little busy!

Soon, I was heading back towards Holyrood and found myself confronted with a bit of a last-minute lung-buster of a hill which Steve had failed to tell me about! Once up the hill, however, I was back on familiar ground and within a minute or two was on the fantastic downhill stretch that allowed me to speed up all the way beyond where we had started and around to the finish, enjoying the shouts of the crowd and very vocal support of the Macmillan cheer squad.

Official race photo

Once over the line, we wound our way down through the car park for Dynamic Earth which made for a great finish area. I was handed my medal, water and goody bag before emerging back into the sun to return to the event hub next door and find Steve so we could take some photos. It was definitely going to be a highly photographed weekend!

Quite quickly I got a text with my time – 55:44 – which was faster than I had expected. The official stats later revealed I was 662nd out of 2366 runners and 29th out of 229 in my category. Not bad given my less-than-perfect training!

And then it was time for some logistics: collect my bag, refill my water bottle, change race number, change bag tag, hand bag in again and nip to the loo. The 5k was due to start at 11am, which meant I had around an hour between finishing one race and starting the next to get myself sorted out. Of course we also bumped into plenty of people we knew so between getting organised and chatting to people, the time passed by really quickly and soon enough we were heading for the 5k start which was just a little further along Queen’s Drive (closer to the hill climb!).

Whilst we waited to start, the announcer was welcoming everybody to the race and getting us hyped up. He asked if anyone had already run the 10k that morning and I raised my hand along with one or two others. I was amused to see a guy in front of me take a look around him first, see some hands up, then raise his own. As I raised my hand, a couple of girls next to me said, “really?” and I nodded. They asked if it was windy at the top and I had to give them the news that yes, it was. We chatted a bit and conversation turned to the following day when the girls were due to run the half marathon. “You’re not running again tomorrow are you?” they asked. And I told them my plan to somewhat incredulous looks. I was getting used to that look!

By this time, we were moving forwards ready to start so I focused instead on the race ahead. My strategy to avoid feeling overwhelmed by it all was a variation of the marathon advice to “run the mile you’re in”, except on this occasion it was “run the race you’re in”. In other words, I had to forget the previous race and give no thought to the races ahead. All I would think about was the 5k I was about to run. I’d felt no discomfort or issues from the leg which had been injured (although recovered, there had been one or two minor niggles over the couple of weeks I had been running again prior to this event), but my legs were a little weary. Still, I knew that it was less than half an hour of effort and that after the halfway point it would be a lovely downhill stretch towards the finish.

So off I set back up the hill again, with my weary legs starting to feel better for the movement. If anything, it was windier than it had been earlier, but I kept on running and soon found myself at the top of the hill again. Time to put my foot down and speed my way to the finish past the same crowds as earlier on.

Official race photo

Back I went through the Dynamic Earth car park for another medal, bottle of water and goody bag. This time, I bumped into a colleague on the way out so had a brief chat before going in search of Steve, who I found chatting to Roary the Lion from the Crohn’s and Colitis charity (it turned out they knew each other!).

 

Whilst chatting to Roary, I received the text with my 5k results – 28:40 and roughly what I had predicted given the incline, wind and the fact it was my second race of the day. Stats-wise I was 216th out of 833 runners and 6th out of 66 in my category. A pretty decent morning of running all things considered.

Running for the day done, we headed back inside the event hub to take photos by the podium with our bling!

 

And we couldn’t resist a bit of messing around with the photo props at the Macmillan stand:

 

 

 

We also stopped for a chat with our friend Mark, an inspiring runner who was the first to “do a Hairy” (run all 4 EMF races) back in 2011 and now works for Maggie’s, another cancer charity.

Having drawn quite enough attention to ourselves(!), it was time to head off to our hotel, clinking like a medal stand at the end of a race. In fact, walking near Waverley Station I heard a little girl turn to her mum and, with reference to my medals, exclaim, “look! She’s got two!” which made me smile. Then shortly after that, one last photo op for the day as we visited a bus stop on Princes Street carrying an advert for the Edinburgh Marathon Festival which featured a rather familiar face:

All that remained was some time to rest, refuel and recover ahead of our Sunday extravaganza….and a look at the goody bags, of course!

Still to come – my roundup of day 2!

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.

 JustGiving - Sponsor me now!