There’s nothing like a good hard run to make you feel better for the rest of the day. Last week I forgot this and, by Friday, had that ‘Will I ever run again?’ feeling. But I did, I ran, I ran hard up hill, I splashed through big sweeping puddles and I felt good again. Today I woke to a mist, a strange dampness hanging low over our house, and was in danger of curling up under the mist until I noticed what it had done to our garden: a tangle of intricate spiders’ webs could be seen hanging in every bush and spanning every space. I carefully weaved between them – in my pyjamas – to attempt to capture this moment on camera.


After letting my running fall slightly by the way-side last week, I was determined to start the week as I mean to go on, and got out this morning, with music in my ears and a smile on my face. It wasn’t that I was feeling lazy last week, or especially busy, but my knee hurt and this gave me an excuse to give in to a brief lack of motivation. We all find different ways to motivate ourselves out of the house and on the road, for some it’s a fitness or weight-loss goal, for others it’s the need for head-space and for others it’s a competitive spirit. Some of us gather all of those things together and still need a little extra sometimes. For me, the motivation of being part of Parkrun has been a huge boost, knowing that I have a group of people behind me and a weekly gathering that fills my ‘this is why I do it’ tanks. Joining a running club is also a good motivator, and is known to be one of the best ways to ‘improve’ your running whatever level you are at. For some people the push of working with a coach or personal trainer is what’s needed, or even working towards a qualification themselves. So, with the running club, Parkrun and my own PB-seeking goal over the next eight weeks, I have no excuse.

Distance: 3.96 miles

Time: 36 minutes 53 seconds

Average Pace: 9.19

Best Pace: 6.38

Calories: 488

(I kept an eye on the clock when nearing the 5k mark and it was 28.24, not too bad).


Welly Weather and Running in Company

I got very wet last night. Me and a few other runners. After a very, very long time of wanting to join in, I went down the road to the local running track and ran with my local club. Hoorah! It’s not that I haven’t had the inclination or the motivation to join in, but I have simply been unable to leave the house and run – Tuesday night is football night and Tuesday night has been football night for quite a few years now. The other week Edward informed me that he’s taking a break from Tuesday night football for a while, and would I like to to go along to the running club. I’ve been getting excited ever since.

Now Tuesday came round and so did Hector’s new drumming lesson: a train journey after school, sitting around while he learns about notes and rhythm and types of drums, train journey home then dinner. Phew. But this Tuesday was different: pull on running kit on return from drumming, look at self in mirror and wonder if this is the ‘right sort of kit’ to go running with a club, look disapprovingly at bum in lycra and think: ‘Yes, you need to get out and run’, go to the loo nervously a few times, grab stuff and saunter down the road to join in. It was raining, not a little bit of drizzle, but that big, sweeping sideways sort of rain, accentuated by the flood-lights at the track. I hung about and wondered what to do next. Now, since I started helping out at Parkrun, I have got to know some other runners and my day-to-day travels are punctuated by the odd ‘hello’ and a nod and a smile, so I was soon able to catch someone’s eye and have a chat with a familiar face as more runners gathered around and asked what we were doing tonight. I was introduced to the coach and was informed that we would be doing a mile warm-up around the track then 1200, 800×2 and 4×400 all with a 200m recovery in between, something like that anyway – he told us a few times and I still had to ask someone. And off we went. I didn’t want to exhaust myself during the warm-up, so took it easy and generally tried to hold back a little all the way through the evening, I didn’t want to show myself up by throwing up on my first session!

At first we were pretty much together, then some people pulled away and others trailed behind, there was a real cross-section of abilities, which was great. I was surprised to see just how well-used the track is on a Tuesday night. At one point I looked around as I ran, taking in the various groups going in different directions. I was plodding along in the inside lane as some faster runners from another group sped past on the outside, shorts shorter, limbs longer and leaner and ponytails flickier (always the flicky ponytails). In the centre of the track was a group of youngsters running diagonally across the football pitch, and outside the perimeter fence was a group of very serious-looking chaps being led by a man on a bike, and all of this was with heads down into the driving rain. I was surprised at how chatty it all was, with people catching up and talking about all sorts of things during the recovery sections, all so friendly and welcoming. Before I knew it we were on our last lap and gathering to set off on a warm-down around the park, avoiding being mowed down in the dark by the steam engines in shorts. Everybody said their goodbyes and I jogged home to a delicious noodly dinner cooked by a still slightly disgruntled at not playing football Edward.

