Running Need

I find that running becomes all the more attractive when you can’t actually do it. This week I had planned to run five miles on Tuesday, but was woken in the night by a poorly boy and our Tuesday was spent snuggled up on the sofa, Hector under his duvet and me (on vomit-watch) under my growing blanket:

My growing yarny creation

My growing yarny creation

(I have been attempting to crochet for a long time now, and only got the hang of it when I went to a workshop. I would recommend it, it’s one of those things that you really do need to see in action. If nobody else appreciates this, I at least know that Travelling Hopefully will 😉 )

By Wednesday Hector was back up and at ’em (it’s amazing how small people bounce back as if nothing has happened) and I was able to tackle that run I had planned. I mentioned to Edward that I planned to run five miles and he said: ‘You could run 10k in about an hour, slacker!’ (that was all said in the nicest possible way, for anyone who doesn’t know him!), so there it was, I had a challenge. I dropped bouncy boy off at school and set off towards Blackheath. For some reason I thought it might be good to include a hill and anyone from the SE13 area will know that Lewisham Hill lives up to its name. Oh, how I gritted my teeth! It’s been a long time since I did this particular route and it felt good to open out onto the heath and saunter over to Greenwich Park with its gorgeous views. All the time I had a delightful selection of music in my ears, courtesy of my superb ‘Adele’s Big Four Doh!’ CD compilation from our lovely friends Bas, Mirjam and Aletta. All on the theme of running, or with a subtle mention of running, these songs really gave me a boost when I started to flag. Knowing that it’s been a very, very long time since I ran 10k, maybe over a year, I wasn’t going to be too hard on myself, and just enjoyed the run but, as I got nearer to home I started to glow a bit, feeling a buzz that you only get when you’ve hit that running goal.

It’s amazing how varied our ‘running careers’ can be. Not so long ago I was training hard for the Brighton Marathon, then the Royal Parks Half Marathon, then I haven’t raced for over year, preferring to run just for the pleasure of it and I now find myself stuck around the 5k mark. How happy was I to see these stats?

Distance: 6.23 miles

Time: 59 minutes 55 seconds

Average Pace: 9.37

Best Pace: 6.47

Calories: 756


Let her eat cake. And bread. And buns.

It’s been a good week for running. Odd really, when I spent over an hour waiting at the doctor’s on Monday (I had an appointment!) to have my knee checked out. It has been ‘giving me gyp’ for months and months now, mostly when I go up and downstairs but not – thankfully – when I am running. Last week this changed and it all started to feel a bit unstable as I ran and my knee looked a bit swollen, enough to prompt me to see the doctor. It seems I have patellofemoral pain syndrome, which is apparently common amongst runners (I hadn’t told him I was a runner, he must have clocked my athletic physique as I hobbled into the room). He is referring me to a physio which he admitted might take sixteen weeks to happen. In the meantime I am doing various exercises after running to strengthen my quads and hips and waiting patiently to consult an expert. I had thought the problem arose from my constant kneeling when I play with Hector and also moving to a house with stairs having lived on the ground floor for years and, as it hadn’t given me any trouble whilst running, I had been quite dismissive. Anyway, things have improved and I am going to just carry on as normal for now.

I have been continuing my lovely school run but had the sad realisation this week that it will soon be over: the Easter holidays begin in a week and a half and, after the holidays, the children will move into a lovely new building just a short walk from our house and our routine will change again. It does mean Hector will be able to cycle to and from school, which he will no doubt enjoy, but I might have to give myself a bit more motivation to get a run in after dropping him off. I think I might have found a motivation on my run the other morning. I decided to pop over the ‘spirally footbridge’ into the other section of park and noticed a ‘Run England’ sign on the notice board, I stopped to have a nosey and saw that there is a free course taking place in a couple of weeks. The deadline for applications was Wednesday so I quickly got on the case. It seems I have got a place on the ‘Leadership in Running Fitness‘ course at the end of the month, and this will allow me to start my own running group. In return for the council/mayor-funded place, I will commit to 20 hours of voluntary work, which I am really looking forward to. I have wanted to do something like this for a while so I’m glad I added that extra mile to my run last week and spotted the sign!

