London Marathon, five weeks to go!

I woke up this morning and instantly started talking about triathlon. I don’t know if it was the sun streaming in through the window, the birds nesting on our neighbour’s jasmine, tweeting with great enthusiasm, or the fact that I was slightly envious of Edward heading off for a pre-work swim, but triathlon was at the front of my mind.

People keep asking how my training is going. I know they mean my London Marathon training, so answer with this in mind, ‘So far, so good’. It is going well, weekday runs are a combination of leading GoodGym Lewisham, track/hills or evil mile repeats with Kent AC, my GoodGym coach run, something longer and pacier and, of course, the LOOOOONG run. In the past few weeks I have built up gradually to last Friday’s 20-miler. It was gorgeous, sunshine (and a bit of unexpected drizzle at one point), river, canal, zoo, park and a slightly mis-judged, but tired run down Regent’s Street. I say it was gorgeous, the scenery was gorgeous, but it was definitely one of those runs where you doubt you will ever be able to run a marathon at pace and find yourself frequently giving yourself a good old talking to. Edward and I looked at my stats on Strava in the evening, ‘What happened here, in the middle? You went much faster for 3k?’ ‘Oh yes, that’ll be where I put some music on’. Consistency? I’ll get there. I hope.

So where does triathlon fit in with this? It doesn’t! Since I won my place in the London Marathon – on Twitter – before Christmas, my mind has been taken over by it. My usual week of running, cycling and swimming (with a bit of strength work thrown in) has been cut to running, running and more running (with a tiny bit of swimming and strength). Last week, I thought ‘I’m finding marathon training irritating!’ I look at my schedule and decide ‘I mustn’t swim that day because it will make that run there much harder. I mustn’t go on the turbo trainer, my legs won’t carry me through the half-marathon I have to do then’. I’m being a bit precious about it and I don’t like it.

The last time I ran a marathon, back in 2011 in Brighton, Hector was much smaller, I wasn’t part of a running club and we hadn’t set up Hilly Fields parkrun. I printed a schedule and did my best, having an enjoyable race. This time I have so much support around me, friends who have run multiple marathons, coaches who know what works and what doesn’t and everyone telling me I should aim for a certain time. The pressure is on! It’s important to focus, but it’s important to have some fun too. Time to plan something beyond the Big Day.

This morning I received an email from OSB Events, the people who organise the wonderful Holkham Triathlon I took part in last summer. This morning, Edward was saying that of course I should be doing an ironman, with all this marathon training in place but, when I reminded myself how far the swim is, I quickly dashed that idea! Maybe though, a half-ironman wouldn’t be such a bad idea after a marathon? I found it incredibly hard last July, it is a very tough thing to embark on, but maybe it’s what I need to focus my mind beyond London.

All suggestions most welcome!


Breakfast with Champions

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

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

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

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

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

Thankfully, his services were not needed!

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

Warming up

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

Race ya Paula!

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

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

Paula and me

Shelly and me!

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

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

Best wishes

Distance run: 1.01 miles

Time: 9 minutes 39 seconds

Average Pace: 9.34

Best Pace: 7.22

Calories: 69

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



Tomorrow we are heading to Brighton where I will be taking on the Brighton Marathon in aid of Guide Dogs. You can sponsor my effort here.

Only two more sleeps! Oh dear, it’s all getting a bit too exciting for me now. This morning I started the day with a glass of soluble vitamins, a mug of Lemsip and a mug of tea – the throat had kept me awake and my nose had joined in, just for fun. Argh. So I went and met Helsbels for a last little run before the big day. It was just short jaunt around the park to keep our legs loose and remind ourselves that we do know how to run, though we did both find it a bit odd and a bit of a struggle! After we had a chat about our nerves, fuel, heat and whether or not we like to wear short to run in (no), we both went our separate ways, wishing each other luck for Sunday. I did feel better after a run, and went on to have the most gorgeous morning in the garden, planting seeds and tending to various bits and bobs, and preparing to make a bee hotel with Hector on his return from nursery. Perfect.

So tomorrow we will soak up the atmosphere and explore Brighton. I am very excited about it all, but do want to get on with it now. I just consulted my list from yesterday and have made a little pile of essential stuff, not to be forgotten. Earlier on I got busy with the Poska pens and graffitied my vest, I hope spectators will be able to make out the slightly smudgy and wonky ‘Adele’, and runners behind me can read my web address for future reference.

