Vitality Run Hackney Half-Marathon

I’m doing it, why don’t you sign up too?

I’m feeling inspired by my muddy 10k race yesterday (more to follow later in the week) and by friends who took on a half-marathon challenge over the weekend. The last half-marathon I ran was back in March, so it’s been a while – I guess I have been slightly distracted by various tri- and duathlons 😉 When I ran my last half, I was really chuffed to get a personal best time of 1 hour 53 minutes and 34 seconds, but commented that I would love to go sub-1:50. Now there’s a goal for my Spring half!

Image: Vitality Run Hackney

Image: Vitality Run Hackney

The race starts and finishes at Hackney Marshes (my old training route from back in the North London day), passing through closed roads and taking in some of the East End’s iconic landmarks such as the Hackney Empire and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The course is fast and flat (PB here I come!) and we are promised plenty of entertainment to keep us going/distract us from our pain along the way. Finishers are rewarded not only with the glow of achievement at completing their challenge, but also a chunky medal, a Brooks Running technical t-shirt and a goody bag.

Image: Vitality Run Hackney

Image: Vitality Run Hackney

Maybe you missed out on a place in the London Marathon and want something to work towards, or hope to tackle your first half-marathon or, maybe like me, you have a time you want to beat. Sign up now and secure a place for May 8th – 13,000 runners took part in 2015, but places sell out fast!

And just in case you’re not convinced:

– A single lap run through the heart of Hackney.
– Start/Finish in Hackney Marshes.
– Race starts at 9am.
– See Hackney! Hackney Empire, Broadway Market, London Fields.
– Follow in the footsteps of legends through Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park taking in the Stadium, Copper Box and Velodrome.

– A fantastic Brooks Technical T-shirt for all finishers.
– Incredible Hackney supporters.
– Fantastic live entertainment along the route and in the Race Village.
– Stay refreshed at regular drink stations.
– A great goody bag.
– Live race results and text message with your official time.
– Secure bag-drop and changing facilities.
– A much deserved FREE post-race massage.
– And don’t forget the bling… an EPIC medal to wear with pride!

Thank you to Vitality for giving me a place in this race, I’ll do you proud 😉


Left or right?

I got lost. Well, not exactly lost, just over-shot my turning by a couple of miles and found myself having to run that little bit further to make it to my family meeting point. With the Cardiff Half Marathon just three weeks away now, I decided to run ten miles over the weekend and, in my attempt to fit this all in with family life, we agreed to meet at Coram’s Fields, which is near Russell Square. It was a gorgeous morning and a delight to run along the canal, with the sunlight sparkling on the water. Edward suggested running all the way along the canal to Victoria Park, then taking the Regent’s Canal towards King’s Cross.

The first bit is very familiar territory, being a well-trodden path of mine, and I saw the usual sights and encountered the usual handful of runners, then I ventured slightly further than I have been for a long time along the towpath, in fact it’s probably been over a year and a half since I ran down that way, so I wasn’t entirely sure what lay ahead. I remembered from my London Marathon training runs that you could hit a bit of a no-way-through point on arriving at the Olympic site, so was pleased to find my way through easily and to enjoy the view of a growing cluster of stadia and accompanying buildings through a high security fence (this is better than the secretive hoardings that used to be here). As you run along here, it is interesting to look both ways and observe the vast differences between the east side of the water and the west: one gleams with newness and is dripping with the money invested in it, while across the water you see graffiti-plastered industrial buildings lying empty or crumbling with decay. It turns out I should have been on that side of the canal. That says it all!

I felt myself beaming at other runners along this stretch, everyone seeming to glow with the excitement of being so close to the scene of future sporting achievement and glory, and I felt myself picking up the pace as I imagined the times being beaten behind those elaborate structures to my left. As I enjoyed this daydream I noticed the canal branching out west with no way of getting over to join it. ‘Oh well’, I thought ‘I can pick it up further along’. Of course, this didn’t happen and I found myself in a busy gyratory asking some workmen the way to Victoria Park, only to be greeted with them pointing and saying ‘Black tunnel, black tunnel’. I was heading more towards Greenwich Park than Victoria Park…via the Blackwall Tunnel. I know this spot only too well after we found ourselves stuck here on our way to a wedding, with the tunnel closed for repair. Not exactly the lovely canal-side run I had planned, but not the end of the world.

The next leg of the run was Bow Road. I found myself looking into the distance at the gherkin, thinking ‘If I head that way, I’ll be able to find my way to Coram’s Fields’, and speeding up at the same time, to make it go a bit quicker. I stopped once or twice to look at bus-stop maps and ask a girl if I was heading the right way (‘You could get on a train’ she said!) but realised I would get very cold if I didn’t keep on running. I was soon passing through Mile End then Whitechapel (oh, how I would love to have stopped to tuck into some delicious food at Tayyabs…), where some people were passing through the doors of the Whitechapel Gallery, which tempted me to pause…I didn’t. Now I started to wonder if I should head north, or just keep heading west in a straight line. The west won and I passed into the city.

