Give Blood Tuesday

This morning I gave blood for the first time. I had intended to do so during Janathon, prompted by Cassie, who is a regular donor, but I couldn’t go due to the lurgy and then I couldn’t go in February because I was STILL full of lurgy so today it was: Give Blood Tuesday. I found myself in a big lorry on Lewisham Market, squished in with all the other eager blood-givers, answering questions in a cupboard then lying on a bed listening to golden oldies on the radio and pumping my hand in and out (and trying to remember to squeeze my thighs and buttocks – I must have looked like a very obvious first-timer!). I think it’s a good idea to make an appointment (they were seeing over 100 people today!) but I managed to get one within the hour and was then in and out within 45 minutes. And you get to drink squash and eat biscuits (or crisps) though I felt rude taking the biscuits without being offered, so just sipped my squash quietly. I’m booked in for July now and will try to give blood whenever I can. If you would like to know more visit the website here.

The school run is going well, though the runs are not that eventful, hence the lack of blog. I did do a sort of double last Friday: our neighbour happened to be taking her daughter by car and offered us a lift as we were stepping out of the house but, as they weren’t leaving for a while, Hector took off his coat. Of course, when we got to school in the nice warm car, I realised we’d left the coat at home. To avert a meltdown I promised to run to school with it as quickly as I could. So I got a lift home, grabbed the coat, ran to school with it under my arm and then ran home again at a more leisurely pace! This morning I felt good and offered a friendly smile and a jolly ‘Hi!’ to a woman I saw stretching in the park. I wasn’t expecting such a contemptuous look in return. I know other runners sometimes like to keep to themselves, but I do like to call out ‘Morning!’ to dog-walkers, runners and anyone I see regularly on my route, and I am often met with a blank expression or completely ignored, but this was downright rude! I always think of this greeting as being an offer of support, like saying ‘well done on getting out’ or ‘keep going’ to a fellow exerciser so I will continue to be a friendly runner and, if I see her again, I will make the smile even bigger. How annoying!

Distance: 3.01 miles

Time: 30 minutes 25 seconds

Average Pace: 10.06

Best Pace: 5.59

Calories: 312



First day

I woke this morning and thought: ‘Today’s the day’. Hector didn’t mention it at all, he just quietly ate his breakfast, had a little play, read a book then excitedly put on his new school uniform.

He actually ran down the road, but his nerves started to show a little when I tried to leave him in the classroom – he hugged me tightly and kissed me all over my face (I had to look away so he didn’t see my tears). It wasn’t the big big day, that’s tomorrow, when I say goodbye first thing then won’t see him until three o’clock, today I collected him before lunch to hear all about it.

In my little slot of ‘free time’ this morning I went for a very quick run: I had to do my three miles, have a shower and get to the bus in about forty minutes, this made for a good pace! I forced myself to find a few minutes to pester a twitcher. I noticed this chap on my outward leg, he was sitting looking through binoculars at the heron and I guessed he would be the person to ask about the kingfisher. I regularly saw the kingfisher along the Waterlink Way last winter, but haven’t seen it yet and was worried it hadn’t come back. It seems there are two along the local stretch of river, a male and a female. He pointed out the perches that they have put in to encourage them and asked if I’ve seen the egret – I had been trying to work out what the beautiful white bird I had seen recently was and here was my answer. All of this birdie excitement got Hector and me out again this afternoon, armed with his binoculars, but still no kingfisher, I will keep my eyes peeled.

Distance: 3.05 miles

Time: 28 minutes 40 seconds

Average Pace: 9.23

Best Pace: 7.28

Calories: 304


The Three Fields

The fog continues to hover ominously above our house, and I love it! Over the past year I have got myself into a slight running route rut, so this morning I decided to combine a few of the favourites in a three park hilly attack. The beautiful weather even prompted me to take my camera with me and capture ‘the view’. Here is the first of the three fields, Ladywell Fields:

I headed happily through the mist, up the hill to the second field, Blythe Hill:

It was quite gut-bustingly hard running up those hills in the cold, but I was delightfully toasty in my lovely new top from Go Outdoors, who have kindly offered to keep me warm this winter. I had a good look through the thermal and base layer section of their website, and settled on a new Ron Hill top. I was thinking that I should try a new brand, but I know that the Ron Hill tops are a lovely fit, with a nice long body and long enough sleeves to pull down over your hands when it gets nippy. This top certainly does the trick, I actually said ‘Mmmmm’ out loud when I put it on, it’s so soft and I love to be able to pull a top down low to reduce the view of my rear end. So, now I sped up a bit and ran swiftly along Brockley Road towards my next field, Hilly Fields:

(normally this has one of the best panoramic views of London)

I had found the hills on this run pretty tough at first, but I really settled into it and was starting to enjoy myself now. Just a downhill stretch and a flat pick-up-the-pace section to home, where my next-door neighbour was shocked to see a human being actually steaming.

