Janathon Day 26: Hams

I have resigned myself to the fact that these last few Janathon runs might be a bit dull. I’m sorry readers, but they will be dark, damp and dreary and lacking the sparkle expected of this last push towards the 31st. Tonight’s run was a post-dinner, post-bedtime run again, but I did leave about half an hour between eating and running, which made a world of difference to how I felt. It was cold and dark out there, and most of the people I encountered seemed to be ‘popping out’. What is it about men (some men, that is) popping to the shop and thinking it’s ok to simply pull on some pumps or sandals – over their white, up to mid-calf, sports socks – and schlepping along the pavement like it’s normal to be out in public in your pyjamas?! Yuk, I say. I did encounter one delightful gentleman along the way, Mr Fox. Now, I seem to meet him at the same spot every time, even if my run is at 6.30, 7, 8 or 8.30. I have decided that he hangs around until I appear then graces the pavement with his sandy presence.

Today Hector and I went on a bit of a trek to a group we used to enjoy up in North London; I realised that, once he starts nursery on Friday, we probably won’t be able to make it up there again. Our journey involved two buses and the marvellous East London Line. It was worth it though, as Hector was really pleased to see some old friends and enjoy some messy play and lots of jumping around. We also took a detour to see the ‘rubbish diggers’ and got a friendly ‘hello’ from the chap who directs the traffic and hoses the road.

(that red thing in the painting is a hoover, he likes painting hoovers).

While we were there I was talking to one of the other mums, who is a medic and knows a lot about knees and, of course I did that really annoying thing for any medic and said: ‘My knee hurts’. She humoured me, and gave me some jolly good advice about how to help ease this knee pain: stretch my hamstrings. Simple as that, stretch my hamstrings. Of course, I hardly ever stretch my hamstrings, so this is a good incentive to start doing so!

Janathon day 26:

Time: 31 minutes 30 seconds

Distance: 3.13 miles

Average Pace: 10.04

Best Pace: 8.19

Calories: 336



Nike Grid Crazy!

The whole of London (well, London’s running community at least) has gone Nike Grid crazy. London has been divided up into postcode areas and within these postcodes are four selected phone boxes. You run to your first phone box, dial the number, give your (pre-registered) details and start your run to the next box and so on. It doesn’t stop there of course, people can compete for various badges for frequency, speed and so on. I am beginning to think there should be a ‘nutter’ badge and an ‘obsessed’ badge.

I am running for Team Audiofuel, who are proving to be quite the running obsessives. I feel like the slower hanger-onner bringing up the rear, but being part of such a dedicated team is a real motivator, you wouldn’t catch me legging it up Green Lanes at nine o’clock on a Friday night after putting Hector to bed normally! My nearest postcode area is N4 and this means me running for about ten minutes before I even reach the first box. Now, I haven’t been in a phone box for years and, in this hi-tech age it seems a bit odd to be doing such a thing for a challenge organised by Nike, but go in a phone box I did. The first phone box was giving me jip and wouldn’t dial up, so I thought my race was over before I had begun, but things soon got going and off I went, dodging the crowds pouring out of restaurants and shops and leaping across roads to beat the green man.

It’s definitely a good interval session, and people make it into endurance, speed and hill sessions by mixing up the postcodes and trying to run every route possible in their area, something I plan to try at the weekend. I would love to have more time to try out the different areas, the Archway route looks like a doddle for instance, with three of the phone boxes being almost next to each other. Tomorrow, if the weather looks good, I might attempt a running buggy Nike Grid run, Hector has expressed and interest, as long as it includes a playground stop.


Time: 40 minutes 36 seconds

Distance: 4.15 miles

Average Pace: 9.48

Best Pace: 7.09

Calories: 432


Time: 42 minutes 44 seconds

Distance: 4.48 miles

Average Pace: 9.32

Calories: 413

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.

Stunt rider

This morning’s run was a family affair. Of course this means motivating three people out of the door, but it did mean I could run without pushing a buggy, a chance to push myself a bit. Once we did get out of the door, there was a fair bit of faffing as both Edward and I got our various GPS gadgets ready to go and we even had a fabulous countdown from Edward’s iPhone app: ‘5-4-3-2-1!’ blast off!