This wet weather seems to have come out of the blue, though really, you’d think I’d have the hang of Autumn by now, but I do like to cling to the last remaining drops of summer, determined as I am to wear my Birkenstocks until my toes turn blue. I am a bit more responsible in my roll as a parent though, and swiftly got Hector off to the shops in search of some new wellies to splash about in Muddy Puddles.


I’ve been buying wellies for Hector for a few years now, and have mostly gone for the cheaper ones at Sainsburys or Tesco, but last time I was fed-up of them cracking around the ankles after just a few months’ wear, so spent a bit more at Clarks. A few months later and they cracked in exactly the same place! A friend mentioned Crocs wellies, which seem thicker and a better shape for crouching down in rivers and retrieving conkers from under trees, but I can’t seem to find them anywhere. If anyone knows of a decent but inexpensive welly that doesn’t crack then please let me know!

Fast track

I just had to share this morning’s track run with you. I wasn’t even going to go – I couldn’t find my gym membership card and was looking for ways to wuss out, but I went for it and the kind gym man let me in anyway since he knows me now. I had on my lovely NB Union Jack shoes again and my ears were plugged-in to some Audiofuel and off I went. It felt hard at first, and I wondered if I had it in me, but I soon warmed up and lengthened my stride. Each time I came to the long, straight edge of the track, I went a bit faster and picked up the pace again as the music increased in bpm. I was only going to run for as long as the track took me, but I glanced down at my wrist and saw how close I was to 5k and that I could possibly get a good time, so picked it up again.

Distance: 3.11 miles

Time: 26 minutes 51 seconds

Average Pace: 8.38

Best Pace: 5.50

Calories: 377

Yaaaaaayyy! My best ever 5k time is 26 minutes and I was not so far out there, I had even done the cool-down element of the run, so could possibly have kept the pace up a bit to get a better time! As you can probably tell, I’m a bit excited by this. My goal is to run 26 minutes or faster by my birthday on December 30th, so I think I’m going the right way about it 🙂 It’s interesting to see how much slower I am at the Hilly Fields Parkrun, so this confirms that my PB run is not likely to happen there!

Talking of Parkrun, here’s a nice little video filmed in Australia. Of course, we don’t always have the sunshine (though our three runs have so far been beautifully sunny) and we haven’t set up a BBQ yet, but we have coffee and cake at the cafe and we have friendly faces all round, so give the Hilly Fields Parkrun a go 🙂

(I tried to embed this, but it wasn’t working for some reason, so just click)

I also want to announce the winner of my Adidas MiCoach game competition. The winner is…Pete Howard, otherwise known as Follystone to his Janathon/Juneathon friends. Enjoy the game Pete!

Visiting the Mizuno Performance Centre

I am a bit behind with this post, having visited the Mizuno Performance Centre way back in the days when the Olympic Games were still the talk of the town. The Performance Centre was based at Centre Point in central London for the duration of the Olympic Games and I was lucky enough to be invited along to the launch of some new shoes called ‘Be’.

Performance Centre

As it was the summer holidays I had my assistant blogger in tow, so was armed with a bag full of pencils and paper and a little bag of chocolate buttons for any real moments of need (they were quite quickly whipped out of the bag when Hector announced loudly in a hushed room that it was boring and he wondered when the man might stop talking!). The man doing all the talking was the designer of the shoes, who told us that they were not designed for running, but for times in between training sessions, to aid running strength and ability. Here is some information about how these shoes came about:

‘The Be takes inspiration from the old Waraji sandals that were worn by the samurai class and foot soldiers during the feudal era of Japan. Fascinated         by why the Waraji were shorter than the feet of those wearing them, Mizuno conducted a series of biomechanical tests to determine the benefits of the toes protruding slightly over the front edge of the sandal’

We were told a lot about the biomechanics of the foot and how the Be has an inner sock which allows the toes to spread as if walking barefoot (these are not barefoot running shoes though). I had a look at some Be shoes and tried a pair on, they are lovely looking shoes, with the women’s design having a nice grey/pink colour-way and they are certainly comfortable. I’m not sure though how many recreational runners would want to spend money on an in-between-training shoe, but I imagine they might be good for someone who has an injury and wants to think carefully about how they look after their feet at all times.