Distance: 3.46 miles

Time: 35 minutes 33 seconds

Average Pace: 10.17

Best Pace: 6.24

Calories: 412

I do have some splendid tights to try out too, but today didn’t seem quite cold enough – I do like to hold tight on the tights until it’s really cold – so I will see what the next few days bring on the weather front.

Are these my thighs?

I think my thighs ache more than they did after the Brighton Marathon back in April, damn those British Military Fitness squat-pushers! The soreness hasn’t dampened my enthusiasm for my knuckling down to half-marathon training promise, and I have been out and about being Ms Active for the past few days. Sunday was a non-running day. We had a children’s party up in Finsbury Park, so my activity was made up of a bike-East London Line-bike-party-bike-East London Line-bikeathon. The East London Line is great – you can take your bike on during off-peak times (check ahead of travel though, don’t take my word for it!) and we can get from near our house all the way up to Highbury and Islington before a small boy has given up and caused travel mayhem. The Islington side of the journey involved quite a hill, and I really did think my thighs might pop, but they held out long enough for me to test them again on Monday.

During the BritMilFit doo-dah on Saturday I was shown some mean new squats and a nifty little tree interval session, so decided to add this in to my morning run and see if it is possible to replicate such determined effort whilst on my own. It is. I ran at a fairly gentle pace as it was super hot then, dripping with sweat, I spotted my evenly spaced trees and went for it. Now, I am a focussed kind of person, but I am easily distracted by things that might interest a certain small boy. This meant that my first sprint was momentarily halted by a lovely bright green feather to present to Hector for his collection, a parakeet, something that we have an abundance of here in South East London! It felt good to test this new way of training, and I can definitely see how it’s going to help me reduce my times, if I stick at it.

Time: 33 minutes 10 seconds

Distance: 3.06 miles

Average Pace: 10.51

Best Pace: 6.25

Calories: 326

(this sort of run makes for an interesting range in pace!)

Today I wanted to go a bit further, just to ease out of that three mile rut I often find myself in, so it was a simple out and back along the Waterlink Way.

Time: 39 minutes 25 seconds

Distance: 4.05 miles

Average Pace: 9.44

Best Pace: 8.24

Calories: 401

I’ve not decided what tomorrow will bring, but maybe it’s time to hit the track.

Peckham 10k, thirsty running

It rained on Friday night. Nothing that unusual, but it has been so very dry here for such a long time now that it made us all stand and stare out of the window for a bit when we woke up. The garden heaved a sigh of relief as well. I was happy because this would mean a fresh and cool Peckham 10k on Peckham Rye, so I put my new running shorts back on the shelf, unworn, and pulled on my trusty capris. Being slightly thrown by this alien weather situation, I didn’t bother with sun cream or sunglasses and headed off down the road to catch the bus. Edward said, surprised: ‘Aren’t you cycling?!’ and I promptly said ‘no’, I didn’t know the way and had a feeling it would be all hills, which it was. It was a nice bus ride, seeing glimpses of where I used to live years ago, but the journey seemed to take ages and I arrived at the park all flustered and ran to the registration area to pick up my number.

I would say that this race is on a par with the Parkrun series in terms of casualness and level of organisation – I got a confirmation email from Runner’s World when I registered, then didn’t hear anything until I sent an email asking where the race started and how I might go about collecting my number. I like to have my number pinned firmly to my top before leaving the house so I know that, if I am delayed for any reason, I can just roll up to the start line and run. I was on time and even had enough time to marvel at what people do before a race. There was so much odd stretching, arm swinging and jumping on the spot from the men mostly, while the women mainly stood about conserving energy or folding their arms. Eventually, we were asked to follow a chap across the slippery wet grass, turn around the way we came while he gestured a sort of loop with his hands in the air, then we were off.