(another stuck kite)

By the time we got to the park I realised I wasn’t going to keep up with Edward, even pushing Hector he is fast. As a result I got to witness what happens when you are pushing the ‘smile magnet’ that is Hector: everyone they passed gave a wide smile or even a laugh then promptly gave me a blank stare. Very odd. I didn’t have much time to think about this as I was on a mission to catch up, whilst wiping the sweat from my brow, cheeks, arms…it’s hot out there, even at 8am, apparently we are going to have the hottest day of the year so far.

(Hector said: ‘Look, a ‘H’ in the sky!’)

We crossed over from park number one and into the bigger park where we did a couple of loops, passing the walkers, the Chinese walkers (one of whom was carrying her dog), the Turkish walkers and a few plodders too. When we got to the freestyle area, the boys made a detour to do some stunts and I kept going to do another lap. I have a feeling I will need to practice getting up these ramps and bumps as Hector will be wanting to do this every time we pass now.

Now we are getting ready to go and celebrate Max’s third birthday. For Hector it’s all about the cake: ‘Will Max have a big cake?’ it must be great being almost three.

Stats for Juneathon Day 5

Type of run: Family run

Time: 36 minutes 56 seconds

Distance: 4 miles

Average Pace: 9.25

Best Pace: 6.38

Calories: 444

Hot Hackney Half

My preparation for this race was very poor. I didn’t exactly train towards a half-marathon and certainly didn’t get enough long runs in, so I was ever so slightly aprehensive about this one when I woke up yesterday morning! I didn’t even take it easy on Saturday, instead opting to cycle up lots of hills to Highgate Wood to have some active fun climbing on fallen trees and picking up acorns and leaves for Hector’s new nature table. I am a bad, bad runner.

I had read lots of good reports about this half on the Runner’s World website and had the feeling it would be quite laid back and have a good atmosphere, so that eased my tension a bit…and so did the bike ride there. The race was due to start over at Hackney Marshes at 11am, with the registration closing at 10.30 and the best and most direct way for me to get there was to cycle the four or five (or more?) miles along the canal.


It was such a gorgeous morning and quite a rarity for me to be cycling along by myself. I could sense already that it was going to be a real scorcher, so I took it easy, not wanting to completely knacker myself out before I even got there.

There were a few people (this is a small race with only around 400 runners) milling about, some in the shade of the trees, reading the Sunday papers and chatting with friends. All very civilised. I locked up my bike and registered with the very friendly volunteers then put my bag in the tent. As I was registering I got chatting to the man behind me. We were joking about our race numbers – I was 4 and he was 1 – saying it made us seem like elites. It turned out this was his first race and he had reached this point via an extreme feat of losing around four stone. Aaron was aiming to run in around two and a half hours, so I wished him luck and admired his sheer dedication at getting to the start line in the first place. I made what felt like my one hundredth trip to the loo (they allow you to use the facilities at the club house to get changed and showered) then settled down under a tree. Eventually we were asked to make our way over to the start where a lovely man who turned out to be the first ever winner of The Gladiators (!) did a ‘warm-up’. It was ace! It certainly calmed any nerves and made us acknowledge the other runners as we did a sort of Usain Bolt dedication dance, complete with the arm movement and posturing.

And we were off.

One thing that made me waiver about entering this race was the fact that it consists of six laps of the marshes, and I feared it might be sheer hell, but I soon realised I love laps, they rock! By now the sun was blazing down (maybe an earlier start might be a good idea) so it was a welcome relief to find ourselves running alongside the river under the dappled shade of the trees. This was my favourite part of each lap, but was soon followed by the very exposed and rubbly area nearer the Walthamstow end of the marshes. Here you had to watch your footing and wipe away the sweat dripping from your slowly burning brow. As this is a lap race, you pass the marshals a few times, getting to feel a familiarity which is emphasised as they consult their list of names and call out a personalised encouragement (being number 4 I was easy to find, so got a shout-out nearly every time!). As you approach the start/finish area each time, you bear left, taking in the drinks station and a group of drummers, enduring their own challenge as they beat out an encouraging rhythm on a selection of bongos and the like.

