Better late than never…right?!??!

Last (almost) to cross the line and last to tell you about it!!

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Ok, so 4 months ago I did something rather epic but I forgot to tell you all about it!  I had teased you with tales of my training, posted about the miles ran and races completed in preparation for the big one but left you hanging when it came down to the big day!

The fact of the matter is I tried several times to write a report for the London Marathon but every time I logged on to social media or read an article it all felt very…samey, like I had already read the words I was trying to write.  I guess it is kind of inevitable that with so many running the marathon there were going to be loads of blogs, Facebook posts, vlogs, tweets etc. and that our experiences were going to be broadly similar but the fact I couldn’t find something more original to write bugged me and I let time slip by more and more.

So…here is my long, completely original unoriginal report of my first Virgin Money London Marathon!

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Not entirely sure what i am saying here….probably a swear word! #mile 14

My marathon weekend started on the Thursday when a friend and I travelled down by train to that there London.  We had decided to make a bit of a weekend of it (sober obviously).  On the Thursday night we stayed in an Easy Hotel, an experience never to be repeated!  Thankfully on the Friday we transferred to a much nicer hotel in Kensington!

After hearing horror stories of massive queues and long waits at the marathon expo we decided to make our way there on Friday afternoon and I am so glad we did.  The only queuing we did was to get off the platform as they only had one oyster station to tap out on the only station serving the ExCel centre that weekend….great planning!  Once inside the ExCel centre we walked, seemingly for miles, to get to the exhibition hall.  We spotted the cubicle I needed and walked straight up to it, collected my number and moved along to collect the timing chip for the big day.  The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering round the expo trying not to buy too much before heading up west to take in a show I have been wanting to see for years (The Book of Mormon….hilariously funny if a bit close to the knuckle at times!).

Saturday was supposed to be a restful day however we ended going up to the Natural History Museum for the morning then I headed out to see my dad who had travelled down to my Aunt’s house so he could come and see me.  There was a bit of a problem getting my charity vests to me ahead of the race so super-dad came to the rescue and collected them for me.

So then…race day!  I was dreading getting to the start but truth be told there was nothing to worry about.  The trains laid on were on time and we didn’t have to wait at all, we even managed to get seats!  It is amazing that out of so many thousands of runners I managed to see at least 10 people I knew who were running it, plus all of the wonderful people who had come down to support us all.

I get to the start way too early and start to look for loos.  All I could find were female urinals and there was no way I was going there!  I head to my pen and wait nervously to start.  The klaxon goes and we meander down to the start and hear the frantic ‘beep, beep beep’ of the timing mats as we all cross over.  Just as I turn the corner for the start I see the banks of normal portaloos and immediately regret my decision not to investigate further earlier!  As a result, within the first mile I need to make a pit stop but I am not the only one which was oddly reassuring!  At this point I lose 2 of the Pershore Plum Plodders I was running with as they carried on with their run

As I come out and re-join the race I am very much a straggler, glimpses of one or two people ahead of me and my heart sinks….I have been a straggler in pretty much every race but the thought of being one for 26 miles is disheartening.  Luckily, after a fewmiles a great swathe of people come down a hill from my left and I am among people again!

(Cliché alert!) the atmosphere along the route is AMAZING!!  There is no other way to put it! People shouting out support at complete strangers, never knowing how important it is to them!

I had worn a Donald the duck hat so that people could spot me easily…it was hot, but it worked!  I didn’t see anyone (although they saw me!) until mile 14 when I spied my dad who had come along with his wife, his sister and her husband. Just as I slowed (hah!) to say hi to them I felt someone poke me in the back of my calf.  I turned round to see who it was but obviously it was no one (who would poke someone in the calf??) and that is when the cramp started to threaten!

After a quick hi my dad pushed me on my way.  It wasn’t long until I saw the friend who had come down with me and a gang from parkrun, I stopped for essential jelly babies of course!