Women’s model

Once ‘The Man’ had stopped talking, we went and had a look around the Performance Centre and had a go at the various activities on offer – you could test your footballing skills and there was also a mini running track to test how quickly you can come out of the blocks.

Checking out the track

You were given some rather nice spikes to try on and could race a friend or try your time against the clock. We just watched because they didn’t have children’s spikes – much to Hector’s annoyance – and were given a good view of the ‘race’ start from the top of the stairs:


I was also given a lovely pair of Mizuno Wave Rider shoes whilst at the centre, and have really enjoyed running in them since – I’ve had lots of comments about how lovely they are, they certainly stand out! I hadn’t run in Mizuno shoes before, and found them a little firm at first, but they have softened up after a few runs and I now find them just right for the road and a bit of trail – though I wouldn’t want any mud spoiling the lovely shiny toes! I found a page of nice colourful Mizuno shoes over on the Activinstinct website, and they now have the Be in stock as well.

Whilst at the Performance Centre, I was lucky enough to see some beautiful paintings by Hidekichi Shigemoto, and these have now been made into a moving image piece with brush-strokes capturing the movement of the Mizuno athletes in action.

Light-footed and patriotic

I miss the Olympic Games, I miss the Paralympic Games and I miss the uncharacteristically friendly London we encountered during the games. In an attempt to keep the spirit alive, I have been running around in these little lovelies:

Light as a feather

I received them in the post a few weeks ago and was, initially, slightly disappointed that they weren’t more Union Jackish, but have since forgiven their slight subtlety, and have embraced them wholeheartedly. I have always liked New Balance shoes, having had a pair of trail shoes when I first started running all those years ago. They were just lovely: light, bouncy, nicely designed and even waterproof; I was sad to have to replace them when they were no longer as bouncy. I was very pleased to be asked to try out this particular pair of shoes, having seen that they are a lightweight shoe, and they certainly are! You can see here that they have a blown rubber outsole that you can sense straight away, giving just enough cushioning and lots of flexibility.


When I took them out of their box Hector took a great deal of interest in them, turning them round, looking at the sole and trying to take out the inner section. When I asked him what he was looking for, he said: ‘Is there a toy* in here?’. Shoe manufacturers, you are missing a trick, a little Mo Farrah would be just perfect as a little heel mascot 😉 There are some nice details such as the ‘British Miler’ logo on the tongue and the nicest – Union Jack – aglets I’ve ever seen.

Nice tongue

I couldn’t dirty these chaps up in the park, so went straight to the track. I was advised to go up half a size and, having had some NBs that stubbed my toes previously, I listened to this advice and ended up with a size six. As I walked to the track, I wasn’t sure if this was such a good idea, as there was a bit of heel slip but this stopped once I started running – I guess some clever lace-tying could rectify this potential problem (though I did find the laces a bit long, and had to do a double knot to stop them trailing and coming undone). These shoes are lovely. They felt comfortable straight away, they were light, so light in fact that I was totally unaware of them and could just focus on my running. I had a great session with some good paces hit and, when I went in to the gym, the manager said: ‘I saw you running on the track, you were fast! I was surprised!’ (I’m not entirely sure about that last bit, but let us imagine he was being nice)! Woo-hoo! Someone said I was fast! I have decided that these will now be reserved for track sessions, they are my special edition Union Jack lucky shoes and I don’t want them to lose any of their gloss.

*Hector has a pair of sport shoes that have a toy hidden in the heel.