Wish me luck, see you on Sunday evening!

Time: 18 minutes

Distance: 1.64 miles

Average Pace: 10.59

Best Pace: 6.57

Calories: 151


In three days I will be taking on the Brighton Marathon in aid of Guide Dogs. You can sponsor my effort here.

It’s hot, hot, hot in London today. I love the sunshine, as Roy Ayres says ‘Everybody Loves the Sunshine’, but when you have 26.2 miles to run, you want a bit of air circulating around your limbs and a touch of freshness to fend off over-heating. I just checked the weather forecast for Brighton on Sunday and it says 13 degrees and a rain shower, good temperature, but I’m not wild about the rain.

Lists. I feel I should make a list of things I mustn’t forget to take with me.

Running shoes

capri tights


Guide Dogs vest

race number and safety pins (don’t forget the safety pins!)

socks without holes in

timing chip


sun cream

marathon belt



iPod Shuffle

Body Glide – how could I forget that one?!

I’ve got a sore throat and runny nose today 😦 Chances are I have caught Hector’s cold, or maybe a it’s a touch of hayfever. Whatever it is, I’d like it to go away before Sunday please. Sniff.



In four days I will be taking on the Brighton Marathon in aid of Guide Dogs. You can sponsor my effort here.

Marathon week is a funny old time. All this training, months of it, feel like nothing. This morning I went out and ran just over two miles and it felt like hard work! This is the week where you become obsessed about small details like which socks you should wear on the big day, whether you are eating enough pasta and whether you can actually remember how to put one foot in front of the other. I haven’t been sleeping very well, partly because Hector has a cough (which I am trying to avoid by running to other side of the room when he starts one of his coughing fits and protecting my face whenever he sneezes at me, and partly because I lie awake thinking about the marathon. I did have a dream the other night where I ran it in 4 hours 47 minutes, which would be a PB by two minutes, I hope this is a prophecy.

I am being constantly stunned by the generosity of friends, family and ‘virtual’ friends I haven’t even met, who have been sponsoring me, I know that some of these people really have to count every penny, so feel quite humbled by this kindness. I am also amazed by some funny ideas people have about running and marathon training. Edward’s Mum was genuinely surprised (and disappointed?) that I wasn’t training every day, not realising that this is the lowest, slowest week of them all. I was reminded this morning at the nursery gates that people still don’t think of any other marathon than the London Marathon as being a ‘proper’ marathon. One of my Mum friends said: ‘So how far is it?’ and when I told her it’s 26.2 miles she was really taken aback. I suppose the benefit of this is that people are even more impressed by my effort when they hear it’s a ‘full marathon’ that I’m running. Even Edward, who you would think might have got the whole marathon thing by now, said last night, as we tucked into our noodle soup: ‘Shouldn’t you be eating lots of steak and protein?’ I think this just means that he’d like to eat lots of steak.

When I read the Brighton Marathon website and the details sent to me in the post, I am reminded that runners are asked not to listen to headphones whilst running. Normally I wouldn’t do this, I enjoy hearing people around me, chatting to other runners, soaking up the atmosphere and being aware of my surroundings. I do think this time I might just clip my iPod Shuffle on though, in case I hit a really dark spot, just one little track might be enough to see me through, like slurping a gel for a little energy boost. I am thinking a bit of Florence, some Morrissey, a Pixies or two and some Bjork might do it. Maybe not to other peoples’ taste, but just the trick for me.

Time: 22 minutes 25 seconds

Distance: 2.20 miles

Average Pace: 10.11

Best Pace: 8.00

Calories: 199



Taper time!

On Friday and Saturday I managed to cram in two runs, one with the lovely Helsbels, and one flying solo. On Friday morning I dropped Hector off at nursery and, not knowing what time it was, legged it up our road to meet Helen by the station for nine o’clock. I did a bit of stretching whilst she got caught at the dreaded crossing ‘system’ and we then headed out along the Waterlink Way. It was a gorgeous morning, but we did both share our concerns about it being hot when we run the Brighton Marathon in two weeks’ time (eek!), after my experience at the London Marathon in 2009, where I caved in under the strain of cramp (though I might add I did finish!), I would prefer a fresh sort of day, where I don’t feel the need to drink every drop of water that comes my way. Another challenge brought on by the heat is the clouds of gnats along the route, but this did give us the opportunity to engage in a new form of cross-training, ‘Gnat Boxercise’ (thanks Helen for the nifty title). I did catch a few in my throat and hadn’t put my sunglasses on, so managed to allow some to hitch a ride in my eyelashes. Yuk! We managed a brisker-than-planned six miles and went our seperate ways to rid ourselves of the pesky bugs.

