Olympic inspiration

Hello again! Oh dear, it’s been rather a long time since I last posted. I haven’t quite got over the reluctance to run I reported in my last post, but you’ll be pleased to know I am getting there. Since I last wrote in mid-July, I’ve been on a grand total of 7 runs, none of them very fast, and none more than 10k…

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Evidence that I have been running, exhibit A! Arrow Valley parkrun #IAmTeamGB © Nick Haynes

But in the last two or three weeks I’ve definitely got some of my mojo back after being super-inspired by the amazing Team GB athletes at the Rio Olympics! My hubby Tom and I watch a lot of sport on TV anyway, whether it’s rugby, football, cricket, or more recently cycling – but we were absolutely addicted to watching the Olympics, so much so that when we finally had to admit defeat and go to bed, we still set an alarm for stupid o’clock in the morning to watch Usain Bolt and Mo Farah run their gold medal races!

IMAG0285My Olympics highlight was definitely the track cycling. Tom’s been pretty into watching the major classic road races on TV for the past couple of years, so in the lead-up to the Olympics we watched the Tour de France highlights pretty much every night, but track cycling is a completely different kettle of fish. At the start of the Olympic events I had almost no clue what was going on, but I think I’ve got a handle on it now (sort of), and boy is it exciting! I thought I might have a heart attack during Laura Trott’s Omnium points race! What a woman (#girlcrush)!

Runners in red, white and blue for the #IAmTeamGB sports day at Arrow Valley parkrun © Karl Hanks

Runners in red, white and blue for the #IAmTeamGB sports day at Arrow Valley parkrun © Karl Hanks

Sadly, I don’t have a bike (yet…watch this space!) so there was the slight problem of a lack of suitable vehicle to give output to the awesome inspiration provided by the Olympic cycling! Nevertheless, I have managed to get off my bum for a few runs recently, including yesterday’s “I Am Team GB” themed parkrun, and I even played a game of badminton for the first time since school! Well, when I say “played”, I mean Becky and I played two against one with Tom (who still won). Never mind – I got sweaty and ached like mad the next day so I must have had a pretty good workout! I’m definitely keen to play again!

Another exciting sporting development is that I have started to learn how to swim! I mean, I *can* already swim, and actually I can swim quite far when I want to, I just don’t swim very well. I had operations on my ears when I was a kid, which meant that when we had swimming lessons at school I wasn’t allowed to put my head underwater. As an adult I’ve kind of taught myself to do “head under” breast stroke, rather than the “head up” granny stroke, but whenever I’ve had a go at freestyle I end up whirling my arms around and kicking my legs like a mad thing and get absolutely knackered after a length or two.

So, me, my friend Ruth and a couple of her friends Sharon and Helen, who are also running folks, had a lesson last Monday with a triathlon coach called Mark. We spent 20 minutes or so on dry land, learning the correct arm technique for front crawl, then about half an hour in the pool to practice what we’d learned. We used a ‘pull buoy’ – a float that you put between your legs so we  could just focus on the arms.  I definitely feel that I made progress in that one session, so I went to the pool again on Wednesday to try it all out, and again this morning with Ruth and Helen. I still have some work to do on technique but this morning I managed quite a few lengths without the pull buoy so, er, triathlon here I come?! (Once I’ve got a bike…)

Finally, sorry about the lack of sweaty selfies – I lost my phone recently (boo) and the old phone I’ve been using in the meantime has a really naff camera. I’m getting a new phone after the bank holiday and it has quite a whizzy camera apparently, so you’ll soon be able to see my sweaty face again, lucky people!

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Here we go again…

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Me and my brother-in-law Howard completed the Two Castles 10Km run on 12th June

So I haven’t been running much recently, which you might have guessed if you’re a regular reader of this blog! I have no excuses – no injuries, no major life events…I’ve just been quite lazy! After the marathon in May, I suddenly had no reason to get up and go for a run…so I didn’t!