Things were going really well and I have realised that I am much more suited to this type of race: small field, rural (sort of) setting, laps, but I was finding it tiring constantly overtaking then being overtaken by the same group of people, as we were obviously running at a similar pace and playing catch-up throughout. The race organisers were very trusting and asked us to keep track of our own laps, and I was doing alright until I hit a point where I wasn’t sure if I was in the fifth or final lap – I started running faster then took a look at my Garmin and realised I had a bit further to go than I thought. Damn. It was ever so tempting to veer right on the fifth lap and take a glory finish up with the whippets, but I thought better of it and took on my last two miles or so.

I hadn’t really had a plan about how I would do it all, just knew I might find it hard through lack of focussed training (and the heat), but I hadn’t imagined I would walk. A woman ahead of me (one of the ones I kept playing catch-up with) started walking and I thought ‘I’m not going to walk. I’m not going to walk. Oh, damn it, I’m walking!’. So the last lap was a bit trying, doing the ‘only to that tree, then I’ll run’ thing. This final saunter round gave me a chance to thank all the lovely marshals for their encouragement and support, it can’t have been much fun sitting in direct sunlight for a few hours for them either!  So towards the finish line I headed, surrounded by the amazing cheers of the group of women at the end, they were just fantastic! I hadn’t had much to drink on my way round, just a few sips from my bottle of Lucozade Sport and some water in the last lap – I didn’t want a repeat of the dreadful cramp at London Marathon, so now I was ready to glug down as much water as I could get my hands on and the women at the water station were only too happy to keep on filling up my bottle.

I’ve done lots of races where you get a goody bag filled with odd bits of useless toiletry items, like mini deodorants and so on, but this was probably the most useful goody bag I have ever received: a giant bagel, a knife, some margerine, jam and cheese, two bananas, an orange and a muesli bar. Perfect, just what you need after running a half-marathon! I sat near the drummers and scoffed it down. As I sat there I saw the winners collecting their cups, fast types they were too, finishing in 1.09 and 1.30. But the real winner hobbled towards me a little later, beaming from ear to ear. Number 1, Aaron had finished in 2.29, just under his target time. Excellent!

I shall be entering the UFDance Half-Marathon again next year.

Time: 2 hours 15 minutes 10 seconds

Distance: 13.07 miles

Average Pace: 10.22

Best Pace: 7.18

Calories: 1367

And some stats from a run around Finsbury Park last week:

Time: 40 minutes 19 seconds

Distance: 3.69 miles

Average Pace: 10.56

Best Pace: 8.53

Calories: 408


Ouch! On Friday evening I went to my first Boxing Circuits class in about, ooh, five years. It was as if I had never been away 🙂 I was a bit apprehensive, knowing that I am fit but not that sort of fit and I didn’t imagine that I had an ounce of upper body strength left in me, but it seems all this picking up and putting down of a two-stone+ little boy is doing me some good! First of all I had to run the gauntlet of slimy gits on the way to the leisure centre. Do Nike do a T-shirt that says: ‘Hey! Just do it! Say something rude to me or just lick your lips as I walk past!’? No, I thought not, but I am pretty sure that’s what people were imagining was printed on my top. One bloke called out: ‘You can wrestle me any time love!’ this left me bemused, what do they imagine will happen when they shout out these things? That I will stop and ask them out on a date?

I got there a little bit early so had to do the chatting with other people thing, which was quite nice actually, and it seems most people were there for the first time, so I wasn’t alone in my newness. We were in a big sports hall, so I had visions of being made to run up and down and round and round…which was exactly what we did once the teacher had arrived. Before I left the house Edward said: ‘Take it easy, you’ve not done it for a long time’ but of course, once I was let loose in the gym I went for it big time. Up and down, round and round, press-ups here, burpees there (they are a killer). I was loving it! It was a good mix of people and levels of fitness, but I didn’t really notice what anyone else was doing, I was so focused on getting it done. I certainly haven’t lost my punch and really let out my pent up aggression when it came to partnering up and using gloves and pads. Poor bloke wasn’t expecting that. The – wonderful – class I used to go to had a lot of encouragement involved and you would hear shouts of ‘Come on! You can do it! Keep going!’ and so on, but everyone was quiet here so I felt a bit self-conscious when I enthusiastically yelled out: ‘Goawwwn!’ That chap will be avoiding me next time, I’m sure.