Time: 1 hour 4 minutes

Distance: 6.11 miles

Average Pace: 10.29

Best Pace: 5.35

Calories: 634

On my return, the postlady rang our bell to give me my Guide Dogs vest for Brighton and a lovely long-sleeve top to test and write about. The top is made from bamboo, which is known for its wicking properties and is eco-friendly, and the material is so soft, I wanted to just stroke it! I decided to wear the top for my long run on Saturday, the last longer run before I go into the taper. You can buy a BAM – Bamboo Clothing Zip Neck Baselayer like mine here, but here is a picture of me sporting mine before the run:

The main thing that delighted me when I put it on was how long it is, so many running tops are cut too short and I find it hard not to get distracted by clothing gathering around my middle and the constant need to keep pulling it down and not expose my midriff; I was interested to see how long this top stayed in place. I hadn’t realised that the top also has lovely little thumb holes, and actually whooped at this discovery (I lead a simple life).

It was another warm day, but slightly fresh at the start of the run, so I kept the little thumb holes hooked in place and off I went. I have decided that I much prefer to head east along the Thames than west: I get most of it all to myself, don’t have to dodge tourists and can immerse myself in scenes of grime and industrial splendour. It being a Saturday, the diggers and stone crushers were hard at work again and the path was populated mainly by other runners, mostly in pairs and mostly ignoring me, and I had thought this route was a friendly one too! Every so often, I caught sight of my hands and felt all sporty, there’s nothing like a new top with cute thumb hole things to make you feel all Paula Radcliffe. Ahem. At this stage, the top was staying firmly in place, no movement whatsoever, and I felt warm, but not too hot even though the sweat was dripping down my face.

When you are training for a marathon, you are told to practice your routine before the big day, making sure you have tried out all the gear you are wearing to make sure it doesn’t rub (or work out where it rubs so you can take precautions), test the various fuels and gels and eat the food you plan to eat prior to the race. Well, after this run, I can definitely say I will not be eating a curry and drinking a beer the night before. If it wasn’t for the agonising stomach cramps and two unscheduled toilet-finding missions in a state of sheer panic, I would say this was the best run of my training so far! I was feeling good, my mind was positive, I was running fairly fast for a long slow run and I looked good in my new gear with a sunny smile on my face. So it’s pasta for me on April 9th.

As I said, this run was good, I was simply ticking off those miles and picking my knees up as I reached the Thames Barrier, enjoyed the view, then turned for home. I had carried my iPod Shuffle with me again, but decided I should have a ‘treat’ for the last two miles after reaching Greenwich, so kicked my heels to Morrissey until I rolled up at home, happy, cool yet warm and ready to enjoy the rest of the weekend. The bamboo had held out, not moving an inch but looking slightly soggy on my return. I normally go for a more shiny fabric because of this, but the benefits outweighed the view I offered my fellow pavement users, maybe it’s ok for a top to show up your sweat, but pants would be anther matter! I think I might consider getting a short-sleeve version of the top, maybe to go under my Guide Dogs vest for the marathon, I’m a convert!

Time: 2 hours 20 minutes 25 seconds

Distance: 14.04 miles

Average Pace: 10.00

Best Pace: 7.18

Calories: 1563

It’s a funny old world…

…beyond the Thames Barrier. This weekend I decided my long run should be on Saturday, get it out of the way, look forward to relaxing for the rest of the weekend, spend Sunday enjoying family time and drinking coffee. A few weeks ago I ran over to Greenwich then eastwards along the Thames, reaching the Thames Barrier then turning for home. This weekend’s run required a bit more, so I was all set to run ten  miles and then turn for home. It was a gorgeous day, really bright and spring-like so deciding what to wear was a bit of a challenge, I ended up going out in capri leggings (my favourites, which now seem to be developing a hole in the nether regions, boo), a long-sleeve top, a t-shirt over this, gloves, sun cream and my fantastic Poloroid Polarized Sunglasses. Now, I was sent these months and months ago and have been waiting for the right kind of weather to give them a good test, so what better than a sunny spring morning over a twenty mile run?