This was my first race since Brighton Marathon, so just a test really, to see how I’m holding up. I wanted to finish the 10k in under one hour ideally, so kept my head down and surged up the little hills when they loomed in front of me. The crisp morning weather had been misleading, and I was suddenly very hot, squinting through the bright sun and wishing I had put on some sun cream. This race was made up of three loops and a one-third of a loop section, with some long steady hills and lots of dodging of people meandering around bus stops, leaping over tree roots and ducking under over-hanging branches. It was friendly, with most people being in groups of friends, many of whom wore t-shirts saying ‘God Loves Peckham’, and other religious messages, I hadn’t realised Peckham was the centre of the Christian universe. My pace seemed good, and I did feel it was a bit tough, then remembered I was going a bit faster than usual, so gritted my teeth and found myself overtaking lots of other runners, especially on the hill sections.

There had been water available on the first lap, but I hadn’t taken any because I don’t like drinking during a shorter race, and decided to wait until the end. I really wish I had grabbed some water now and stashed it somewhere near the finish line because, as I collected my medal and t-shirt, I realised there wasn’t a drop of water to be had anywhere. How disappointing on such a hot day, and I didn’t have any money with me to buy anything. The race organisers really do need to sort this out next year, you can’t expect people to pay to enter a race and go home thirsty – I ended up with a thumping headache in the afternoon. Anyway, apart from that, it was a nice race and I got in under one hour.

Time: 57 minutes 54 seconds

Distance: 6.13 miles

Average Pace: 9.27

Best Pace: 5.23

Calories: 633

I do have another 10k coming up in a few weeks, the Bupa London 10k, along with a few other running friends. Edward said I should aim for 55 minutes. Hmmmm, now let me see…

Escape Gate

The route I took today. Unfortunately.

I got up feeling as if I had pulled something in my back so, when I set off on what was supposed to be a twenty-mile run, I had a sort of stitch pain in my ribcage every time I took a deep breath. This combined with a slightly dodgy tummy, an under-prepared plan and a negative mindset led to a really poor run. Actually, it wasn’t all bad, the first two miles were a delight because I had Edward and Hector next to me on the bike, with Hector shouting: ‘Come on!’ every few minutes. They headed off to the swimming pool in Deptford and left me to go on my merry way. I tried, I really did, but every time someone overtook me I felt more and more fed-up so, after I reached ten  miles – on the South Bank – I made a decision to get on the train and go home. Arrrghghg, I cringe typing that, and read over it in disbelief, I have never done anything like that before, never. And I won’t do it again. I can learn a lot from this run:

– be prepared, both physically and mentally before setting off

– look at these last few weeks before the marathon as ‘full-time’ running, not just rolling up before a long run and ‘winging it’

– get some proper running socks to prevent penny-sized blisters

– don’t try running westwards along the Thames at the weekend, it’s just daft

So there, I’ve told you all now and, as Edward has kindly pointed out more than once this afternoon, I am a quitter, but I am leaving it there and will prepare myself properly for next week’s long run.

In the meantime, can I tell you about a really quite bonkers place? Crystal Palace Park. Don’t trust the TFL website, they told me to catch five buses and then catch the train to Milton Keynes and walk from there, when actually there is a bus from the end of our road. During our visit this afternoon, we saw two men practicing whip-cracking. Yes, you read correctly, whip-cracking! They had these really long whips and were just cracking them and making an incredibly loud sound. Now, I have some odd interests, but this really is off the wall. In what situation would you require such a skill?! Anyway, Crystal Palace Park is also home to the fantastic running track, the wonderful swimming/diving pool (where we were allowed in to watch a bit of a gala), some dinosaurs, the lovely maze (pictured at the top of this post) and…wait for it…the London RC Club. As we walked past the swimming pool, we could hear this immense engine sound, which we thought must be motorbikes or something but, as we got closer, we could see that it was a miniature racing track with remote control racing cars whizzing round it! Really, if you are in the south London area, do pay the park a visit, it’s quite something.

