Running, Swimming, Cycling.

Not long ago, someone referred to FitArtist as a ‘swimming blog’. I thought this was interesting, since it started out ten years ago (yes, it’s our tenth birthday this year!!) as a way of logging my training for the Edinburgh Marathon, my first. It certainly helped keep me motivated, knowing I would be posting my training and also because I quickly built up so much support from fellow runners and bloggers. I shouldn’t be surprised that people might think it’s a swimming blog, having swum very many miles over those ten years (including throughout my pregnancy, right into ‘extra time’). Since I started logging my runs, I have run two more marathons, numerous half-marathons, 10ks, 5ks, parkruns (and I’m also Run Director at my local, Hilly Fields parkrun and junior parkrun) and now triathlons and duathlons. That’s a lot of running, swimming and cycling!

Just recently, my running has been plodding along slowly. A few months ago I signed up to the Hackney Half Marathon and have been training towards pacing 2 hours, in my role as trainer at GoodGym. A few weeks ago though, I developed a cough which wouldn’t go away, which resolutely ignored the two rounds of antibiotics I was given and sent me to my local hospital for a chest x-ray. I kept telling myself I would be fine, it would go away and I would be there, pacing hopeful runners to their 2-hour PB. Last week though, I saw sense and took my own advice for once and withdrew from the race. Did you see the weather yesterday?! I made the right decision.

Being a runner is hard work, being an asthmatic runner is sometimes even harder work. What starts as a cold develops into a cough, which lingers, putting pressure on you to slow down but, if like me you keep on at it, you end up feeling rougher for longer and regretting not taking a break in the first place! I learnt a lesson.

I’m so impressed with anyone who got out there yesterday in that heat, after a few very cold weeks of final training and taper, the temperatures soared and saw people postponing ideas of a PB and taking it easy, to just get around the best they could. It looks like the atmosphere was incredible, with a whole weekend of activity, including a 5k on Saturday, spectators lining the route, offering water/spray/orange segments to fading runners and an event village with plenty to keep family and friends entertained. Pacers paced beautifully, hitting targets, even under such challenging conditions and finishers went home smiling, sporting a rather cool ‘sheriff’ type medal – so do they have the freedom of the streets of Hackney now? 😉

You can pre-register for next year (and hope it’s a little cooller on the day!) here.


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 😉

Richmond Half Marathon…PB Potential

Yup, another half-marathon PB in the bag!

As always, the journey to the start of a Sunday morning race in London is as challenging as the race itself, so I found myself on a freezing cold platform – thankfully with a friend – at silly o’clock with an epic journey ahead. The heat of the tube is always sleep inducing, so a brisk walk to the start of the Richmond Half-Marathon was welcome! As we were cutting it fine, I didn’t really have time to take in all the things on offer, focussing instead on the queue for the loos and the sign for the baggage tent. Hurry, hurry, hurry! Having volunteered recently in the baggage tent at the Winter Run, all future baggage tents will seem pale in comparison…this one was a bit DIY: show your number to a (very smiley) marshall, find a table/area with your number above it, leave bag. It worked though, but I certainly wouldn’t leave anything of value!

After a few more last minute nervous adjustments, Jacqui and I looked for the 1.50 pacer flags, having a brief chat and ‘good luck!’ with another friend Ronnie who was pacing the 2 hour group (well done to the pacers, it must be hard work running with a great big flag bobbing around). I was feeling a little nervous and also uncertain about how this would go, after my uncomfortable and slightly unhappy race in Brighton a month ago, so decided I would just see how I felt and, if things felt good, I would aim to beat my Brighton time. The pacers headed off quite fast, faster than 1.50 pace and I soon lost sight of them (and Jacqui!). This race has a very varied course and the roads are not closed (though carefully marshalled), so you do find yourself negotiating kerbs, shop signs, bus-stops and so on and the first section is not exactly scenic. We skirted around the high wall of Kew Gardens and passed by Kew Bridge then took to the Thames path. It hadn’t occurred to me to wear trail shoes, but this whole section was pretty rough under foot, with gravel and the odd raised rock, so my imagined views of rowers gliding across the water were forgotten as I concentrated hard on the path ahead. It did become quite congested here and I saw the first of the four falls I witnessed throughout the race.