In other news there has been some lively chatter over on Twitter. Cathy Jogblog was asking if people wanted a challenge for April, which involved running a mile for every alcoholic drink you consume. As I don’t really drink that much (actually, I do drink more than I used to, but not enough to warrant a challenge) it was decided that I could substitute drink for cake, but really, I know I like cake, but I don’t eat that much! I seem to have settled on baked goods – there’s a lot of bread being baked here at the moment and check out these little chaps I made yesterday:

Cathy suggested the name ‘Viceathon’ for this particular challenge, so participants can tailor it to their own particular over-undulgences. I am sure she will be writing up a blog post with lots of information soon, so check out Jogblog to find out what’s in store. If you haven’t joined in any of the ‘athons’ before, you should, its’ a great way to motivate yourself to run and you get lots and lots of support.

This morning I could have lounged around the house reading the paper and eating baked goods, but I decided to go for run number six while Edward and Hector went for a swim (H is swimming proper now: head under water, breast-stroke arms, no floats and everything, I’m ever so proud!). I popped in my headphones and did a warm-up circuit of Ladywell Fields then headed upwards towards Hilly Fields. It felt like hard work going up that hill but, for some reason, I took this as a signal to tackle it head on and ran up and down four times. As I plodded down, puffing and panting for the fourth time, I thought ‘Go for it, do another!’ so I did.

Distance: 4 miles

Time: 40 minutes 37 seconds

Average Pace: 10.09

Best Pace: 7.21

Calories: 489


Middle class soup

Today’s effort was a sort of triathlon. First I went out and ran, not the best run in the world: it involved my knees hurting really badly (I think I have ‘housemaid’s knee’ from kneeling down and playing with Lego so much, does anyone have any experience of this?), running past so many runners that I lost count, I think they equalled the dog-walkers today and standing on a bridge and crying, partly due to the music I was listening to but mostly due to my fragile emotional state at the moment.

Things picked up when I got home when, after a restorative hot shower, we all jumped on our bikes and rode over to the Dulwich Leisure Centre for a swim. I still find it a bit odd living in South East London again and visiting the old places I used to frequent as an eighteen year old dance student at Laban. When I first came to London I lived in East Dulwich and sometimes used to go for a swim at the pool on Goose Green, my how it’s changed! It’s all very swish with a cafe and everything and, when we dipped ourselves in the warm pool, teeming with parents and small children, Edward commented that it was ‘like swimming in middle class soup’!

We then embarked on the most middle class of Sunday afternoon pursuits and rode over to Fired Earth to look at tiles for our new kitchen. I know. There was much chin-stroking and head-tilting and we ended up leaving with a selection of tiles to try at home (more chin-stroking…). The two legs of our bike ride are regular routes for Edward, the first being the beginning of his daily commute and the second being the homeward journey he takes after footie on a Tuesday night, though I can’t imagine how he does it, those hills!

Our exertions were to be rewarded with a team pizza: I made the dough, we took down the Christmas tree, then Edward and Hector rolled it out and put on the topping. I say Edward and Hector but apparently H wanted to do everything himself:

The smells wafting through from the kitchen were just delicious, though I did wonder if Hector was ensuring immediate exclusion from school tomorrow for eating too much garlic!

The result was really tasty.

Distance: 3.19 miles

Time: 31 minutes

Average Pace: 9.44

Best Pace: 3.58

Calories: 321

And we think we must have cycled about 8 miles in total. Now I must plank.

Royal Parks Foundation Half-Marathon

I’m not sure I should write this blog post right now because I can feel myself descending into the gloomiest post-race blueness ever – you train for ages and focus on something so closely that you feel a bit lost once it’s over. The fact that it didn’t go swimmingly doesn’t help either.

But enough of that! I was woken a bit earlier than I had hoped (6am) by Junior Coach and tried hard to keep him contained for another hour by hugging him really tightly and hoping he might go back to sleep, but was kept awake by the incessant chattering until we all just gave in and had our breakfast. It was grey out there, pouring with rain in fact and I felt a sense of foreboding at the thought of having to run 13.1 miles in the rain, my least favourite running conditions. I had been very organised and laid everything out on Saturday night, so simply had to put on my kit and go, but not before I had sat with Hector for a bit and listened to the Jacqueline Wilson ‘The Mummy Cat’ audio CD that was free in Saturday’s Guardian (Edward and Hector listened to the rest of it when I had gone and it was apparently very, very sad). As I walked briskly under an unloved cheap umbrella to the train station, I did a mental check of all my body parts to make sure they were in working order, things felt good apart from the still achy Zumba hip.