It was a very well-structured class, with a good balance of activities but I was conscious all the time that I needed to get back to put Hector to bed, so thought I would run home. A-ha-ha-ha! I ran as far as the car park then slowed to a gentle saunter when I realised my legs were not my own. Poor Hector was a bit upset by the time I got home, wondering where on earth I had disappeared to (he was with Edward, by the way, not home alone with a tin of beans).

Oh yes, and I had been for a run in the morning too, just for good measure.

Time: 34 minutes 25 seconds

Distance: 3.09 miles

Average Pace: 11.08

Best Pace: 8.24

Calories: 310

I didn’t really ache yesterday so was feeling quite pleased with myself but, of course, DOMS really only kicks in after two days, so my long run was cut short due to agony this morning. I don’t think I will go to Fridays’ class because I can’t see myself completing next Sunday’s half-marathon with legs as heavy as this. Now, after our run on Friday, along the canal, I noticed this article and began to feel a bit uncertain and unhappy about running along that stretch, but I have since put it in perspective. They are targeting men on bikes, trying to get the bikes off them, and mostly operating in the evening. The police are having more presence in the area (though I haven’t noticed any around, they must be very plain-clothed) so it should be safer in a way. It just feels sad and disappointing that an area that we love so much and have always felt safe in is being populated by scum like this. Let’s hope they catch them soon.

I threw caution to the wind and ran down the canal this morning, turning towards the rowing club where there are usually lots of people on a Sunday morning. I felt half-dead as soon as I set off, so it was a real struggle to get round. I had hoped to run nine miles, but it wasn’t to be, I don’t want to push it and injure myself before next week, so I cut it short at six and a bit. I did go down to where the cows should be, but they are still not there. Here I got stopped by some chavvy kids who asked me if there was a party down there (!). I had heard some loud music towards the Walthamstow end, so pointed them in that direction where they slowly headed, having a very loud row along the way. Odd at about 9am on a Sunday morning.

Time: 1 hour 6 minutes 23 seconds

Distance: 6.51 miles

Average Pace: 10.12

Best Pace: 7.56

Calories: 687

I am currently trying to work out which timing device is going to be best for my Finland project, where I will need to be able to keep track of distance and time when I go inside as well as outside. I’m on a tight budget as well. I noticed the Nike+ Sportsband and wondered if anyone has experience of using it and could let me know if it seems like the right thing for what I’m doing. Or has anyone else used something like a Garmin with footpod that is reliable and fits the bill? Thanks!

Bike Boy Fartlek Session

It’s official, I can no longer keep up with Hector on his bike. This morning I decided to try something new: run along in my running gear while Hector does his thing on the bike. When I mentioned this to him he said: ‘That sounds like a good idea’ – he’s coming out with some lovely phrases at the moment 🙂

So, we did a two-parks run/ride. In park number one a man sitting on a bench called out: ‘That’s a nice idea, but it’s not going to work’. Hmmmm, thanks for the vote of confidence, bench man! Could he not see that this was about something else? We were both whizzing along at our own pace, huge grins on our faces, me stopping every so often, turning around and running back towards Hector, who found this hillarious, then racing each other to the next tree and so on. No Garmin, no stats, just pure running fun. It’s not as if I was taking it easy either: I was sweating pretty much constantly and would take every opportunity I had to sprint to the next bench or up and down a hill while H stopped to look at a twig or whatever took his fancy.

I always think about doing fartlek sessions, and this is simply the best sort of fartlek I can get. As we neared the end of our session, H was getting tired, so I had the added ‘benefit’ of carrying him and his bike, and had the bonus treat of a sit on a bench to eat the blackberries we had picked along the way. Happy day.

No stats, just fun.