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Post-run on 1st June

I have done a few runs…just not many. Since I last posted in on 28th May, I did a short-ish run with the Run Alcester gang, and then the Two Castles 10km race on the 12th June with my brother-in-law. That went pretty well, despite the fact that I totally wasn’t up for it, and it absolutely hammered it down with rain, but I was pleased with my time of just over 56 minutes – not a 10km PB but it is a course PB by quite a way, and it’s a pretty hilly course too.

But since the 12th June…nothing. And I have continued to eat as if I was still training for a marathon! So when I pulled on my netball kit the other day and found it a bit of a squeeze to fit in my skirt, I realised it was time to get running again!

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Arrow Valley parkrun 16th July

I did my first parkrun in quite a while last Saturday, which – as always – was great fun, and made me regret every time I’ve ever stayed in bed on a Saturday morning! It happened to be Arrow Valley parkrun’s 4th birthday, so as well as a huge field of 395 runners (!!!), many of them in fancy dress (including some bonkers people in onesies on a really hot, muggy day – and one guy dressed as a tree?!?), we ran the usual two-lap course backwards, which made a nice change!

Inspired to start making running a part of my schedule again, I got in touch with Becky, who has been out injured for a while, and we made plans to resurrect our previously-regular Tuesday night runs. So that’s what we did tonight – only we hadn’t bargained on it being the hottest day of the year so far – over 30ºC, even after 7pm, phew!! Still, we did it, a hot and sweaty, no pressure 4 miles, and we’re already talking about entering the Birmingham Half Marathon  and the Tempo 10K Winter Series. We’re back!

Parkrun #35 – not quite a PB but close!

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Look at me all happy because I thought I’d got a PB…!

I woke up unusually early for a Saturday and was wide awake, so I decided to lace up my trainers and go to parkrun for the first time since Christmas (well, as a runner – I’ve volunteered a couple of times since then)!

As I’ve been training for the marathon my average pace has got quite slow, so my target for the next few weeks, before my next 10k race in June, is to try and get quicker again. I’d forgotten it was the last Saturday of the month, which at Arrow Valley parkrun means it’s Pacer Week – perfect!

I lined up behind the 26 minute pacer, which was rather optimistic I thought, since my PB (or so I remembered!) was 26:36. Nevertheless, off we went and although she got a bit ahead of me I managed to keep her in sight. Turns out she was doing too good a job as I crossed the finish line (by my watch) in 25:50!! Hurrah! No parkruns for months and I pulled a PB out of the bag! Or so I thought…

A few hours later my phone beeped with the all-important official parkrun time. “Lisa, your time in position 126 today at Arrow Valley parkrun was 25:54. Well done…service powered by aql”

Grr, 4 seconds slower than my watch…ok…but hang on, where was the “Well done on a new PB” bit?

I scrolled back through my messages and to my surprise, I found one from almost a year ago to the day congratulating me on a PB of 25:48. Oooops!! Must’ve forgotten about that one!! Oh well, I got PBs on 3 out of 4 Strava segments, so I’ll have to be content with that for now!

https://www.strava.com/activities/590539454/embed/11a02a09d84904bd6d8a21244e39b1653318c7b1

3-mile recovery run with Becky

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You can’t see from the pic, but I was wearing my Worcester Marathon t-shirt, and Becky was wearing hers from Manchester Marathon 🙂 

I was quite surprised to find that I wasn’t half as achy or stiff as I thought I’d be after Sunday’s marathon! I mean, I was pretty much zombified on Sunday afternoon/evening, and my quads were a bit stiff and sore on Monday (and still a bit today), but compared to how ruined I felt after the Cotswolds Way Challenge, I felt fine! When I did my first half marathon in October 2013, I even took the next day off work because I could barely move!

So, with no better time to get back into the swing of things than when you’re still on a runner’s high, Becky and I went out for a little run together tonight – our first run with both of us being bona fide marathon runners 🙂

We only did 5km, and at 32 minutes a pretty slow 5km at that, nevertheless I felt pretty great! Becky’s been suffering with a rotten cold for a few weeks so I don’t think she felt quite as great as me, but I think she still enjoyed it…?!