By this time I was walking more than running as the calf kept twinging. I got talking to a guy who had pulled something at mile 6 but was determined to keep going!  As we chatted people were shouting out my name (i was so glad i bought some stick on letters as the last minute!), suddenly I become aware of someone really shouting my name….repeatedly….getting slightly more annoyed each time.  Looking over I see my sister following me along the street trying to get my attention!  Another pit stop to chat to her and wait for my mum to catch up and they walked along with me for a bit which was nice.

London is without doubt one of the most iconic marathons, passing some fantastic landmarks.  When you see it on TV you cannot helped but be

Throughout the race I was passed by all manner of people, most notably a wookie who was running a crazy amount of marathons for charity, 6 Rhinos, and a giant purple nurse.  As I was power walking to the end, willing my legs to break into a run, I heard someone behind me shout ‘come on Olaf!’ and I just thought uh-uh! No way! I am not letting another fancy dress costume beat me!  I turned to the ladies that had joined me in power walking and said ‘we are not letting a giant snowman beat us – let’s go!’ and so we ran across the line with our hands held high!

I was met at the end by my family and friends, my dad greeting me with pop and food which was very welcome!  It is without a doubt one of the most challenging thing I have ever done but you know what….I kind of want to do it again!

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I am running a marathon….THIS MONTH!!!!

I know, I know, I know…..It has been far too long again!! I really need to get better at this blogging lark.

So, what has been happening since the last update?

Well there has been a couple of additions to the wall of bling! The running club put on a bus to travel down to the Milton Keynes Festival of Running on the 5th March.  There was a variety of distances to select from – 5k, 10k, Half Marathon and Full Marathon.  Each distance was represented by at least one person from the club.  I opted for the 10k distance as i had a half marathon already planned for the following weekend (more on that later).  It had rained fairly hard the night before and we were warned of some standing water on the route.  This standing water turned out to be mid-calf deep at about mile 2, meaning 4.22 miles with squelchy, wet trainers! After that delightful surprise all was fairly uneventful until the very end when they whacked in a cracking great hill right before the end, thanks!  Managed to keep enough in the tank for the sprint finish though 🙂

On the 12th I travelled to Wembley stadium to take part in the Vitality North London Half Marathon.  This was a compensation place offered after a bit o a cock up at the Cheltenham Half Marathon in September 2016.  It is a well organised race that starts outside Wembley, travels down to Allianz Stadium (a proper stadium where they play a proper game haha), and then back up to Wembley where you run the last bit in the actual stadium itself.  The atmosphere along the course was great with quite a few families standing outside cheering everyone on but what i really enjoyed was the different types of music played at various points.  There were, steele bands and jazz bands but the ones that got me moving most were the Dhol bands….I even asked one of them to follow me for the rest of the run as I found it a great beat to run to, sadly they declined. For those who don’t know what a Dhol is (I had to google it just now!), it is a double sided barrel drum played in one form or another throughout the Indian sub-continent.  So now you know!

Since then it has been pretty quiet as I flew to Florida for a family holiday on the 16th and got back at the end of March. Of course I packed my running stuff, including my parkrun apricot vest.  I knew there was a parkun not far from where we were staying and I had persuaded my dad to take me there for the first Saturday! due to the heat and humidity they start a bit earlier, at 7:30 which meant a nice 6:30 start on the first weekend we were there (and the 2nd as it happened, we were planning to run a local colour run but the entry fee was a bit spendy!!).  The course is set on Clermont Water, a large lake set in a lovely historic village.  I left dad with the camera as my nephew and i lined up for the start.  considering Worcester regularly has 500+ runners these days the field was fairly small.  My nephew dashed off ahead of me and I settled in to a plod.  I played cat and mouse with a few people before the jet lag hit and I had to walk.  In the end i did it in 42:00….my nephew got his best parkrun time to date which he was pleased about!

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Me and the Nephew before we started
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Dad getting arty while he waited

So, back home and I opened up my registration pack from the Virgin Money London Marathon!!! It’s this month people……this month!!!  One more long run planned in and then it is time for the taper! It’s all getting real now!

Sorry!!!!

