The Vitality Big Half

The inaugural staging of a half marathon starting on Tower Hill and running out to Canary Wharf and back over Tower Bridge through south London to the Cutty Sark in Greenwich.  Almost the London Marathon route but not as long and in reverse!!

When this new half marathon went up for sale, the sun was shining in the sky and temperatures were balmy.  I can’t actually remember to be honest but it was August so we’ll  kid ourselves into thinking it was.  Even looking ahead, you’d still expect the weather to be reasonable at the beginning of March – well I would because the day after the run was my birthday and the sun always shines on my birthday!  This year, however, snowmaggedon caused havoc, and right up until the day before, it wasn’t entirely clear if the run would go ahead.  And even if the organisers gave the go ahead, there was the more localised issue of travel and transport.  But in the end everything went smoothly, for us in north west Kent anyway.  As with any event of this size, participants from around the country had signed up and some of them were not so lucky, but at least they were given the opportunity to take part in a virtual half marathon and still claim their medal.

London

Old and New

For such a “local” event, we had to leave at an extraordinarily early hour to ensure we got there in time, before the baggage lorries departed for the finish line at Greenwich.  And then there was the inevitable hanging around for the individual wave starts.  But one of the great things about this event was the toilets – and how often do runners say that!!  They were everywhere and the queues were minimal, each wave pen had its own supply and runners were “popping in” for the last emergency wee while we were waiting for our call forward to the start line.  And perhaps because there were so many, they weren’t in too bad a condition – if you know what I mean!

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On our way to the Tower!

The only issue I had with my starting pen was the GPS signal, stuck between two London office buildings, it was practically non-existent so I was waving my arms in the air like I just didn’t care!!  Eventually I managed to locate satellites – phew!!  The amazing (or really annoying) thing was that although I struggled above ground, once we went through the Limehouse Link tunnel, my watch maintained a signal the whole time!  Doh!!

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Despite managing to acquire some jelly babies at the last minute (having become used to the excellent SVN style “catering” and forgetting I would need my energy levels topped up), my first refuelling opportunity was when I passed a spectator handing out Haribo.  Running – the one occasion when you ignore your mum’s instructions not to take sweets from strangers!

The run itself went pretty much as you would expect when you don’t do any specific half marathon training!  I managed to get to 13k (Bermondsey tube station – I didn’t realise Bermondsey had a tube station!) before introducing the walking.  For the next three kilometres, I adopted a “walk a minute, run to the next kilometre mark” approach and for the final 3 miles, I adopted the walk/run combo which my 0-5k running group would be using the following week, ie, 1 min walk/7 mins run.  And for some bizarre reason, I found that easier than the approach despite the longer running periods.  Sorry to mix my miles and kilometres but you get the picture!

So issues along the way:-

  • in the first mile or so, running next to a speed walker – why was I bothering!  I did eventually manage to lose her, as in I went ahead, not the other way round!
  • spotting the relay event changeover areas.  My thoughts on passing each changeover were

First one – why didn’t we do that

Second one – we’re doing that next year

Third one – we’re definitely doing that next year

As it happens, we can’t.  The relay event was only open to runners living in the boroughs through which the route ran.

  • Cobbles – just, aaargh!!

The organisers had laid on a festival in Greenwich park for runners and family/friends but the weather gods obviously weren’t looking down on them this year and although people were milling around the different stands, it naturally wasn’t as populated as it would have been on a sunny day.  Maybe they’ll be luckier next year!

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Cutty Sark and beyond the finish line 🙂 

My other thoughts during this event were

(a)          don’t like this course

(b)          not bothering with the London Marathon ballot again

Now, a few days later, maybe ……

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Run bling!

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I Need a Lie Down!

I have to confess to be feeling a little bit weary after a few running/volunteering days but I’ve achieved so much and learned a lot!

From Saturday through to Wednesday, Saxons, Vikings & Normans Marathons & Challenges held a five day series of events at Cyclopark and what with it being so local, how could I resist not being involved 😉

Two of the events (the Gothic and Valentine’s Challenges), I had participated in last year so I gave those a miss and I’m running in a Music Legend Challenge later in the year, so I went for the Olympic Challenge and the Unusual Suspects Challenge on the Saturday and Monday respectively.

Saturday’s route was a 5.25 mile lap from base camp up to one end of the outer park, then all the way down to the other end and back to base.  It’s a route I use a lot for my own training so I’m very familiar with it and that’s not necessarily a good thing!  I was determined to complete the marathon distance on Saturday because I knew not doing so but still presumably having run a reasonable distance would impact on how far I’d be capable of running on the Monday.