It feels weird not tagging this post as “marathon training” or associated with some other challenge or training plan…I need a new challenge! I have the Two Castles 10km in June, but I’ve done that twice before so it doesn’t feel like it counts. Another marathon….an ULTRA???

https://www.strava.com/activities/586923376/embed/15801e42f834e07203534be04dc5b74712cf0feb

Worcester Marathon!

20160522_143726I only bloody went and did it! At last I can call myself a proper marathon runner! Worcester Marathon – conquered!

I was SO nervous and jittery last night as I got all my kit together, although surprisingly I slept fairly well. It helped that because Worcester is only half an hour’s drive away, I didn’t have to get up at stupid o’clock! The alarm went off at a very respectable 7.30am, and after a leisurely porridge breakfast I was off!

What was also rather lovely was the fact that my hubs was able to drive me there and back. He usually works on Sundays, but he’d decided to call off his tour for the day to come and cheer me on, yay! And let me tell you, I was SO glad that he did! It was so nice to see him a couple of times on the route and get a cheeky little kiss as I went past to keep my spirits up 🙂

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Me and hubby at the finish!

I was surprised at how big an event it was! Nearly 1000 runners took part, which made for a brilliant atmosphere – on the first lap at least! There was a half marathon at the same time though, and only 255 of us were mad enough to complete the full marathon, which meant that most of the runners and supporters had gone home by the time I started the second lap! It was a beautiful countryside route though (confusing that the medal has Worcester Cathedral on it, seeing as we didn’t actually go anywhere near the city centre!) but OMG it was hilly!! There were a few quite big lumps, but pretty much all the way round was either slightly up or slightly downhill – it never felt particularly flat! “Undulating”, I think they call it!

I had some running buddies on the first lap – two ladies called Rebecca and Lina from Regency Runners in Leamington who I bumped into on the start line – I’d actually met them before in Stratford when I did my second 401 Challenge “marathon” (in quote marks because I’m not 100% convinced that, as a standalone effort, it really counts as a proper marathon if you stop for lunch halfway round!). Lina was doing the half marathon, so we said goodbye to her at the 11 mile mark, which is where the full marathon runners peeled off to start the second lap-and-a-bit. I stuck with Rebecca at her speedy 10 min/mile pace for most of the first lap, but she pulled away from me at around 13 miles and finished in a brilliant time of 4:26:22! ),

I dropped the pace a little bit and stayed with another girl called Jess who we’d got chatting to early on in the race, but she dropped back even further after a few more miles and I heard on the grapevine that she actually retired with an injury at some point. I hope she’s OK! 😦

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Things really started to get tough at around 16-17 miles. I’m not sure if it was “the wall”, but I definitely found it quite mentally challenging once the field significantly thinned out.  It didn’t help that I had to have a quick, ahem, pitstop at around mile 20 (fortunately there was a portaloo, so I didn’t have to use what my friend Amy calls the “facilitrees”!), and I had a massive battle with myself about whether I was going to let myself walk up a big hill that I knew was coming up. As it turns out, I didn’t walk that one, but I did take a few little walk breaks a bit later on. I’m a bit disappointed about that, but I’m not going to dwell on it. It was my first marathon so it just gives me something to build on next time 😉

The last little bit of the race was really nice as it veered off the road and onto the Worcester canal tow path. As I came into the Sixways Stadium car park towards the finish line, Lina came running alongside me, cheering me on and willing me to sprint the finish – I  may not quite have sprinted but I did pick up the pace and finished the race with a big smile on my face – brilliant! I finished in a time of 4:43:36 – a bit slower than I’d have liked, really, but I really don’t care – I did it!! I had wanted to get under 4.5 hours, but now that I’ve done it and realise just how tough it is to run a marathon, I’ve re-evaluated and really don’t think sub-5 hours is bad at all! Like I said, there will be a next time, so it just gives me a target to aim for! 🙂 2016-05-24 21.43.56

https://www.strava.com/activities/584416640/embed/d0b4a6edfc3e4a46d3619120ea93bad00568a9c4

MTR#33: 6 miles – getting my mojo back!