My gosh I didn’t realise how long it has been since my last update!!! My apologies for leaving it so long, it feels as if the year is whizzing by already doesn’t it?!

So, things are going well with the training.  I have done a couple of local races (the Fladbury Festive 5, Not the Roman 9 (NTRIX), and the Moreton Morrell Mad Dash 10k).  Anyone who knows me will tell you I am a massive fan of my bling so to only have done 3 races so far this year and only getting medals at 2 of them (the Fladbury Festive 5 had mugs instead which was a nice touch) I am getting some withdrawal symptoms!  But I know that the training has to take priority right now…..I have the rest of the year to collect the bling.

My longest run to date has been 15 miles.  It was such a major breakthrough to get over the half marathon distance and to feel quite good at the end….kind of makes me feel like I can actually do this marathon!  It was an awful day, freezing cold with the odd light rain shower which got you just wet enough to feel the bitter icy wind through the jacket, vest and base layer I was wearing.

I started off at my house and headed to my friend’s house as she was going to run the last bit with me.  I am very lucky to have some amazing friends who have all offered to help me with my training in various ways.  I know that I am a plodder and so now that I am doing longer runs I feel I can’t ask people to join me for 4 plus hours on a weekend as they all have family to spend time with and weekends are precious enough.  So Sarah and I agreed I would run the 8 miles to her house and she would join me for the final 7 then drop me back afterwards.

I started off about 8:30am on Sunday morning (late as usual, was aiming for 8am!) and head out of my village towards the town.  The route I take leads me through the middle of town but luckily at that time on a Sunday morning there aren’t that many people about, just the early birds getting their Sunday papers and other crazy runners/cyclists.

As I run past the Bell Tower I stop to take a picture as I am very conscious that I need better pics of my runs to show you all.  It’s not a great pic I am afraid, perhaps I need to just remember where I have been and go back to take proper pictures once I have recovered.  I head over the river then alongside it for a bit before heading up the hill and back out of town.

Hills are not my friend.  I know they should be and I should just love them but I don’t.  As soon as I start to even think about going up an incline my legs drain of energy and my brain simply says ‘errrr, nope!’.  So as I start to climb out of town I am determined not to walk and for the most part I succeed.  I did admit defeat towards the top but as soon as it levelled out I plodded on again.

I get to Sarah’s house in good time, too good time actually as she is not quite ready for me! A nice little break as I wait for her to put her shoes on and then we are off again.

As much as I enjoy my own headspace when running, putting the world to rights, having arguments with myself and with other people in my head, planning blogs I really should be writing etc, it is nice to run with someone else.  Sarah and I often run at lunchtimes together when we are at work and it is a great time to destress and catch up.

In total the I ran 15.1 miles in a time of 3:30:02.  I am fairly happy with that time and my legs did not feel as bad as I thought they would.  I must remember to stretch more when I am finished though…..i always get told off for that!!

Plans, plans, plans….

So, that’s it.  Christmas is out of the way, my 1 mile a day challenge for December has been completed, marathon training has begun and I feel……rather overwhelmed :$

As soon as I got my place for London I started searching for plans (after I stopped googling slowest marathon finisher times that is!).

I am sure that anyone who knows me will tell you I am not one for plans!  I can’t think ahead.  I find it impossible to consider what I want to do at the weekend on a Monday morning!  Alongside my running I am doing Slimming World and I have currently lost just over 2 and a half stone.  A big part of success at slimming world is planning your meals but how can you know on a Tuesday what you want to eat on Friday?!??!  It is something I have always struggled with.  So, with panic setting in I head to the internet to see what the next 3 and a bit months of my life have in store.

 The internet is awash with marathon plans.  Articles about how to train, what you should be doing alongside your running, what food is best to eat before/during/after a run to get the most out of your training and a whole host of other information essential for first time marathon runners.