I was feeling good, and my pace was steady, it was quiet, with everyone concentrating hard, just a thud thud and the heavy breathing of other runners. There were whole sections where friends and family had come out to cheer and the support was great, I also found the marshals very friendly and encouraging. I had decided to stick to the same fuel strategy as Brighton Half, and had two gels stashed in my pocket, one for the 10k point and one for the ten mile point, if I needed it. The water stations were frequent enough, but the water had been poured into cups, not so great! It’s so much better if you can grab a small bottle and sip as you go, washing down a gel if you need to, but the cup means you either drop it, squish it into the air or throw it at your face (I did a combination of the above). I got through though, but could have done with being a bit more hydrated later on as the sun came out. There were some nice wooded areas and some running on grass, which I think some people around me struggled with – it’s a good idea to include this kind of running in your training for this race, so you don’t find yourself stumbling as you get tired and lose form.

As always, I had missed a few mile markers along the way, so was delighted as the miles seemed to tick away nicely and we were soon enough heading for the Old Deer Park and the finish. I picked up my feet and kept the pace steady, trying to catch up with a woman ahead as a goal. All of a sudden we found ourselves running through a working car park to a little tunnel under the road, then onto the grass of the park and a ‘400m to go!’ sign. Thinking this sounded really short, I picked up the pace then noticed the course looped and turned and the finish looked miles away! Here the crowds were excellent, really pushing us along to the finish, one last push and I was pausing the Garmin at 1 hour 53 minutes and 34 seconds, so three minutes off my Brighton time 🙂

I had had a feeling the goodies might be good, and was chuffed with my medal, t-shirt (fitted, one that you can actually run in!), buff and a Whole Foods bag with a selection of snacks and not one but three drinks: water, juice and coconut water! Perfect to sip and snack on as you stretch and recover.

I’m really pleased with my time, but mostly pleased that I actually enjoyed it and have recovered really well – I do think I was coming down with a nasty cold before I started running at Brighton, so not the ideal situation. Now, of course, I’m wondering if I can get under the 1.50 mark, now that would be amazing!

PB Face

PB Face

Sub-2 Half-Marathon

It’s been a long time coming, but I did it! I had signed up to the Brighton Half-Marathon months ago, along with about ten friends from Hilly Fields parkrun, it was to be a full-on weekend of pasta, chat, post-race fish ‘n’ chips with a little run in the middle. My training was going well, with the requisite number of long runs in the bag and I had possibly even got over my stitch/cramp/stomach troubles. Yes, I know, you can feel a big ‘but’ coming can’t you? The Thursday a couple of weeks before the race was to be my long (13 mile) run, and I set off on possibly the most bitterly cold day so far, into a sleety London. I weaved in and out of the Thames path, heading westwards from Greenwich, keeping my head down, and trying to keep warm. I ran over the Millennium Footbridge towards St Paul’s Cathedral, paused for a moment at the ten mile+ point to take on a gel and, when I tried to start running again, felt an incredible pain in my right leg, just behind my ankle, on the inside. I gritted my teeth and tried to keep going, but it just seemed a silly thing to do. I did, however, need to get home! I had my Oyster card with me, so hobbled to Charing Cross, bought a big hot drink to attempt to keep myself warm and sadly took the train home 😦

The next couple of weeks included one ok-ish run, one dreadful, aborted run and a couple of swims, not great pre-race preparation. The biggest thing to take a knock was my confidence as I became nervous about running in case I did myself some permanent damage, really! As the race day approached, I had to make a decision – my room was booked, as was the train and I had been really looking forward to the social side of sharing the experience with friends. I decided that the problem was possibly due to having really tight calf muscles and that maybe I could be ‘fixed’ by a sports massage, so I booked myself in on the Friday before. I hadn’t really had a sports massage before, so didn’t know what to expect – including being a bit clueless about what to wear. A little call-out on Twitter proved useful, as did this blog post over on Magpie in the Sky (I opted for bra and pants for the massage, in case you’re wondering). The therapist talked to me for a while and went on to assess my posture and so on before giving my calf muscles a good old kneading, in fact he didn’t make it above my knees because the calves really were ridiculously tight! He showed me some stretches, which are the ones I normally do anyway, so I guess I need to do more and maybe self-massage before and after a hard session.

And so to the run. I was very nervous, not having run for about ten days! The evening before was lovely, meeting friends at an Italian restaurant for piles of pasta mostly (I opted for risotto, my tried-and-tested pre-race dinner). Of course, my sleep was rubbish, the usual waking every hour or so with a mixture of nerves, excitement and anxiousness about my alarm not going off. When it was eventually time to get up, it was a beautiful day, a lovely golden glow accompanying the sound of seagulls. Down went my porridge, banana and cuppa and after hanging around nervously adjusting shoe laces and so on, I decided to head over to the start. A quick hug from my friend Sarah, a quick loo trip and I met another friend Hugh at the start pens. Hmmm, now this is something they need to review and get right for next year. I was supposed to be in the ‘yellow’ pen as indicated on my race number, but there was nothing to show you where to go, and people were simply piling in from the back. Hugh and I ducked to the side and walked along a bit, but found ourselves in a bit of a crush of people all trying to join the crowd…with a couple of minutes to go until the countdown.