Anyone who has ever run the Crisis Square Mile race will know that a GPS is useless in the city, and I was reminded of this here. My signal disappeared straight away, and came and went for the rest of this leg of the journey. I passed all the sights: the gherkin, the Royal Exchange, the Bank of England and all of the many tiny and ancient churches along the way. It was about here that my Garmin said I had run ten miles but, when I next looked down, it had jumped back to nine miles, I felt a bit disheartened by this. I did take a turn up towards Moorgate then passed by Smithfield Market. Not far now. Eventually, I was delighted to see Grays Inn Road, then remembered the last time I had walked along here recently when I had a wisdom tooth removed at the dental hospital: I was weaving around like a drunk apparently!

Next turning on the left was Guilford Street, where I gave it one last effort and rolled up at the gates to the playground where there was a family fun day with fire engines, police vans, drumming, face painting and the usual cheeky goats, rabbits and chickens. If you have children and are in central London, it’s a fantastic place to let them run around and play, we often end up spending a whole day there. Of course, I headed straight to the sandpit where I was bound to find Hector digging away. ‘Hello Mummy, did you have a good run?’.

Time: 1 hour 57 minutes 12 seconds

Distance: 11.03 miles (I am saying it was 12 though because the signal was caput)

Average Pace: 10.38

Best Pace: 7.13

Calories: 1141

Cardiff in sight

Oh hello! Yes, my running has taken a sideline recently. I got into a good groove before we went away, running in the evening, doing sit-ups, stretching, that kind of thing, then we went to Cornwall for a week and I lost my mojo again. I eagerly packed my running kit before anything else, then promptly left it in the boot of the car for the rest of the week. I was having far too much fun playing in the sand, catching my breath in the sea and eating lots and lots of delicious cream teas. Drool. Oh, and quenching my thirst with this stuff:

I became rather adept at my new obsession, stone balancing, excellent fun and ever so satisfying when you manage a tricky one:

Anyway, that was almost a month ago, so I thought I needed to get back on course and took advantage of this Bank Holiday weekend and went for a couple of runs and three bike rides. The first run was a little tester to see if I was actually still alive. I was. It was windy and grey and felt more like October than August, but I managed about three miles and a bit (dodgy Garmin stats again). On Sunday I couldn’t find my Garmin anywhere (it turned up under the bed, as things do) so Edward said I could use his iPhone. I did comment that I find it irritating that you can’t just look down at your wrist to see how far you’ve gone, but this particular app tells you out loud when you’ve completed another mile. I did six. In October I am running the Cardiff Half Marathon, so that’s about six weeks away. I figure I could add a mile a week to the long run and things should be just fine, slow and steady.

I ran to Finsbury Park for this one. Again it was windy, but it felt nice to run around Finsbury Park outside the constrains of the Parkrun: there are hills, but I avoided anything as horrible as the one we run up twice during the 5k. On both of my runs this week I witnessed men peeing in parks, the first one I reprimanded, but this one just puzzled me. There was a fun fair in the park and he was one of the fair people who had obviously been spending the night amongst the lights and dizzying rides in his caravan. Now, I have very little experience of caravans, but I do know that they generally have a loo in them, don’t they? So why would you go outside and pee next to it? Dirty.

Time: 1 hour 4 minutes 45 seconds

Distance: 6.18 miles

Average Pace: 10.28

Calories: 932

How generous the iPod is with calories, I took advantage of this with an extra big bowl of my blackberry crumble.

Another reason for my lack of running is that I am slightly distracted by moving house. Our sale is going through now but we were having trouble finding anywhere to move to. We seem to have found ‘the one’ now and are looking forward to a smooth move. This has set me thinking about running routes. We picked our blackberries on Tottenham Marshes and I said I am going to miss them (as does Jogblog), this half marathon will be the last race where I will train on the marshes and canals, the routes that have seen me through two marathons and numerous other running challenges. I wonder if I will find anywhere as wonderful where we are moving to. One thing that does excite me is the possibility of being just minutes away from a running club, and running is the best way to explore a new area and find out where everything is.

How many Juneathoners does it take to…

…drink a bottle of champagne?

This many (and me, taking the photo, and Edward, running around with Hector)!

On Saturday, a few of us got together in Hyde Park for a post-Juneathon get-together and celebration. Some of us decided it might be fun to go for a little run:

Then we shared a picnic and drank champagne:

And I was presented with my delightfully pink Vibram Five Fingers by Adam from Fitness Footwear, my prize for winning Juneathon 2010:

The run was led by Angela, who runs with the Serpentine Running Club, so knows Hyde Park very well. It was to be a 5k run, but I think it was a little closer to 4 miles, but can’t say for sure because my temperamental Garmin lost its signal part way round. It was lovely to run with some fellow Juneathoners, there was no way I could keep up with Angela as she is a six-minute miler, so I ran and chatted with Sean from Audiofuel who very kindly stayed back with me. I was impressed with Adam, Grant and William for keeping up with speedy Angela, but happily tagged along at my usual pace, though I do find it hard to chat and run, sorry Sean if I was a bit, well, gaspy! Meanwhile, Edward played with Hector, Cathy and Susan set up our picnic area and Shaun had fun on Grant’s fixie.

Time: 36 minutes 16 seconds

Distance: 3.22 miles

Average pace: 11.17

Calories: 308

(yup, weird stats when we were running around 9.30 minute miles!)

Since I found out I had won Juneathon, and would be the proud recipient of a pair of Vibrams, I have been thinking about the way I run, my gait and about barefoot running in general. My friends Nick and Nadine both wear Vibrams as everyday, out-and-about shoes, so they were singing their praises, and Nick even lent my his copy of  ‘Born to Run’ to really try to win me round. I have been conscious of my footfall as I run around the house and garden after Hector, noticing that I do tend to land towards the front of my foot when barefoot, and I wonder if this anything to do with being trained as a contemporary dancer, where the emphasis is always on lifting your weight up and forwards, keeping your feet underneath you and running with a lightness that allows you to seemingly float forwards (a-ha-ha-ha, I so wish I still had that kind of grace when I run!).

When I came to put on the Vibrams, I found it a bit tricky, but Adam suggested putting my foot into them on the ground, slipping my toes into the little individual sections and then pulling the back over my heel.

They are the daftest looking shoes I think I have ever seen, but they certainly are comfy. I’m not sure I would have the nerve to wear them out-and-about like N&N do, but Cathy said they looked ok in the park. I quickly had the urge to run in them, even with an audience, and Sean soon had me running around with a camera, filming my feet. After all the thoughts and concerns about needing to alter my running style, and the need to re-train myself to run ‘barefoot’, I realised that actually I have about the right sort of gait for this style of running, landing around midfoot and with a low centre of gravity. They felt right. I did venture over to the path to see if they felt as good there, but Hector seemed concerned: ‘No Mummy, don’t run on the path, those are soft shoes!’ I think I will try a short run in the park with them, on grass, and write about how I feel, I’m not sure what the people of Tottenham will make of them…

For now I am carrying on my training for the Hackney Marshes half marathon in August, 13 miles seems a very long way right now. I have done a few runs this week and logged the times on Fetch, but I need to knuckle down and increase my mileage if I am to have fun on race day. Talking of fun on race day, a few of us, in the heat of the Juneathon party, relaxed after quaffing champagne, agreed to sign up to Grim in December. Eight miles of mud and water?! Are we mad?! Probably. Bring it on!

Another day another playground another run

Word is the new playground at Springfield Park is open! We passed by the other week on our bikes but there were still railings around the play area and Hector was most put out, so I thought it would be good to run down there and have a look today. This means a lovely run along the canal, and all the interesting sights that brings. We like to play a game of ‘spot the cormorant’ – they duck under the water and don’t pop up again for ages, usually miles away from where they went down. What fun! I just managed to catch this one before it disappeared again:

The playground was indeed open and it has a lovely sand area, with a fantastic wooden boat to climb on and in and some springy thingies to bob up and down on…

It is super hot out there today (they said it would be 27 degrees on the weather report this morning) so running is hard-going. I am finding it hard to keep on top of all the extra washing, so have ended up wearing odd race t-shirts that are normally reserved for decorating, they are surprisingly ok and I enjoy the extra length but they are certainly clingy in this sweaty weather! I also need to invest in some new running bras as I ended up putting on a clean but still damp one this morning and, while I’m at it, some new running shoes wouldn’t go amiss! Who said running is a cheap sport?

On our way out of the park we had to pause a while and watch this man at work. He was preparing the cricket pitch for the weekend.

Stats for Juneathon Day 4

Type of run: Pushing buggy

Time: 51 minutes 23 seconds

Distance: 5.01 miles

Average Pace: 10.16

Best Pace: 6.53

Calories: 557

This morning I entered the UF Dance Half Marathon again – I did it last year in scorching hot weather, but really enjoyed how friendly it was, so decided to give it another go. I’m a bit disappointed that the Finsbury Parkrun is cancelled tomorrow, something to do with a concert set-up, I’ll just have to do my own 5k instead.

Challenges of running every day

It’s hard! Octoberthon is going well in many ways, but it’s such a challenge getting out every day. On Tuesday I didn’t manage it. It rained and rained and rained all day and Hector and I were all ready to go at one point and it started chucking it down again. We spent some time at the library and I decided I would head out when Edward got home…only he didn’t get back until just before nine and I didn’t fancy the streets at that time, mingling with the ladies of the night and their associates. Oh well.