The journey was straightforward and I started to see runners once I got to London Bridge, always reassuring. The rain had stopped once I got to Hyde Park, so I dangled the umbrella on a railing for a spectator to make use of and headed to the loo queues. I stood there for ages, not moving at all and eventually gave up as the start time drew closer and joined another queue and then gave up and walked to the blue start. I chatted briefly with a friendly fellow runner and she said it was her first half-marathon and she was aiming for 2 hours 30 minutes, I had a time of 2 hours 10 in my head, having run a similar time at Cardiff last year. Eventually we were off, shuffling forward in our waves and being released onto the streets of London. I did forget to set my Garmin to search for satellites so ended up starting my clock a few metres past the start – oops, my first race with the new Garmin, I used to switch the old one on when I reached the race, knowing it took an age to get a signal!

It is a lovely route and I had a great feeling running with all these other people through the sights of London with a big smile on my face. My race high point was as we ran towards the Houses of Parliament. I watched the hands on the clock turn slowly and felt a rush of excitement as Big Ben struck ten, there was a collective ‘ahhhh’ around me as we all enjoyed this uplifting moment, what great timing! Everything felt good running along the Embankment, looking up and waving at spectators on the bridges, and feeling a little like a London Marathoner again. Here we started to see faster runners who had already turned around, but I was soon one of them heading back towards Hyde Park. I pondered for a moment on the mounted guards who sat, motionless as thousands of colourful runners rushed past them in a wave of excitement, how do they do it? After an enjoyable run up the Mall, we were soon weaving our way around Hyde Park on a route that, at times became slightly irritating, especially when I started to struggle. I can see why the road sections are at the beginning, so that roads can be re-opened quickly and normality resume, but it would be so much better to run the park first and have the sights of London to get you through the second half of the race.

This part of the race takes you through a beautiful autumnal scene with colourful leaves falling at your feet and huge crowds of supporters cheering everyone on. It does feel slightly disheartening to see faster runners looping back towards the finish line though and I had a moment of bewilderment when I saw JogBlog on the other side of the barrier and I couldn’t remember if I had already run that way or not. It was unfortunate that she saw me at that point, the point where things started to go downhill for me. I was guzzling water and attempting to suck a gel whilst walking for the first time in the race. It wasn’t a hot day really, not like last Sunday, but I felt hot and thirsty and found myself repeating my experience at London Marathon 2009, where I drank so much that I ended up collapsing in a heap with cramp. I managed not to collapse this time but, at one point I had such a painful stitch that was radiating over my chest, that I thought I was having a heart attack. I didn’t want to say anything though, because I didn’t want to get carted off in an ambulance! It’s interesting that I saw so many people being attended to by medics during this race, far more than at Brighton Marathon earlier this year, I wonder if it’s because some people take the training less seriously for a half rather than full marathon.

So, I had by now consumed both gels, guzzled a load of Lucozade Sport and topped that up with water but I was still struggling, time to plug my headphones in. Once again, Florence and the Machine came up with the goods and made me smile with these words from ‘Hurricane’:

‘I brace myself
Cause I know it’s going to hurt
But I like to think at least things can’t get any worse’

It worked for a while anyway. By this point I was walking regularly because the cramp was so bad that my toes were curling and making it hard to keep going. It was so frustrating, knowing how well my training had gone. Even though it all felt like agony, the miles did pass quickly and I was soon in front of the Albert Memorial, stretching my calf muscles (‘Are you alright ma’am? said a friendly marshal) ahead of the run to the finish. Here I passed the woman I had spoken to at the start and watched as she was cheered on by her family and how this support gave her enough of a boost to sprint towards the finish (I could have done with some of that myself) and I crossed the finish shortly after with a sense of relief and also happiness when I saw the beautiful medal, the nicest medal I have ever received.

There were quite a few of my fellow bloggers running the race as well (JogBlog, Helsbels, Fairweatherrunner, Fortnightflo, Abradypus and Plustenner – I hope I haven’t missed anybody out there!), and they had arranged a post-race pizza/beer/cake meet-up, but I had to rush/hobble home to a delicious roast dinner and friends, who had arrived before me -oops! I would say, it’s good to take you time recovering, I would like to have had a look around the food festival and refuelled straight away, but instead I jumped on the tube and felt slightly nauseous. Edward pointed out yesterday that things always go wrong for me in races, not in training (apart from Brighton Marathon, where I had a splendid time). I can see what happens now: during training I carry a small bottle of water or sports drink or nothing at all, and I sip this slowly throughout the run, but during a race there is water/sports drink everywhere and I feel the need to drink as much as I can, thus depleting all the salt in my body and becoming a wobbly mess. So I either stop going to races, or I put on water-station blinkers. Watch this space!