And another thing, to distract you from my shitty run, this is what raised beds are really for:

Time: 1 hour 45 minutes 59 seconds

Distance: 10.02 miles

Average Pace: 10.17

Best Pace: 7.06

Calories: 1038

Another short long run

Other than injury, I can think of nothing more draining on your energy during marathon training than a stomach bug, so imagine my horror when I succumbed this week. After my fabulous track session on Tuesday morning, Hector really wanted to go out in the running buggy, even though it was raining, so we did. Just under three miles, and we had to make the return leg by train due to the now heavy rain and, during this run, I started to feel pretty awful and wondered if I had been a bit ambitious for the day’s activity. By Wednesday morning it was clear that I was just ill, and Edward even had to work from home so he could take Hector to nursery (incidentally, Hector was really excited about this and just rushed in and waved happily at Daddy!). During these few hours I just slept and ran to the bathroom. I remembered that, when Hector had a vomiting bug the other week, every time he ate, he just brought it back up again, so I decided to go without food for the day and see if that cleared the bug. Oh how feeble I felt, lying there sipping recovery drinks and clutching my aching stomach.

I was much better on Thursday, as if I had never been ill in fact, but my energy levels dipped through the day and I was reminded to slow down and stick to soup for a while. I would say that yesterday was the first day I was able to enjoy my food again. Bleurgh. So, when I looked at my schedule and saw that today was to be the eighteen mile day, I realised I would have to be realistic and just see how I felt during the run. Earlier in the week I was sent some samples of Orbana energy drinks, and had been keen to try these out after last week’s long run, where I had failed to equip myself properly with any kind of fuel, and wanted to see how much better I could run with the right fuel on board. Of course, today was just about getting out and seeing how far I could go on weak legs, but I did pack some fluid for the journey, keen to keep myself hydrated after such a challenging week. Funnily enough, I knew that the drinks were good because they were the only thing I could keep down during my illness, and really seemed to help as I sipped them gently throughout the day!


The first few miles were fun, as I was accompanied by the boys on Edward’s bike, and we paused briefly to enjoy the view of the Kingfisher resting on a branch before he disappeared in a flash of neon blue. As we reached a fork on the Waterlink Way, the boys went towards the swimming pool and I kept going towards Beckenham Place Park, so a repeat of the run I did a few weeks ago really, though this time I knew where I was going! After last week’s long run, I have realised that I should sip some fluid at intervals instead of waiting until I’m on my knees, so stopped at four miles for a gulp then carried on my way through the mud. The thing I like about the Orbana drinks is that they don’t taste that strong, my drink of choice outside of running is tea, and other than that I drink mainly water so, when I drink some of the other sports drinks, I find them far too sweet and really artificial-tasting, but Orbana tastes a bit like diluted juice, which I find more palatable.

It was nice running through that park, passing lots of muddy dogs and listening to the woodpeckers making the most delightful sound – I had carried my iPod Shuffle with me, but I’m glad I didn’t plug in because this was too good to miss. I did a random sort of lap, taking in a few dead-ends and odd loops, then came out to run towards South Beckenham station to step onto the Waterlink Way again. I had been stubbornly ignoring the fact that I was suffering from the most dreadful stitch and now stomach cramp, and determinedly plodding on as if everything was alright, but now I was beginning to think I should cut this run short and save the long, long run for next weekend. As I passed under the train track, it was ever so tempting to hop on the train home, but I didn’t.

Now I was passing some allotments, and I took a long sideways glance at the array of raised beds and compost heaps constructed mainly out of reclaimed wood. I am becoming slightly obsessed with acquiring wood, and wondered where they had found theirs. We started building a compost heap out of a palette we found at the end of our road, but realised it’s quite hard to dismantle them, and need another source of wood for the next level (it’s rapidly filling up with peelings and tea bags!). We also want to get our raised beds in ready for the planting season, so need a good supply of planks. I did ring round some scaffolders to see if they sell off old planks, but they are very reluctant to let you have them in case you do yourself an injury. ‘But I am going to saw them up and plant vegetables amongst them!’ I protested ‘Health and safety’ said the nice lady on the other end of the line.

Anyway, back to the run. By now my stomach was really hurting and I kept having to stop to sip fluid and bend over to clutch my stomach, but on I went (I didn’t have much choice really). I kept at it until I reached the park near home, and I was reduced to switching off the Garmin and walking the last mile home, looking out for discarded planks along the way.

Time: 1 hour 39 minutes 52 seconds

Distance: 9.33 miles

Average Pace: 10.42

Best Pace: 7.47

Calories: 1000

(I will review the Orbana drinks in more detail on next week’s long run, here’s hoping I don’t get any more bugs).