My first port of call was the Virgin Money London Marathon website.  They have a useful 17 week training plan for entrants to download, I picked the intermediate option having done a couple of half marathons.  Perfect.  Except I didn’t want to start my training until the new year due to already committing myself to running every day, cutting the number of weeks down to 16.  This plan seemed to concentrate on running for a certain amount of time rather than miles and was full of ER/TR/H&N abbreviations which made my head spin!

Next I took a look at MyAsics.  This is a smartphone app which allows you to put information in about your current pace and works out a plan based on that, giving you a target finish time for the big day.  I felt much more comfortable with this plan although some of the runs are on the wrong days for me but I can move them around no problem. So, this is the plan I am (loosely) following.

A wall calendar was purchased and I started plotting my life on there to see where I could fit the runs in.  As much as possible I want to continue with parkrun’s as they have been so instrumental in getting me to where I am today.  Although, as my Long Slow Run days are planned for Sunday’s it may mean that I have to revert to volunteering at them rather than running them.  I have a few races booked in already.  Some for the EVRC race league and one half marathon in London in the middle of March which is quite well planned fortunately.  I also have a 2 week holiday to see Mickey Mouse at the end of March….slap bang where I should be bashing out my mega long runs so will have to have a think about how I am going to deal with that!

I am now 2 weeks into my training plan and it going well.  I have averaged 18 miles a week and my long runs have been 5.5 and 7.5 miles, each of them local races.  I will write race reports for both on separate posts.  I am very lucky that i am able to take longer lunches at work to fit some of the smaller distance runs in which means i can run in the daylight as opposed to in the dark of an evening.  I am also extremely lucky to have a group of lunch time runners that i have dubbed the runch bunch who come out and keep me company. I have also had numerous offers of company for my long slow runs which is good because despite living in the area for almost 17 years, my knowledge of the local villages is surprisingly poor and I will end up getting hopelessly lost!

A Tale of Two parkruns!

January 1st 2017.  For most people, New Year’s Day is a day of recovery and rest, seeing family and welcoming in the new year, setting resolutions and making plans for the year ahead.  I have just finished a run streak through the month of December, running at least a mile a day, running a total of 48.7 miles. I had thought that New Year’s Day would be a day of rest however, when I saw there was a chance to do a double header parkrun I jumped at the chance! Well…initially I thought I was just doing Stratford Upon Avon but when I realised Leamington was on the agenda too I didn’t back out.

So…8:20 and I am up, dressed and surprisingly not too hungover.  I await the arrival of 3 parkrun friends so that we can travel over to the first venue together. Stratford-upon-Avon is the destination and we make good time.  The course is on the recreation ground by the river run over 3 laps of fairly flat ground.  There are a lot more people there than I expected to be honest and representatives from far and wide including York, Milton Keynes, Coventry, Redditch, and Evesham!

We set off and I feel good. Getting swept along with the crowd I set off a tad too fast so force myself to back off a bit….i want to run it all! I settle into a pace and it isn’t long before I realise I am on for a PB if I keep it up! A little bit of me is worried that after running just a mile for most days during December I might burn out as soon as my watch buzzed at the mile marker, but I pushed that negativity from my mind and plodded on!

One of the things that made me fall in love with parkrun was the fantastic support you get from everyone there. Not just the marshals (although they are the true heroes of parkrun, without them we couldn’t do it!).  I am lapped week in week out and I don’t care! I don’t think the lappers know how much of a boost it gives me to hear them shout out ‘well done’ or ‘keep going’ as they dash past.

Coming up to lap 2 and I see one of the Pershore Plum Plodders I am running with in my sights.  As I pass him I shout out that I am on for a PB and keep on pushing.  I cross the line in 36:22 (official parkrun time), a PB by just under 1 minute!

As the last of our troupe runs home and we make our way to the plum mobile it starts to rain.  We head off to Leamington.  We park up and head towards the start.  It soon becomes apparent that we are some way from the start and by now it is raining quite hard combined with a bitter wind making us question why….just why!