We started out on a chilly grey Saturday morning but as the laps progressed, the wind picked up and the rain started.  I have now set myself an SVN benchmark whereby no event can be less than half marathon distance so after three laps a decision had to be made.  Doing a fourth meant a fifth could not be ignored.  But then another little carrot had been dangled in front of me at the run briefing.  Traviss advised that a half lap after the fifth lap would be an ultra marathon and a sixth lap a 50k ultra marathon.  I knew the latter would not happen but I was very determined to go passed the full marathon.  I had very much regretted not taking up this opportunity at the Soul Cake Day Challenge back in November at Margate but the thought of another 6k down the Westgate sea wall and back was just too much.  After having my card clipped for the fifth time and a double check that the half lap would mean an ultra, off I set.  It was probably the hardest and slowest part of my run that day but I did it and one of 2017’s outstanding goals was achieved!

Olympic Challenge

Please note the “ultra” badge 😉

Sunday was spent very quietly and involved a lot of stretching before I set out again on Monday.  The lap for this challenge was shorter, 3.75 miles and involved the upper part of Cyclopark plus a nice incline up towards Jeskyns and back.  A “long” half meant four laps so the mind games kicked in, ie, two laps in and it was “next time I’m here will mean only once more” followed by “the next time will be the last one”.  But then comes the “I can do one more” followed by “well I might as well do six although then I’ll have to do seven” and thus I managed another marathon!  On the last lap I had company in the form of my August “ten in ten” co-conspirator, Lynne, who had been volunteering.  That made it a lot easier, that and the fact the sun was shining!

I came away with two very shiny (and huge) bits of run bling, plus copious amounts of chocolate and a very big smile on my face.

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Think this might be the current favourite run bling!!

But then on Tuesday and Wednesday, I took my turn to volunteer.  I’m very much of the mind that if other people give up their time to allow me to participate in such events, then I should help out if I have the opportunity.  And this is when I learned so much, not just about what happens once the runners have set off but also about the issues in researching and planning new event venues and more importantly, the difference the financial contributions from SVN can make to the local area.  At one venue they have managed to employ a part time ranger as a result of additional income from SVN’s presence, which means they can organise more educational visits.  How great is that!!

Perhaps the thing that sticks out most in my mind is Traviss trying to convince one woman to go out on her seventh lap to not only be the first female marathon finisher that day but also to get a PB.  It took a few minutes and there were a few false starts but she was sent on her way with the help of fellow runners.  It was wonderful to see her finish having taken eight or nine minutes of her previous marathon time.  Although I think she then regretted having taken so long to be persuaded because she missed out on a sub 4 hour marathon by less than two minutes!  This is why I love this group, they are so encouraging, from experienced runners down to first timers, they all get sound advice and encouragement to achieve things probably not previously envisaged.

On a personal level, I also sought advice from experts on refuelling between multi event challenges because I have discovered I really struggle to eat after a long run, which is not going to be ideal come August.  The answer could be in liquid form and I have a few months to practice.  I also discovered that Dryrobe make the most wonderful cold weather outfits which are invaluable on cold, wet and windy February days and would be exceedingly useful when volunteering at junior parkrun down on the windy Prom.  I wonder if the taxman would notice if I claimed one on my business accounts!!

A Tale of Two Runs

In the past fortnight I’ve taken part in two running events with Saxons, Vikings & Normans at Betteshanger Country Park near Deal.  The contrast couldn’t have been more different:-

NYE – it was wet, windy and very muddy, so much so that my socks got thrown in the bin

Yesterday – it was dry, very little wind, the sun came out and there was very little mud – my socks survived

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Poor socks – my toes weren’t much better but I couldn’t throw them away!

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Trainers weren’t much better!

NYE – you could see the eerie glow of light pollution from Thanet Earth as it got dark

Yesterday – the light meant you could see the sea and the white cliffs of Ramsgate

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Sunny skies!

NYE – apart from the runners, there were very few people enjoying the Country Park facilities

Yesterday – a lot more visitors – using the cycle track, walking along the trail paths, using the children’s play park and the cafe

 

NYE – the day after I felt like I’d been run over by a bus

Yesterday – this morning I felt fine

 

NYE – I ran a marathon

Yesterday – I ran half a marathon

 

However, the things both events had in common were the great company, camaraderie and encouragement from the other runners, volunteers and organisers; and the wonderful goody bags and medals.

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Who Needs Alcohol!!

I half heard a radio phone-in earlier this week regarding the “stupid” things people commit to when under the influence of alcohol.  It occurs to me that alcohol isn’t the only thing that can lead you to outrageous commitments!  I can’t help but think the runner’s high also has a lot to answer for!

Earlier this year, at the end of a local 10k run, I enthusiastically agreed to sign up for the Winchester half marathon in September.  Nothing wrong with that until I realised this meant I would be attempting to run four half marathons in the space of 15 days.  Now in retrospect, and compared to other runners’ challenges, this doesn’t seem so bad and in the end I had to defer the place to 2018.  But I think after this I decided I’d leave it at least 24 hours before agreeing to sign up to events on the back of one just completed.

