MTR#32: 12.7 miles, but ugh.

2016-05-08 19.51.52Well that was officially my worst run ever.

Having not run all week, apart from a quick and reluctant 5km last night, I knew I needed to get my long run in today, but I was SO not up for it! It was supposed to be my first taper run of 14 miles, so I planned a route that would take me to Tom’s cricket club, where I could have a sit down and watch the cricket for a bit before running back.

Well, that was the plan and I more or less made it to the cricket club OK (just a couple of uphill walk-breaks near the end), but after that I totally lost it and ended up taking a shorter route home, and walking a lot more of it than I’d like.

It was really hot today, which didn’t help, and I felt like there was nothing in my legs, but more than that I was just in a really negative mood. I’m not sure why. It was a beautiful day today, so I tried telling myself to enjoy the scenery even when I was walking, but for some reason everything was making me grumpy.

Bah humbug.

https://www.strava.com/activities/576916451/embed/e56f2105ac84547bb89cadb75ac38c7e5c05c169

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MTR#31: Lazy 5km

2016-05-07 20.12.52Uh oh, I’ve lost my mojo.

After completing an epic 20 miles last Sunday, I have taken it too easy this week, and fallen off the wagon a bit.

Although hubby and I went for a long and pretty hilly walk on Monday, I haven’t actually run since then, until today. I was going to do about 8 miles today, but I kept putting it off and putting it off…Then, when I eventually did put my running gear on and was just about to head off out the door, I got a call from my brother-in-law asking if I wanted to go for a few drinks to celebrate his girlfriend’s birthday. It was already 8pm by then, so I decided to go for a quick 3 miler and get back in time to join them in the pub before closing time.

Oh well, a short run is better than no run…

https://www.strava.com/activities/576916424/embed/3f8128b2b3748660f8b01b815e990900cb60b4fe

MTR#30: 20 MILES!

2016-05-01 16.14.55Oh. My. God. I just ran for over 3.5 hours without stopping and covered 20 motherflippin miles!

SO TIRED!

I was so nervous about doing this run, my longest training run before tapering for the marathon! I wondered if I would be up to it, considering I have been ill recently, and did over 13 miles just the other day, but er, yes, it seems I was!

One thing that has been rather lacking in my marathon training so far is proper fuel. I still haven’t managed to get to a sports shop to buy some gels, but I figured I would probably need a bit of sugary help today, so I got some fizzy and non-fizzy cola bottle jelly sweets from the convenience shop instead! I ate one sweet every mile, which gave me something to look forward to every 10 minutes or so – in fact I definitely appreciated the mouth-watering qualities of the fizzy ones! I am exhausted now but I never felt like I’d completely hit the wall, and my stomach was fine too, so it must have helped (although the sweets did start getting a bit squidgy towards the end from being in my pocket!).

Still not entirely sure where I’m going to find the oomph to keep going another 6 miles…but I’ve been saying that throughout this training and I seem to keep adding the miles on…what’s another 6!?

All together now….TAPER!!!! 😀

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#27: 3 miles – didn’t kill me!

2016-04-24 18.42.03Well hello there, I’m back after a little while!

So during the run I did with Ben Smith on 8th April, I noticed that horrid little tickly feeling you get at the back of your throat that signals you’re going to get a cold. I remember it very specifically: I was just getting to the top of a big hill on the second loop of our marathon when I noticed it, and then a minute later another lady in group ran up behind me exclaiming her relief at having got up that hill – again – because she hadn’t run for two weeks as she’d had the flu….uh oh.

I got nothing worse than a bit of a sniffle for a few days, and even managed my 15 mile run the day before hubby and I went on a little mini-break to Bucharest last week. But then…

I felt pretty rough on the plane to Bucharest, and it got worse over the next two days with painfully blocked sinuses, a horrid chesty cough, aches and pains, and swollen neck and armpit glands (seriously, the one in my left armpit swelled to the size of a marble – so gross!!) but I was determined not to let being ill spoil the holiday. I drugged myself up on Lemsip, ibuprofen, cough syrup, alcohol, anything I could get my hands on and despite feeling, if I’m honest, like utter crap, at least I could partly blame that on Romanian beer and wine. We had a lovely time in Bucharest – I really recommend it – I just wish I had felt a bit better!

We got back home last Tuesday and on Wednesday I did something I almost never do: I took a sick day. Even when I was employed and thus got paid sick leave, I can probably count on one hand the number of days I’ve had off sick in my life, but being self-employed, this was a very big deal for me – no work, no money! (Actually, although I stayed in bed most of the morning, I got bored of that and succumbed to doing a little bit of work, but only easy stuff like replying to emails. I’m thinking I *might* be a little bit of a workaholic?!)

I got back to work on Thursday, feeling marginally better but still very naff, and a bit better still on Friday and Saturday. Though still not feeling 100% and producing an inordinate amount of mucus, after watching some of the London Marathon coverage this morning,  I felt inspired to try a little run and see how I got on.

Well, I lived to tell the tale, but it wasn’t pretty. I only did 3 miles, but I had to stop and walk twice to get my breath back, and I was super-wheezy afterwards. But I did it, and it didn’t kill me, so it must have made me stronger, right?! Just hope I can get back on plan soon – only 4 weeks to go until Worcester Marathon!!