2016-05-10 20.21.28Tuesday nights are when I normally run with Becky, so off we went tonight, hoping it would shake me out of my rut!

I worked, yay 🙂 In fact, Becky’s knee was starting to twinge, so she decided to call it quits after 5 miles or so, but I carried on for another mile to round it up to 6. I wouldn’t say I exactly *loved* that run, but running with someone else was definitely what I needed to get back on track.

https://www.strava.com/activities/576916436/embed/c1ddd48f87d0a511c9c3159e02871a0b55bb6574

 

MTR#28: 5.9 miles with Run Alcester

2016-04-27 19.34.05Given that, over the last two nights, I’ve played and umpired netball matches in torrential rain, gale force winds and hail storms, tonight’s gloriously sunny evening run with the Run Alcester lot was a refreshing change! Still a bit of a nip in the air, but I soon warmed up tonight’s average pace of 9:05 minute miles over nearly 6 miles! Speedy Gonzalez!

My chest still isn’t 100% back to normal after my recent flu, but I’m definitely feeling much, much better – no excuses not to get back on the marathon training wagon properly now!

Oh, and I got a CR on Strava for the first time in absolutely ages today! Yay!

https://www.strava.com/activities/558508990/embed/25ae293b070d5f0d1bbe370b5ceac2e04a0a60b1

MTR#25: 6.5 miles with Run Alcester

2016-04-13 21.05.09It may or may not be anything to do with the two pints of cider that I consumed post-run this evening, but today has been one of those days where I am so happy and thankful to be a runner!!

After the ludicrous vote by Stoke Gifford parish council in Bristol to impose a charge on Little Stoke parkrun for using a public park – the first case of its kind in the world – there was a lot of negativity on social media last night. I was barely able to sleep after writing my own massive rant about the stupidity and short-sightedness of the decision, and thousands of other passionate parkrunners also took to Facebook, Twitter, blogs, online petitions, emails and even the national news to air their outrage.

Some people have been spamming the parish councillors’ email addresses with angry emails, and many others have been talking about staging a protest parkrun involving thousands of people descending on Little Stoke this Saturday. I even considered that this might be something I’d like to do, if I wasn’t going away this weekend.

Parkrun UK has formally expressed its disappointment and announced that the council’s decision will be appealed. In the meantime, and in the event that the decision is not overturned, Little Stoke’s event directors are standing true to the spirit of parkrun by announcing that they will not bend to the council’s ridiculous charge, but will find an alternative venue that will keep parkrun “free forever”.

Tweets and shares quickly did the rounds to discourage angry parkrunners from staging any kind of vigilante protest run, and later an official email from parkrun UK was circulated to quiet everyone down, urging the parkrun community to “remain calm and measured in our actions” while the organisation deals with the fiasco via “the proper channels”. I dare say that there will be more than the average number of runners at Little Stoke this weekend, since Stoke Gifford parish council have so “graciously” given until the end of May to reach a resolution (i.e. if you won’t pay to use the park yourself, apply for a grant and get someone else to pay on your behalf), but I suppose this just goes to show how passionate people feel about parkrun, and the the threat that Stoke Gifford’s decision might pose to their own events around the country, and the world. It really is very humbling and I am so proud to be a part of the parkrun family!

Anyway, I had a fabulous run in the sun this evening with the guys from Run Alcester. The pace was pretty quick for me tonight – averaging 9:38 minute miles! – and we finished up in the pub. Which brings this blog post full-circle. Mmm cider…

https://www.strava.com/activities/544575832/embed/6bb292e1a66280d5a0eed05764d867442cb70d97

 

MTR#23: 2nd 401 Challenge marathon!