I do wear sunglasses to run, but my usual pair were bought for less than twenty pounds from Boots, so I was interested to see how they compare with a much more expensive and more whizzy sort of spec. As a glasses wearer, I am quite particular about what goes on my face, and I find many glasses really uncomfortable, mainly because I have such wonky ears. With the Poloroid glasses this is not a problem, as they have a neat little adjustable rubber stopper on the arm, so you can wiggle this about until you get everything just right. At first I hadn’t wiggled one side enough and the glasses kept touching my eyelashes, which was driving me nuts, so I made some more adjustments and was well on my way.

I was very daunted by the idea of running twenty miles after my poor show the other week, so was determined to shoo away any negative thoughts and simply break the run up into little bite-size chunks. I got to Greenwich, which was ridiculously busy, then enjoyed the grimy industrial bit that comes next. When I did this run last time it was a Sunday, so felt like a desolate waste land, but this run was alive with the sound of diggers, rock-crushers, telescopic handlers and all manner of other machinery even I don’t know the name of. So much to see (yes, I know most people would run the other way, but I happen to enjoy looking at muddy JCBs). By now, the sun was proving pretty hot, and I had to remember to stop at a shop I had spotted last time to buy some energy drink (I have run out of Orbana), quick stop, gulp, gulp, and on my way. Next stop, the barrier, which looked lovely in the sunshine, and now into unknown territory. It looked like I could go through the visitors centre and pick up the Thames Path again, but I soon found myself looking at a brick wall with two unfortunate men who thought I knew where I was going: ‘Don’t follow me!’ I said ‘I haven’t a clue!’. I asked a security man, who was also clueless, so found myself on a busy road in Woolwich, hoping to find my way back to some delightful scenery. I recognised a roundabout from the London Marathon, wended my way through an estate and joined the river again.

I was getting a bit hot and sticky now, so gloves off to wipe my brow. The sunglasses were staying firmly in place, in fact I had forgotten I was wearing them. My next entertainment spot was at the Woolwich Ferry, a little car ferry and subway, which was ever so busy. Of course, I got myself lost again and was directed by a nice man who seemed to know what he was talking about, and there I was, standing amongst lots of little Anthony Gormleys at the Woolwich Arsenal. So much contrast in one small stretch of water! Things were beginning to feel a bit achey and tired now, not least my mind. I really think I have lost my running nerve in the past few months, I don’t know why, but I just don’t have the same confidence as I used to have. Anyway, I kept going, up and down little paths that were blocked and diverted here and there, hit ten miles with relief, took a gulp of fuel and turned towards home.

This was where the major self-doubt set in and I had to really grit my teeth and get on with it. I did carry my iPod with me, but didn’t listen to it once, I am always a bit concerned it might spoil my thought processes on a really long run, feeling that I will only gain true mental grit by going it alone, no music. Maybe I should really have just put on some music and chilled out a bit! On my return leg through Greenwich I noticed how high the water was – people were leaping away from the edge of the Thames so as not to get splashed. I wanted to be splashed because the heat was beginning to get to me a bit by this point. I paused again to buy more water then took on the two or so miles towards home. This was hard. I even allowed myself to walk some of it, walk, run, walk, run, just get there. I was having my long-run/hot-day craving that I normally only have during the last few miles of a marathon: coke and then another. I was determined to make my run finish outside the shop so I could buy a bottle of coke (I NEVER normally drink coke) and, as I did so, I bumped into Edward and Hector, who had been for a lovely visit to the Horniman Museum and happily cheered me across my imaginary finish-line. Phew.

I popped my sunglasses on my head (I’d say leave them in place because they just got a bit tangled in my hair!), got my coke and strolled home happily to enjoy a lunch of bacon and egg sandwiches on the lawn.

Time: 3 hours 37 minutes 19 seconds

Distance: 20 miles

Average Pace: 10.52

Best Pace: 7.45

Calories: 2393

As for the Poloroid sunglasses, they really did the job, no constant readjustment needed, very light, and they even come with interchangeable lenses, so you can use them in different lights. I think I might let Edward use them for his London-Paris bike ride in April, as I think they would be great for cycling. I might try and persuade him to write a guest blog to let you know all about his upcoming adventure 🙂

And this is what we had for dinner on Saturday night: