Breakfast with Champions

Well, I am one very lucky lady! I simply clicked ‘Like’ on the Holiday Inn Facebook page and won the chance to run with Paula Radcliffe and Shelly Woods. The strangest thing about all of this for me, other than running alongside my heroine, was peeling myself quietly away from the boys as they slept and venturing out into the commuter world in the early hours. I watched as a steady stream of regulars took up their everyday spot on the platform and headed to the doors as the train sneaked up silently in the dark. I was amazed to see that the train was full, at 6am! Emerging from Charing Cross I noticed sleepers huddled in doorways, something I don’t usually see in my sheltered south London world, and I wondered if these commuters still notice them as they pass the same shop doorways every day.

As I arrived at the Holiday Inn Bloomsbury I was greeted by other eager-looking runners who were milling about expectantly, awaiting the arrival of our Olympic stars. I was slightly disappointed that Shanaze wasn’t riding her BMX around the foyer…then Paula strolled in. She’s tiny, really, you could blow her over, and so elegant, oh how I wish I could roll up at the end of a marathon looking as fresh as she does!

We were walked over to Russell Square where we tried our best to keep warm while Paula was interviewed by ITV Daybreak (I have had a scan through on the Player, but can’t see anything, maybe it’s going to be on tomorrow’s show) while we did some ‘stretching’ and jumping up and down in the background.

Paula being prepared for interview. And yes, that's her body guard!

The event was all very well organised, with security people and even St John’s Ambulance on bikes!

Thankfully, his services were not needed!

Before we set off we did some – much-needed – warming-up with Paula and Shelly.

Warming up

We then set off around Russell Square for a mile run. Here I was, next to the woman who has been my heroine for such a very long time, and actually keeping up!

Race ya Paula!

Suddenly I found myself next to Paula and simply didn’t know what to say, but she really is as lovely as she seems and we chatted easily for a while. I was interested in what happens next and she told me she is off to the Pyrenees to train with the other athletes. I asked her when she gets to see her family in this busy schedule and she said they will be with her. I told her about how I used to run with Hector in the running buggy and we chatted about how odd it is to run with a buggy. Just like talking to any other running mum really! On our last lap of the square we took a turn down a tree-lined path and broke the tape of the finish line, arms in the air, cheers all round.

Back at the hotel we were warmed up with hot drinks and a lovely breakfast (not porridge!) and Paula and Shelly very kindly signed things for us and posed for photos (in which I look a right gormless duh) then held a quick Q&A session. I talked to other runners, all with different goals and experiences, some running London this weekend, some with 100 marathons in their sight.

Paula and me

Shelly and me!

Shelly is competing in this Sunday’s London Marathon (which she has previously won) and seemed calm and relaxed in the run up to the Olympic Games. When asked who inspired her, she said ‘This lady here’ and pointed at Paula Radcliffe.

Right now I am buzzing from this experience. I got to run alongside a world record holder, and two London Marathon winners both heading towards London 2012. What a start to a drizzly Thursday morning!

Best wishes

Distance run: 1.01 miles

Time: 9 minutes 39 seconds

Average Pace: 9.34

Best Pace: 7.22

Calories: 69

(and Shelly and Paula didn’t even break a sweat!)



Juneathon Day 1: Dawn Chorus and a 10k Race

I’ve been awake since five o’clock, lying very still so as not to disturb the family who were sleeping sweetly next to me, and thinking in a slightly panicky way about Sunday’s Big Lunch that I – crazily – decided to organise for our road. The birds were singing happily outside while I thought hard about how to manage the moving of about fifty cars to allow my neighbours to party all afternoon long. And bunting. And road closure signs. And food. And craft materials. And. And. And. And then I eased myself carefully out of bed and went for a run. The immediate difference I noticed and enjoyed between Janathon and Juneathon is that I can run through the park at six o’clock in the morning. I saw a man ahead but was reassured when I saw his dog leaping out of the river, and even more reassured when I saw that it was a Spaniel – a Spaniel owner wouldn’t cause me any harm. I did a few laps of the newly opened South section of the park, enjoying all the lovely new paths and open access to the river, after all the rain we’ve had in the past few days, things were looking wonderfully lush. The air was good and fresh after yesterday’s storm but my asthma still troubled me, I think a trip to the nurse is called for and maybe I should have a go with the brown inhaler again (I’ve never really got on with them).

Juneathon Day 1:

Time: 29 minutes 16 seconds

Distance: 3.02 miles

Average Pace: 9.42

Best Pace: 8.03

Calories: 323

Pretty chuffed that I had run, eaten and showered by seven o’clock, especially as I have been feeling a bit stressed about managing Juneathon this year. June is becoming the new December – with Hector’s birthday at the end of the month, we are suddenly filling every spare moment with family get-togethers, some of which will be in remote – yet beautiful – places…with the chance of a shaky internet connection. Arrrghghg! Watch this space!

Which brings me to Monday’s race, the BUPA London 10k. I entered the race ages ago, in a flurry of excitement prompted by the Janathon get-together, and it came around all too quickly, as these things do. It being a Bank Holiday Monday, we set off as a family for a day out, with Edward and Hector all set to spend some time over at the sandpit in St James’ Park:

An unexpected treat was bumping into HelsBels:

And we then headed over to see Hauling my Carcass and EatingTrees:

After a quick catch-up, I joined the ridiculously long queue for the loos then jogged over to the start. I was soon joined by HMC and ET and we chatted excitedly about the race, with ET wearing his Vibrams for the first time in a race. I liked the way the start was done, with each wave moving forward and having its own countdown, it felt as if you were the front-runners, for a bit. We wished each other luck and off we went. I had hoped to get a similar or slightly faster time than at the Peckham 10k the other week (57 minutes), so legged it off, running my first mile in eight minutes (as Edward kindly pointed out, this is where I went wrong), and kept up the pace a bit for the second mile, but was soon feeling super thirsty and down-trodden by the heat (I find a slightly later race start – 11am – a tricky one to fuel for) and it wasn’t long before my asthma kicked in. This was a complete surprise to me as I am never normally concerned about it, so of course I wasn’t carrying an inhaler. I just didn’t have any kick in me, and really struggled the whole way round. It’s a nice course and was being tested as part of the build up to the Olympic Games, with various events happening around the 10k race itself. I enjoyed the run up towards the finish line facing Buckingham Palace, far better than the other direction as with the London Marathon, but there was no way I could go for a sprint finish! I hobbled over the finish line with an  odd clicky knee, I think brought on by some cycling over the weekend, and made my way over to the sandpit 🙂

All concerns about a crappy show were wiped away by a lovely Mexican lunch with HMC and his family and ET at Wahaca in Covent Garden. Yum!

Time: 1 hour 1 minute 59 seconds

Distance: 6.16 miles

Average Pace: 10.04

Best Pace: 5.06

Calories: 557

Conversations with self

I often wonder what other runners think about when they are running, the conversations they have with themselves and the mind games that take place. Apparently Paula Radcliffe just counts (I used to do this and a lot of ‘left, right’ when I first started running). Nike have produced a series of short films looking into this subject and you can see one about the sprinter Nicola Sanders here:

I like the idea that the different parts of your body have a little arguement, well, I guess that’s not so far from the truth in a way! I also like the subtitles on the film as I don’t have any speakers connected to my computer 🙂

Back on track

I’ve been away…getting very wet in Wales. There’s a reason Wales is so deliciously lush and green. We went over to south Wales to meet up with Ben and Jackie who live in Pontypridd, then headed over to Pembrokeshire to go camping near St Davids. It is quite amazingly beautiful around there, breathtaking. We did have a lovely time, but our camping trip was cut short by a 5am storm which destroyed B&J’s brand new tent (they did get their money back, thankfully). Then off we headed up north to visit my parents. A wonderful time was had at the Welsh Mountain Zoo and watching Punch and Judy in Llandudno, but not much beach action 😦 We did manage to experience this incredible place on our one hot day:

The Blue Lagoon, a disused slate quarry with sparkling blue water. It features in a lovely book we have called ‘Wild Swim’ so we have now ticked this one off our list. This weekend we had visitors from the Netherlands and spent time showing Mirjam and Bas the sights of north London…here we are picking blackberries in Highgate Cemetary, naughty I know, but what a scrumptious crumble they made:

So, you might wonder when I fitted running in with all this, well I didn’t. I did pack my running kit, but simply didn’t get a chance, what with the dreadful weather and the tight schedule. Today I got back on track and headed out while it was dry – you really do have to time it well at the moment to avoid a drenching! I have looked into getting a cover for the running buggy, but at about 50-odd quid I will have to leave it!

Great joy was experienced all round when we turned in to the park to see a shiny red tractor (or ‘tat-der’ as Hector says) mowing the grass. This provided lots of entertainment as the driver whizzed it round in circles and sprayed cut grass behind him. We saw the usual group of plodders and dog walkers and paused to check out the pigeons and crows. It’s nice to be back.

Time: 30.43

Distance: 3.04 miles

Average Pace: 10.07

Best Pace: 8.30

Calories: 381

By the way, I am super gutted that our telly has decided to conk out on us during the Olympics, this means I am only getting to see highlights on the web…a day late 😦 I did think Paula Radcliffe should have given it a miss, she had a stress fracture for goodness’ sake!