Here are the stats from my Garmin:





Not Quite Half

On Sunday I was supposed to be joining my running-blogging buddies down in Folkestone, a mere hour or so away from where I live. I enjoyed the Twitter build-up and the general sense of camaraderie and looked forward (mostly) to the after-race social bit, so was rather pissed off peeved when I realised I simply couldn’t get there. The training had gone ok, and I had managed to avoid injury, unlike some of the other runners, so not making it to the start line due to crappy travel challenges was very frustrating. However, I got over my sulking last week by taking myself off to the running track and gasping my way round a four mile circular run.

I was ridiculously excited by viewing this run on a map!

Time: 42 minutes

Distance: 4.35 miles

Average Pace: 9.40

Best Pace: 6.50

Calories: 63 (Garmin got back to me and suggested taking the battery out of the HRM then putting it back in to re-set, it doesn’t seem to have helped, any ideas?)

My average HR was 186 and my maximum HR was 200!

When Sunday arrived, I decided to try for a ten miler that would get me home in time to follow the Twitter excitement, beamed live from Folkestone by @richeginger. I set off down the Waterlink Way, planning to run down to Beckenham Place Park, fancying a change from the usual diverted Greenwich route. Early on in the run I was passed by two tall, athletic types who eased past me as if I were invisible, though I don’t know how they missed me in my bright green Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon t-shirt! Sometimes this sort of (lack of) encounter gives me a boost to run harder, try to catch them up (ha!), but today it just made me feel fat and slow and made me drag my feet. As I ran, my stomach started to play up again, something I am slightly concerned about ahead of the Royal Parks Half in just over a week. I lifted up my torso, breathed deeply and tried to ignore it, but I soon realised I wasn’t going to make it as far as Beckenham Place, so decided to turn at the two-mile point, head home and take it from there.

It was getting hot out there, even though it was still only about nine o’clock, so it was a relief to pop home, take a moment to think about whether I could carry on, wipe my face and head back out of the door, refreshed. From here it seemed logical to head Greenwich way – if I ran to the seven mile point then turned for home , it would make ten miles. I felt much better now, and pleased with myself for not ducking out. As I neared Greenwich I saw signs for the Run to the Beat half-marathon, which was taking place later that morning, and picked up on the buzz around the area as runners started to make their way over to the start. I reached the water and, just behind me, the clock on the old hospital struck ten. I thought about my fellow runners who would now be crossing the start line, and wished them luck as I took a sip of my juice/water/salt combo and looked at the sparkling Thames in front of me.

On my return, I eagerly checked the computer to see how things were going in Kent. I am proud to say that all of the Fearsome Folkestone Four made it up The Hill and struggled through the heat to cross the line with smiles on their faces. You can read about Cassie’s half-marathon debut here, how Helen overcame a painful foot and a heat aversion here, Shaun’s speedy PB chaser here and Cathy has some exciting news about her next big race here.

Time: 1 hour 42 minutes 6 seconds

Distance: 10 miles

Average Pace: 10.12

Best Pace: 5.31

Calories: 177





Runner on diversion

I had a look at the Royal Parks Foundation Half-Marathon website yesterday and it said: ’25 days to go!’ (so that means 24 now) – eek! During the summer holiday I found it hard to be consistent with my training, trying to fit a run in either in the morning before Edward goes to work, or in the evening, but neither of those are really my first choice running moments. Now Hector is back at nursery I can pop out for a run after I drop him off in the morning, though I don’t know if I will ever really be able to relax on these runs, I might eventually get over the feeling of guilt at leaving him but, for now, I run along fretting. I have tried, as I always do when training for a big race, to keep building up the length of my long weekend run, so on Sunday I headed out in the sunshine for a ten-miler.