However, things have just gone from bad to worse especially during the last month or two, and perhaps even worse is the fact that a runner’s high hasn’t necessarily been involved, it’s been by osmosis, social media and pre-parkrun chatter!

The first of these “stupid” commitments now seems quite tame.  I agreed to take part in a local turkey trot in fancy dress.  It was suggested in casual conversation before parkrun had even started and I immediately said yes!  Why!!!  I’m now realising that December is drawing ever closer and I have to think up some Christmas themed outfit – currently I’m thinking fairy!

After this came the decision to sign up for a 10 in 10 (ten runs in ten consecutive days).  At the time of signing up, I was thinking I can do ten 10ks.  But somewhere along the line (and I admit some cider was involved but only a half), this has evolved into a ten marathons challenge.  In fact one of the events now has to be an ultra.  And jocular banter since suggests this challenge isn’t going away.  To make matters worse, the route is going to be the same at each event, it’s a timed challenge with laps and in the potential August heat.  If we managed this epic, it would mean running 81 laps.

Next, there’s a potential back to back marathon challenge in May, at least I’ll have the Bank Holiday Monday to recover with this one.

Then, on the back of a weekend running a Winnie the Pooh Challenge at the Ashdown Forest, I booked up to do it again next year, despite knowing the course and the fact it has a hill goats would struggle with.  Although I’m sure the medals will be as lovely as this year’s.

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Next year’s will be Kanga-Roo Kanter and Owl Amble 🙂

And finally, despite knowing that this is a seriously undulating course, I signed up for the Beachy Head Marathon on the basis that a friend’s Facebook pictures from the route looked quite pretty.  A few days later I saw some photos of how close the route gets to the cliff edge and now, with my fear of heights, I’m going to have to run that bit looking in the opposite direction.  Also, I’m going to start preying that Storm Zebedee doesn’t choose that weekend to hit the south coast.

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Run Profile ;-(

So I have my challenges lined up for next year, should keep me quiet and my sports masseuse in cash!  What about you?!

 

parkrun

I’d intended to write this blog piece earlier in the week but got distracted – which happens quite often when I intend to write a blog piece so think yourselves lucky!  Then yesterday I read Paul Sinton-Hewitt’s article referencing the history and ethos behind parkrun and the Runners World “cheating” debacle, and that prompted me to pick up my laptop.  Be warned, it is a bit rambling but hopefully you’ll get the gist of what I’m trying to say 🙂

Last Saturday I was heading off to London late morning and whereas in the past, I would have gone along to parkrun first and then had time to get ready for my outing, last week I decided not to go because I didn’t want to appear rude!!

How so?  Well, long gone are the days where I’d shuffle along at the last minute, loiter at the back of the pack and avoid eye contact, then run my 5k, get scanned and disappear back to the car park!  Oh no, now there’s chatting before the run briefing (and sometimes during – apologies), at various points whilst running and post my finish.  In fact, I’ve been known to still be chatting while the volunteers are packing up the course.  And on this particular day, I didn’t want to turn up, run and then disappear without talking to someone about our runs or life in general.  No-one would probably have noticed but I would still have felt a bit rude.

I’ve lost count of the number of people I now know as a result of parkrun and the confidence it has given me is amazing.  As a personal trainer, I’ve always said I could never run classes, I could never stand up in front of lots of people.  But as one of the run directors at Gravesend junior parkrun, I sometimes find myself standing in front of adults and children giving the run briefing over a megaphone!  Ok, so most of them probably aren’t listening but me, standing up in front of people …

During the summer, as run leader for a local running group, I also found myself holding weekly speed/hill training sessions plus circuit classes for the runners and their children, and the latest 0-5k programme has seen 50 plus people showing up.  Intimidating for shy little me but I get out there and confront my fears and if people think I’m stupid, so be it!  It’s now water off the camel’s back.

But the fact remains that the running community through parkrun has led to this new found confidence.  If it wasn’t for parkrun, I’d still be going off for solo runs around my local area, signing up for running events and turning up on my own (and not eating so much cake!)

So if anyone thinks running is an elitist activity and it’s all about winning races, think again!  It really doesn’t matter how fast you run, there will always be someone in the running community to support you.

For anyone who’s interested, here’s the link to Paul’s words

And yes, I’m cancelling my subscription to Runners World too!

Cows!!

Ha, that got your attention, what’s that got to do with running I hear you ask!  Well read on and you shall find out.

In all my years on this planet and despite the fact I live in Kent, I have never visited Dover – my mother may correct me on this but I certainly can’t recall it and if I did, it was probably a transitory visit en route across The Channel.

But yesterday that all changed when I took part in SVN’s Tolkien Run at Samphire Hoe.  Samphire Hoe is a nature reserve created from the excavations from the Channel Tunnel and lies at the foot of the Shakespeare Cliff between Dover and Folkestone.  I’ll be honest, I’d not heard good things about this run route, “boring” being the word that sticks in the forefront of my mind.

I can understand that description if you’d been there on a gloomy day in the winter months and not been able to see passed your nose.  But on this particular morning, the sun was shining and you could see the coast of France in the distance, together with the many cross Channel ferries, Folkestone harbour and the occasional high speed train – so some things to distract you.  The 6k course wasn’t exactly as flat as I’d been expecting apart from the long section on the sea wall.  The first and last part of the out and back route was a bit undulating but I’ve experienced worse.

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For anyone interested, here’s a description from the website –

“Samphire Hoe is an amazing place. There is something for everyone who enjoys the outdoors and wildlife: a stunning location and outstanding scenery, peace and quiet, walks, wildflowers, birds, sea angling and picnics.”

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The cows are hiding!

The bit they forget to mention is the herd of cows – some with small horns – that roam the reserve, although they were referred to during our run briefing.  At 8.30am we set off from the visitor centre and as I approached the summit of the first “hill” I spotted the cows – as they stampeded across the reserve and stopped right next to our path!  And there they stayed, for the rest of my run at least, although at some point they decided to sit down and just watch, menacingly, as I ran/walked quickly passed!  My four laps meant I had to face this ordeal eight times!!  Thank goodness I wasn’t wearing red!

This is not the first time I’ve come across cattle on an SVN run.  In August I took part in the Darnley Challenge and there, highland cows with even bigger horns lined both sides of the route up towards the Darnley Mausoleum.  What is the etiquette when you come across horned beasts – walk quickly but respectfully passed with your head down avoiding all eye contact or sprint passed hoping they don’t notice?

Suffice to say, I survived both my encounters and yesterday’s run also meant I achieved my 2017 goal to run twelve half marathons in twelve months although technically it was eight months because I ran the first one on 21 January and the twelfth on 20 September!

Anyway, Samphire Hoe can’t be that boring because today I’ve been looking at some of the other events they are due to hold there.  Although I don’t suppose I’d be so lucky again with the weather.

I also got a spectacular piece of run bling which glows in the dark!!

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Passchendaele Challenge

Shock, horror!  It’s been so long since I posted a blog, I’m not sure I can remember how to upload my scribblings!  Let’s see what happens!  (For the record it took forever – I really hate it when they change things, grrrh.)

This morning I took part in the six hour Passchendaele Challenge organised by Saxons, Vikings and Normans.  The event took place at King’s Wood, Challock, near Ashford and started at an early 8.00am.  Never did the homily “run in the morning before your brain realises what’s going on” seem more appropriate!  But as Traviss said, on 31 July 1917 the soldiers were sent over the top at 3.50am so maybe we had it lucky.  We were sent on our way after a reading and a minute’s silence by the eerie sound of trench whistles.

The route comprised a 4.4 mile lap of mainly fire roads through the woods and was described as “a moderately challenging trail run as it’s not a flat place but there are some lovely downhills to make up for the ups”.   That’s true, the first 2k at least is all downhill!  And having read a sign warning of adder bites at the entrance to the woods, I kept very much in the middle of the fire roads :-/

I’ve set myself a challenge this year to run 12 half marathons in 12 months and this was to be my eighth and so far only one (the ABP Southampton Half) has not been with SVN.  So I had to complete three laps to get my distance.  At the back of my brain there was a sneaky little voice saying why not go for six?  And on the second lap, I was thinking yup, I can do that, I’m feeling good.  One lap later, not so good, and I knew any additional laps would be far more walk than run so I threw in the towel (or in SVN’s case rang the bell to signal I’d finished) and collected my rather poignant medal.

Latest bling!

I think Traviss has magic powers as somewhere towards the end of my first lap, the rain started.  As I headed off downhill on my second lap, with the rain sending salty sweat into my eyes and leaving me unable to see from the stinging, I couldn’t help but think this is nowhere near as bad as they had it in Passchendaele, so don’t complain.  Also, my pain and discomfort was going to last nowhere near as long as those poor souls, so I battled on.

I’ve run at King’s Wood before, back in March, again with SVN but on this occasion it was the Book Day Challenge.  It was good to be back to see the venue during a different season but I missed seeing some of the sculptures in the woods – too many leaves on the trees!

Book Day Challenge bling

My next event is guess what, the SVN Darnley Challenge on 11 August running around Jeskyns Community Woodland, through Cobham, out to the Darnley Mausoleum and around Ranscombe Farm Reserve.  This time I only have to do one lap because it’s a 13.1 mile route but it does involve some orienteering so I could do more if I get lost.  But it does mean I should have completed my ninth half with four months to go (and in theory I have four potential halves booked for September – why did I think that was a good idea!)

Darnley Mausoleum