Soon enough we were off, sort of…a slow amble towards the big pink arch. Hugh soon disappeared into the distance, looking very strong. I saw a mile marker and we turned to head out East. This stretch felt like a long slow hill that went on and on until an eventual turning point where I could hear sounds of relief then groans as we realised we were now running into the wind (I say wind, it wasn’t that bad, the wind that picked up later in the day would have finished me off!). At this point I started seeing friends on the other side of the road: a high-five from a very determined looking Roni, a wave from Emma, all giving me a boost and making me run a little faster 🙂 At the drinks station I grabbed a bottle and took a few gulps, I was determined to keep myself hydrated and not suffer the hideous cramp that has troubled me in races in the past year. I sipped, swooshed and gulped down a gel, probably dribbling a lot of it down my chin. Nice. This next bit was long and hard. I now started to see the fast(er) runners heading finishwards, light on their toes and fresh faced. I looked ahead and wondered where my turning point would come. The beach huts to my left didn’t seem to stop, so I had a way to go yet. ‘Pick up your head, run tall, lift your feet!’ I told myself. At last, at about the ten mile mark, we turned and I felt an enormous sense of relief. I decided at this drinks station to walk a bit, take a good drink, another gel and then get my head down for the last three miles. Now my leg started to hurt again, and then my knee, it was all feeling a bit rubbish. With a combination of walking a little then running, I got a little bit closer to the pier and the big wheel that looked so far away. At this point I spotted Andrew across the way. This was Andrew’s first half-marathon and he hadn’t been so sure about even starting a few days before, so it was such a joy to see him still going, still smiling and our little high-five really gave me the push I needed.

I picked up the pace for the finish (maybe a little earlier than I should have done!) and crossed the line in 1 hour 56 minutes and 21 seconds. The last half-marathon race I ran and achieved a PB at was the Cardiff Half in 2010, where I ran 2 hours 12 minutes, so I’ll have that! I wandered rather vaguely around the finish area, not knowing where my friends would be, grabbing my bag to layer up and get warm, downing a cup of tea, then heading towards this lovely post-run lunch when I eventually worked out where we were meeting…



Gradually friends trickled in, some amazing PBs had been smashed, old form had been regained and first time distances had been conquered. We worked out that, between us, we had knocked over an hour off our previous PBs!! Well done Andrew, Em, Glenn, Hugh, Roni, Sally, Sarah, Siggy and Stephen, all an inspiration 🙂

Cold but happy

Cold but happy

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:





More puff, less wheeze

I was all set to go for a long run on Sunday morning, had my running kit on and everything, but my chest was so tight that I felt too uncomfortable to go anywhere. I have been a bad asthmatic. I know I should be taking preventer inhalers, and should probably have done so for years, but I bury my head in the sand and carry on puffing away on the blue inhaler, naively imagining that my asthma might one day go away of its own accord. Just recently I have been feeling tight-chested in the morning and again in the evening, so have been taking my inhaler more than usual, but it hasn’t stopped me running. On Sunday, however, I didn’t think it would be a good idea so I watched a bit of the Great North Run coverage instead. Yesterday I spent some time pressing the redial button, trying to get through to the doctor’s, and eventually got myself an appointment. I listened carefully to the advice I received and dutifully traded in my prescription for some nice little brown inhalers. Boo. It’s not going to just go away is it?

This does mean I am behind on my training for both the Folkestone Half-Marathon and the Royal Parks Foundation Half-Marathon, but I have been keeping up my daily routine of running alongside Hector while he tears around London on his lovely new bike.

When Hector was two we got him a Likeabike, a ‘balance’ bike that the child runs along with to gain a sense of balance, and he has ridden it pretty much every day since then, but just a few weeks ago he had a growth spurt and his beloved bike suddenly looked tiny. We did a bit of research and decided on an Isla Bike, which came in a big box just before we went camping. We knew he would take to a pedal bike quite quickly, but hadn’t reckoned on him going out on the pavement and riding off down the road first go! He was so happy. Now he goes so fast that I can’t keep up and we have been going on ‘proper’ family bike rides and I sometimes put on my running gear to do a circuit of the park with him. We have also set a trend, with a few of Hector’s friends looking forward to Isla Bike birthday presents!

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)