I do wish I could be a bit more organised ahead of a long run, but I found myself fumbling about in the kitchen for something to put a drink in, then realised I didn’t have anything to put in the bottle I found, so ended up mixing some apple and mango juice with water and a pinch of salt. I assembled all my bits and bobs about my person and waited for a signal. I decided an out-and-back run would do the trick, finding it all the more manageable when I can turn and head for home half-way through. I was forgetting that I had run along the Thames at Greenwich a few weeks ago (I’ve not blogged that run, an eight-miler) and found most of the path to be blocked off, and here I was again, weaving in and out, following little signs and recalling the grimness of it all. The initial run to Greenwich and through the centre is nice enough and quiet at this time on a Sunday, with people slowly emerging to browse antiques and eat the tasty-smelling food on offer. Once past the Cutty Sark pub,  you are sent out down residential streets and soon hit the busy dual carriageway that leads into the Blackwall Tunnel. Last time I turned round at the tunnel entrance, but this run was taking me further and I found myself ducking under heavy buddleia bushes and chatting to a moving cyclist about how rubbish it all is (he reckons it will be like this for another year). I traipsed over gravel at the cement works and enjoyed the freshness of the wind as I met the river again. This was short-lived though, as I had reached my turning point.

I suppose this run was a test, a way of seeing if my piddling amount of weekday runs have given me enough of what it takes to complete a longer run, and I was pleased to find that everything did what I asked it to. Next Sunday is the Folkestone Half-Marathon, a running bloggers’ get-together, consisting of a sprightly team made up of Jogblog, Highway Kind, Helbels, I Like to Count, Tom Roper and, making her half-marathon debut, Travelling Hopefully. This date was agreed some time ago now, all prompted by talk on Twitter of the various cakes we might bring and with a confidence only possible when something is months away. Now race day grows near, there are injuries and an air of quiet nervousness. I am yet to work out how I will get to Folkestone for the 10am start, but hope to be raring to go on the start line. I don’t really have a goal time in sight, I will treat it as a long run in training for the Royal Parks and enjoy the social side of it all.

Time: 1 hour 44 minutes 35 seconds

Distance: 10 miles

Average Pace: 10.27

Best Pace: 7.38

Calories: 166 (still not sure about this. I contacted Garmin, but reply)

My new favourite socks

I’ve been busy. The weekend was spent sanding the floors at last, with my part being filling in the gaps with a gloopy porridge mixture of PVA and sawdust, a slightly back-breaking task, but necessary if Hector is ever to play with Lego in our living room! I had intended going for a run on both Saturday and Sunday, but it simply wasn’t possible, it was all hands on deck to get things done because we have been living upstairs for far too long now. I did, however, go for a fantastic track run at the end of last week, and took the opportunity to give my new socks another test. I have had the Run Breeze Running Socks for a while now, and have tested them on a few different runs, including the lovely North Wales run I did a few weeks ago.

I have been comparing them to some 1000 Mile socks I got recently, and can definitely say that these are my favourite. When I initially unpacked them I thought they might be too bulky, and I really prefer a much thinner sock, but once the are on they feel great. As they are an anti-blister sock, they have a thinner layer inside and it certainly does the trick, with no movement whatsoever. This has been challenged on a hilly, long run and on a speedy track session with a few average pace runs in between and there are no blisters to report.

Back to the track session. Following the Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon workshop, I decided I should pay closer attention to interval training and strength, so gave myself a confidence-boosting talking to and got down to the running track whilst Hector was at nursery. I decided the best way to approach this would be to follow an Audiofuel track so there would be no slacking, and I plumped for the Martin Yelling Pyramid session. It’s a tough one! As with the shorter pyramid session, you build up gradually, peak, then work your way back down, but the challenge here is that each block of effort is three minutes long and I found myself struggling at each two-minute point. I think, if I hadn’t been at the track and feeling the pressure of my surroundings, the fact that I had paid good money to be there (it’s only £2.25, but still!) and the speedy chaps training alongside me, I might have doubled over and taken a breather, but I didn’t. I kept hard at it and felt fantastic for doing so. The two men who were quietly going about their business in the outer lanes looked quite serious. They ran in unison and had an incredibly relaxed, at ease stance as they covered the lanes with their long, comfortable strides. As I stretched, one of them stripped off his outer clothing to reveal short shorts and a vest, and put on his spikes as the other chap checked his clipboard and stopwatch, pros.

Time: 45 minutes 51 seconds

Distance: 4.76 miles

Average Pace: 9.38

Best Pace: 5.38

Calories: 472