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At the start

The absolutely amazing Ben Smith was in Stratford-upon-Avon today, so I just ran a marathon with him…

For those of you who might never have heard of Ben Smith or have a clue what I’m talking about, let me rewind.

On 1st September last year, a bloke from Bristol called Ben Smith began his epic ‘401 Challenge‘ – a challenge to run 401 marathons in 401 days. That’s 401 MARATHONS IN 401 DAYS. Not to belittle what Eddie Izzard recently achieved in his 27-marathons-in-27-days challenge for Sport Relief – and to be fair he did it in South Africa where some days he was running in 40ºC+ heat – but what Ben is doing is absolutely incredible.

Why 401? I think I am telling this right…but basically, after weighing up the various endurance running world records, Ben decided to smash the previous record for the most consecutive marathons by doing a round 400. Then someone dared him to do a victory lap on day 401, so the 401 Challenge was born! He’s aiming to raise £250,000 for two great anti-bullying charities: Stonewall and Kidscape.

If you want to donate some money to his causes, you can text BEN to 70660 to donate £5, or you can donate online here, or buy some 401 merch here.

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Sopping wet, half a marathon down, half to go!

Anyway, I heard about Ben through good old Facebook, and met up with him in December last year to run what I thought would be part of his 102nd marathon in Worcester. I ended up doing the whole thing. It was bloody brilliant. Ben runs at the pace of the slowest runner in the group, stops for lunch and whenever anyone needs to, and Just. Keeps. Going.

So, going back to my opening line, the absolutely amazing Ben Smith was in Stratford-upon-Avon today, so I just ran a marathon with him – again!

The route was more or less the Stratford half marathon route, except we started and finished each loop at Stratford Sports Club and stopped at The Old Tramway for lunch. It’s funny – and I guess shows how much progress I have made in the last year – because there’s a notorious hill on the Stratford HM route, which I remember very well from when I did the HM last year, but d’you know what? I barely noticed it today – and I did it twice! I mean, I *noticed* it, but it was more than manageable!

We faced all weathers today! It looked pretty gloomy when I left this morning, so I had my 401 Challenge long-sleeved running shirt on, topped with my rain jacket, which was – at that point- wholly unnecessary. The jacket came off after around 4 miles as I was too hot. At around 8 miles I phoned Tom, who I knew was heading into Stratford, and asked if he could bring me a running vest as I was absolutely boiling. About 2 miles later the heavens opened and we all got completely drenched! So the running vest (which the wonderful Tom very kindly brought me) was needed not to keep me cool but because everything else was soaked! The sun came out again in the afternoon, and made a lovely end to a lovely day, meeting lots of new and lovely running people.

Extra special kudos to a 50-something year old guy called James who has only been running for 6 months, and only ever run 6 miles before – he completed the whole marathon! What a legend!

https://www.strava.com/activities/539376507/embed/eaa8276e46e15402799a2f8c9aee5ed4c9600591

MTR#22: Soggy 6 with Run Alcester

2016-04-06 19.39.24A blogger called ‘BeckyRunsBackwards’ ‘liked’ my blog post from yesterday (hello if you’re reading today!), so today I reciprocated and read some of her blog posts. She’d written a nice article about why it’s good to run in the rain…which was wholly appropriate for today’s weather!

Although it was dry when we, the Run Alcester gang, set off this evening, it wasn’t long before the clouds rolled in, the wind picked up and we were battling against a torrential downpour! It was pretty cold (so unlike yesterday’s balmy run!) and I was glad I had my jacket on, but I absolutely loved it! 🙂

We ran pretty much the same route that Becky and I did last night, but backwards. Although it’s a tough hill, I do like the track up to and along past Oversley Castle 🙂

Really enjoying running with these other guys and gals – I’m usually one of the slowest ones there, but the fact that everyone else is going faster than me pushes me to go faster too – 9.40 min miles today! 🙂

https://www.strava.com/activities/537683049/embed/8208a81bcac25df466dabef9ddd8163dfa997b86