We make it to the start just in time and as soon as the briefing is done with we head off.  It is soon very clear that this parkrun is a different beast to Stratford!  The start is around, what is now, a very muddy football pitch.  As we head out onto the trails I get a familiar ache in the back of my right thigh and right butt cheek.  One of the women I am running with is also suffering with a bad knee so we decide to take this one steady despite the bitter wind chill.  As much as Stratford was lovely and flat, this one isn’t….within the first mile there is a whacking great hill.  As we approach it as a group I decide to power up the hill.  As I do so I hear a wonderful round of applause, only to realise that it is coming from my gut! (must get some more restrictive running underwear!)

This is a one lap course and I have to say I miss the lappers! We run/walk the rest of the way through the trails.  In better weather conditions this would be a lovely course.  We make it to the finish, just the 3 ladies as the men went ahead to move the van (and more importantly the coffee!) closer to the finish.  We are wet through, freezing cold and sore.  Barcodes scanned we head back to the van for 3 cups of the best coffee I have ever had to start to thaw out before heading home for an afternoon of hot bath, PJ’s, food and napping!

And the winner is………

How i got my place in the Virgin Money London Marathon

5k PB 36:22

10k PB 1:15:37

HM PB 2:56:07

Marathon PB ????

Saturday 10th December 2016, Evesham Vale Running Club Christmas Party.  Each year the club gets allocated places for the London Marathon to give out to members.  The fairest way to do this is to hold our very own ballot for those members who entered the official VMLM ballot but did not get that magical magazine/email!  As the food and awards came to an end the final announcement of the evening was who had won the 2 places we were allocated this year.  Last year’s winner picked the first name out and as expected the room erupted into cheers and clapping as the winner sat there, not understanding what had happened to begin with then, as the news filtered through, the look of shock and surprise crept across her face!

Then there was a second place to draw.  The winner of the first place was asked to choose her partner.  Her hand went in to the bowl of names and all of a sudden, she was asking if I wanted to join her!!!  Me…. plodder extraordinaire, slowest and biggest member of the club! Once again there were cheers and clapping (and screaming – mainly coming from me!).  The rest of the evening was full of wide eyed conversations with fantastically supportive people, offering training advice and help (after a couple of them stopped laughing that was).

I guess you are asking why I was so shocked when I obviously wanted to run it as I had entered the official ballot but the truth is, I never expected to get in!

In April 2016 I ran my first half marathon (Stratford Upon Avon, time 3:03:39), my furthest distance to date.  It was run on the same day as the VMLM so when I got home I spent the rest of the day watching the coverage of one of the most awe-inspiring events of the year.  In the following weeks, my Facebook timeline and twitter feed were full of amazing marathon stories, friends from the running club that had run it came to show off their hard-earned medals and tell their own marathon story.  Then the excitement of the ballot opening began, it seemed that everyone I spoke to was talking about it and how they had entered it 3, 4, 5 years in a row but were unsuccessful each time.

The London Marathon has a very special place in my heart.  My Dad and his Uncle ran it several times when I was a child, raising fantastic amounts for different charities each time.  My Dad’s Uncle even met Princess Diana as a result of the fundraising he did.  I have such wonderful memories of standing at various spots on the course trying to pick my Dad out of the sea of people, images of him wrapped in foil blankets emblazoned with Mars logos, spotting celebrity runners and many more.  Spurred on by completing my first HM and with the rush of my new-found addiction running through my veins I entered the ballot because…. well….no one ever gets in on their first attempt do they!

As soon as I pressed the submit button on the online entry form I prepared myself for the fact I wouldn’t get in.  I told just 1 person that I had entered.  As the result date drew closer I let the ‘but what if’s…?’ creep in and imagined how I would announce the news to friends and family.  However, as suspected, it was not to be.  That was it I thought.  Then the club announced the number of places we were given and explained that all those who had entered the ballot could have their name go into the draw for it.  ‘why not’ I thought….and the rest, as they say, is history.

In this blog, I am hoping to chart my progress through training.  The highs, the lows, the smiles and the tears.  I hope that you will join me on the journey (not physically, although training buddies are always welcome!) and that you find what I have to say interesting and who knows, maybe inspiring?

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