On Wednesday the weather really picked up, it was one of those autumn days that makes me smile: crisp, fresh and sunny, so we headed down to the canal.

Time: 33 minutes 13 seconds

Distance: 3.17 miles

Average Pace: 10.29

Best Pace: 8.21

Calories: 358

Thursday was just as lovely, if a little bit windy, so we did the run-to-swimming-lesson-and-run-back-home run. I do enjoy this, it’s so much more enjoyable than the bus, but it’s hard putting on slightly damp running clothes after emerging from a deliciously warm swimming pool!

Time: 50 minutes 45 seconds

Distance: 4.74 miles

Average Pace: 10.42

Best Pace: 7.40

Calories: 453

Friday was another gorgeous autumnal delight, but I waited until the evening to run and really regretted it as the skies opened up just at the point where I said: ‘Ok, I’ll go running now’. I stared at it for a bit, procrastinated some then realised it wasn’t going to stop and I should just go for it. The rain did something great to my speed motivators as I kept up quite some pace for the whole three miles. It made me realise I might just crack that 25 minute 5k I would love to achieve. My enthusiasm was knocked somewhat as I neared home and heard some lads shout out: ‘Come on big arse!’. Hmmmm, thanks for that.

Time: 25 minutes 29 seconds

Distance: 3.02 miles

Average Pace: 8.26

Best Pace: 6.04

Calories: 298

Yesterday we all set out early on our bikes to Hampstead Heath where we enjoyed a flask of tea and our lunch near the lovely Pergola and then wandered through the trees and had a play in the playground. I saw Ricky Gervaise at one point running through the heath, looking like it was hard work. Glad it’s not just me that finds the heath a challenge! Talking of challenges, the outward trip to the heath is full on hills, hills, hills and I realise how useless I am at cycling; I might be running fit, but cycling makes my legs scream. As a result I decided not to run yesterday, I was simply worn out.

Since I did my big walk a couple of weeks ago I have been experiencing a new pain in my left knee, on the inside, some sort of patella thing I guess, probably just caused by all that walking and stair climbing. The funny thing is that it only hurts when I walk, it’s absolutely fine when I run and was ok when I cycled yesterday. This morning I set off to Finsbury Park as I fancied running along the path that we rode on yesterday. My knee was hurting though. I ran as far as the park, stopped and stretched and decided to run back home. As well as the knee, my right shin was aching too, so I didn’t want to push it too far and cause long-term problems. Damn it. I don’t know if it was because I had decided to run back home or if it was because I had warmed up, but the pain and the ache both eased a bit on the return journey…

Time: 33 minutes 30 seconds

Distance: 3.19 miles

Average Pace: 10.29

Best Pace: 8.03

Calories: 337

Octoberthon. It’s like Oktoberfest but without the beer.

Well, maybe the odd glass on a Friday evening.

I am feeling a bit sluggish and porky around the middle at the moment and, after my BIG walk last week (which I will write about when I get a chance, really I will), I feel encouraged and inspired to push myself a little bit further than I have been doing of late. So I have decided to take decisive action and commit to a daily activity. Remember Juneathon? Well, this is just like that but it’s in October and doesn’t necessarily involve daily blogging, which I found more challenging than the daily running (look, I’m making all this up, so I can make up my own rules and do what the heck I like). I will attempt to run every day, with a limit of no fewer than three miles and, as I will be perusing the Venice Biennale for a few days towards the end of the month, I will make up for those lost days at the beginning of November (as I said, I make up the rules ok?).

To start you off, I ran to Hector’s swimming lesson and back yesterday and boy did I look like some sort of lardy, asthmatic (yes, I am) beginner! I gasped up Hornsey Rise like a steam train, pausing at the top pretending to look at a digger and roller combo. Coming home was a little easier, but I still felt totally out of condition. Here are the stats:

Time: 52 minutes 59 seconds

Distance: 4.92 miles

Average Pace: 10.46

Best Pace: 8.53

Calories: 512

This afternoon I popped Hector in the running buggy in a desperate attempt to get him to have a sleep. Of course he slipped into gentle slumber within minutes of setting off and I enjoyed a saunter along the canal. There is a lovely new cafe near the playground at Markfield Park, so my longer runs will be full of temptation as the delicious-looking carrot cakes call me from the path of righteousness.

Time: 35 minutes 58 seconds

Distance: 3.47 miles

Average Pace: 10.21

Best Pace: 7.55

Calories: 377

So, does anyone want to join me? I found Juneathon a great motivator and this could be just what we need to get back on track for the dark months ahead. Has anyone heard about a place in the VLM and needs a bit of a kick start? Go on, you know you want to!