 

MTR#26: 15 miles

2016-04-15 18.39.56I tried really hard to excuse myself from running today as I’m a bit ill, but Tom made me go :-/ Although the glands under my armpits are a bit sore and swollen (which I’m sure you really wanted to know!) and I have a bit of a sniffle, I don’t feel that bad really and it’s certainly not on my chest (yet…) so I’m glad he convinced me to go in the end. Plus we’re going on a little mini-holiday tomorrow so I’ll be having 4 days off – needed to get my long run in, especially as I have missed one training run this week (naughty naughty!)!

Happily my long run this week was a bit of a step-back, so I *only* had to do 15 miles. I took it pretty slowly and dare say I rather enjoyed it, although I am really achy now! I think that might be more to do with the flu I’m fighting than the running, but it probably didn’t help that today’s route was rather hilly!

https://www.strava.com/activities/546274730/embed/41f54ea40b977b1f1e9fb54d7f09bd3f51b61b2c

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#24: 7 miles, hill reps and a parkrun rant!

2016-04-12 21.27.40After a few days off following my 401 Challenge marathon on Friday, feeling a bit bleurgh after finally catching Tom’s cold, and after much deliberating, I eventually decided I would go for a run after all last night. And I thoroughly enjoyed it – funny how that happens!! I even went 2 miles further than the 5 miles I’d planned, and threw in some hill reps for good measure! After 3 days off, my legs felt super springy and it turns out I’m really not that ill after all…

Perhaps part of the reason I eventually had a really good run was to burn off some anger following some really quite shocking news concerning parkrun.

2016-04-09 08.59.42If you’ve never heard of parkrun, it’s a free, timed 5km run that happens in parks all over the country (and indeed the world!) at 9am every single Saturday. It’s absolutely brilliant – I actually volunteered as a marshall at my local event in Redditch on Saturday past. Parkrun UK is the non-profit organisation that oversees the events, and through sponsorship by a few companies they are able to provide each event with basic safety equipment such as hi-vis vests for marshals and route markers, and the basic timing equipment needed to ensure every runner who wants one gets a time for their run. This keeps runners coming back week after week as they try to better themselves and chase that elusive PB.

Other than sponsors providing this basic equipment, no money is received by local organisers: each and every one of the 395 events is entirely run by unpaid volunteers, and takes place in free-to-use public parks. A big part of parkrun is that it is, and always will be absolutely free for absolutely anyone to take part. It is all-inclusive for able-bodied and disabled runners, children, elderly people, people who run with dogs and prams, everyone. It’s no wonder more and more parkruns are popping up all over the country (a new one started in Stratford-upon-Avon just a few weeks ago!), and numbers of parkrunners are growing by the week.

But one stupid, stupid parish council in Bristol has decided to ruin it all for the parkrunners of Little Stoke. They have been threatening for months to impose a fee for Little Stoke parkrun to use the park, (unfoundedly) claiming that as “an organisation with paid directors, fund raisers and sponsors”, it would be unfair to expect the tax-paying residents of Stoke Gifford parish to cover the (undefined) costs of the “wear and tear” that parkrunners (allegedly) cause to the park. You can read their full, ridiculous statement, with Parkrun UK’s very fair and logical responses here.

I must confess I never thought this ludicrous proposal would go ahead, but last night, at a Stoke Gifford Parish Council meeting, the motion to charge parkrun to use the park was passed by 6 votes to 4. I am dumbfounded.

I take particular umbrage with two of the parish council’s points. Firstly, the suggestion that parkrun should pay for park maintenance because it is an organised event with paid directors. As with any large organisation, whether for profit or not, of course some paid staff are needed – that website isn’t going to get updated by itself and the logistics of managing over 8,000 volunteers each week isn’t going to happen by magic! The number of people on parkrun UK’s payroll? 12, including the founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt who was awarded a CBE in the 2014 Queen’s Birthday Honours (because, y’know, if the monarch of our country thinks you’re doing a great job, that’s kind of a big deal).

But, as mentioned above, each and every one of the events is managed at the local level by unpaid volunteers. Parkrun is a non-profit organisation. Any money left over after paying 12 people their wages goes back into parkrun events. By Stoke Gifford’s logic, it would seem fine by them if 300 runners just decided to get together for a run but didn’t call it ‘parkrun’! (This would also surely be far less safe!) Likewise, if they have a problem with giving free community access to organisations with paid staff, then they should also take a cut from poppy and Big Issue sellers, or charge nannies and childminders for using the park.

The second thing I am stunned by is the insinuation that the goodly people of Stoke Gifford should not have to pay for park repairs caused by the “many” Little Stoke parkrunners who come from outside of the parish. FFS! Parks are meant to be used! What is the point of any of us paying council tax or parish precepts to maintain parks if no-one ever bloody uses them, and who gives a flying fig if – gasp! – outsiders from 5 miles down the road come to enjoy them as well! In reality, almost half of Little Stoke’s regulars live within the Stoke Gifford parish, and 60% live less than 3 miles from the park. Apart from a few visitors or parkrun tourists, the rest are likely to live in a very nearby area of Bristol, because if you travel much further away you’ll find another parkrun that is closer to home. Heavens forbid anyone should use a park in a different postcode to the one they live in! I live 7 miles away from my nearest parkrun and that’s in a completely different county!

Sadly, it looks like the end for Little Stoke parkrun. Standing true to parkrun’s values, they refuse to accept the fees that the council wants to impose, so are looking to move to another venue. In the meantime, the runners who used to enjoy their Saturday morning run around Little Stoke (and the children who used to enjoy their Sunday morning junior parkrun) will have to run without the safety and camaraderie of the parkrun banner, or drive to another parkrun nearby. Such a shame!

 

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