The Inaugural Hilly Fields Parkrun

What a morning! When we got together one evening last week to go over the last details of the Hilly Fields Parkrun and to learn all the ins and outs of the computer system, we envisaged at the most about fifty runners turning up on Saturday, so were slightly taken aback when they kept on coming! I was up and out early to get there and help Stephen (Event Director), Siggy and Sally to get the course ready for action. It was a beautiful day for it.

The view from the top of Hilly Fields

The finish funnel was constructed, arrows and cones were put out and we were gradually joined by the rest of the volunteers who were variously on tag-distribution duty, marshalling and whistle-blowing.

Tag distribution skills training

Top team

Before we knew it, it was coming up to the start time of 9am and we gathered up the runners – all 94 of them! – and made our way over to the start point. Stephen did a great welcome speech and thanked all of the people involved and I did a little count-down from five to get the run started 🙂 As the name suggests, it’s a hilly course, but there is enough variety in surface and gradient to make it interesting and enough downhill and flat sections to give you a chance to recover. It wasn’t long before we could see the front runners coming back up the hill to take on the second lap (it’s a three lap course) and we barely had time to pause and chat about such delights as Grim and marathon PBs and juggling family life and running before we saw ‘Parkrun Royalty’ Danny Norman storming towards us.

First across the line

The fact that even Danny was doubled over on the ground after finishing is testament to how challenging the course can be. At this point we had a steady stream of runners crossing the line and I realised I should concentrate on operating the stopwatch instead of taking pictures, so didn’t manage to capture everyone (though some might be pleased about that!). Our first run attracted runners of all levels, ages shapes and sizes and we also had a number of first-time Parkrunners who were keen to come again. After the last runners had come in, we gathered up the equipment, marshalls and stray arrows and made our way over to the cafe for a fuel stop – clicking a stopwatch is thirsty work! The overall feedback was positive and many people were keen to return next week – I think it was a success! You can read the race report here and a fellow blogger, who had travelled as a Parkrun Tourist, has written his report here.

Yesterday I decided to run the course myself, just to familiarise myself a bit more and I can tell you with great conviction that it’s a tough one! I like the course, I like the terrain changes and the laps – three is just enough not to get confused. I didn’t really like almost barfing when I got to the top though…

Distance: 3.11 miles

Time: 30 minutes 7 seconds

Average Pace: 9.41

Best Pace: 7.24

Calories: 381

So, this run confirmed to me that I have a lot of work to do in my quest for speed. I know I can do it though 🙂

Need for speed

In sixteen weeks I am going to be 40! I know, I know, I don’t look a day over – insert flattering number, please – but it’s true, and in celebration of this turning point in my life, I am going to attempt to get a 5k PB. My current 5k PB is around 26 minutes and was set many years ago when I was younger, slimmer and had more time to devote to such things but, having a quick glance over more recent 5k times on the Parkrun website, I can see that I ran a 27.30 race at Finsbury Park, so I can use this as a guide to what I might be able to achieve these days. This Saturday sees the inaugural Hilly Fields Parkrun, at which I will be playing the role of Race Director, so will be involved with something exciting and witnessing people improving their times as the weeks pass and they get used to the, erm, ‘undulating’ course – I might even get to run it myself occasionally.

So, how am I going to achieve this goal? Tomorrow is back-to-school day, so I will be able to get back into my school run/gym routine that has sadly fallen by the wayside during the holidays, and I will commit to running intervals on the track once a week – to run faster, you need to run faster, isn’t that right? I was secretly delighted last night when Edward informed me that he will be taking a short break from his weekly five-a-side football in four weeks’ time and won’t return until the new year. This means I will be able go to our local running club – I say this in a high-pitched, excited sort of voice because I’ve wanted to join a club for a very long time 🙂 – and do a track session led by a proper coach and everything! Whoop, whoop! I think, putting all of this together, I can see that PB in the distance and, on the day before my birthday (30th December), I will be tackling those hills at the Parkrun and crashing past that 26 minute mark. There, I’ve said it now, and you will hold me to it won’t you? I welcome any tips and ideas too.