Running the Hilly Fields Parkrun

For real!

Another gorgeous morning for meeting up with lycra-clad people and sweating your butts off on the hills of South East London. Edward and his small assistant were on marshal duty again, so it was up the hill bright and early for the Prince-Hill family and time for a quick play in the playground before the action started. It felt nice to be in running gear this time and giving it a go myself though, after my solo attempt on Monday, I was slightly apprehensive about potentially chucking-up in front of everyone at the end! The crowd soon built up at the top of the hill, not quite as many as last week’s first run, but a respectable collection of brightly coloured tops were milling around.

Heading startwards

I quickly set my Garmin to find a signal and it seemed slightly perplexed when it told me: ‘Multiple heart rate monitors detected’! I looked around, yup, they look like HRM types.

Thumbs up

I’m glad I ran the course this week because I was able to work out where I need to put the arrows, cones and marshalls when I am Run Director next week. It was also great to run it with the support of fellow runners and the encouragement of marshalls, especially this little fella, blowing his whistle, high-fiving and even giving me a hug mid-run (not so great for time, but marvellous for your morale).

Whistle-blower in action

Having run the course on Monday, I had a better sense of pacing and managed to avoid feeling nauseous as I got to the top of the hill of the final lap, I was even greeted by Hector on his bike, who prompted the people gathered at the finish line to chuckle and cheer as he raced me to the end, giving me the boost I needed to attempt a sprint finish! I was telling everyone I had knocked a minute off Monday’s time, but I think it’s more like 45 seconds, still not bad 🙂 I then had to fess up. Having spent my week telling people: ‘You must remember your barcode…blah, blah…’ I didn’t have mine! It wasn’t my fault, honest, it was all Edward’s doing, or rather not-doing: he left it on the printer at work. Afterwards I realised I pushed in front of loads of people queuing nicely to get their barcodes scanned, in my rush to get the embarrassment over with, sorry about that folks. To make sure I don’t do this again, I have ordered a rather splendid little tag that I can attach to my keys or wherever, and not worry about sweaty bits of paper, or indeed any bits of paper.

Distance: 3.12 miles

Time: 29 minutes 18 seconds

Average Pace: 9.24

Best Pace: 6.46

Calories: 380

I noticed that I got slower each mile, so I need to work on keeping the pace consistent for the whole 5k. Still feeling confident.



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.

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.

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:





Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon Workshop

I think I might ache tomorrow. And the day after.

Thanks to the lovely Jogblog putting in a good word for me, I am now the proud owner of a media place in the Royal Parks Half Marathon in October (pizza and beer will come your way Cathy, don’t you worry). I was recently sent a very bright pre-race race top to try out and show off and last night seemed like a good time to give it a South East London debut. I am a big fan of green, and this is definitely green, a lovely shade of green that allowed me to be seen from all areas of the park, a good thing during an evening run I say. There is a great image on the back, showing a running tree and this seemed to suit my leafy Ladywell Fields jaunt perfectly. As I am embarking on a month of running – more on that later – I had earlier done a bit of a running-shelf-sort-out, putting things in piles called ‘bottoms’, ‘summer tops’, winter tops’, ‘feeling brave’ and ‘only for decorating’ and two race shirts went straight in the ‘only for decorating pile’. This Royal Parks t-shirt will definitely be worn on a regular basis: it’s good quality, a really nice fit and even has a lower back than front which is ever so flattering.

I seem to have fixed my poorly Garmin by letting it run down completely, then charging it up completely, but it’s struggling to pick up a signal so some of this run was a bit lacking in data.

Time: 31 minutes 9 seconds

Distance: 3.03 miles

Average Pace: 10.16

Best Pace: 7.14

Calories: 263

As part of my fabulous Royal Parks package, I was invited to take part in a workshop today, to help me pick up the pace for the race. I got up bright and early (as usual, that’s life with a four-year-old) and headed up to Mayfair and the swish Matt Roberts Personal Training. Gradually lots of women – mostly – in various shades of pink – mostly – trickled in and we were soon put into our groups to start the ‘Improve your time’ workshop. I was in the group that first of all went with a personal trainer and discussed strength training, something I always imagine will be a good idea but never actually get round to doing. We were shown a few important moves and told that it’s best to look at ‘functional’ moves, things that will help your running specifically, and to try to fit this sort of session in twice a week. We did a few squats and were shown how to add weights to intensify the moves.

We then moved on to the Mizuno area and were told all about the importance of correctly fitting shoes and how this can help prevent injury; the woman was incredibly knowledgable and really helpful, though not particularly pushing her own brand, which was refreshing. This session was supported by the next stage with a physio from Matt Roberts Personal Training who talked about gait analysis. She had various tools for looking at how we land and so on and used volunteers to demonstrate how she breaks down the activity of walking to work out where improvements can be made and to locate any problems when dealing with injury. We then went over to a Matt Roberts look-a-likie called Gareth who talked about intervals and tempo running and how we should think about following a schedule to get the best out of our training. I owned up to always printing out a schedule, but never actually sticking to it and Gareth suggested prioritising the intervals and adding to a session to maximise speed work, since it’s speed that I want to gain.

Following this session, we were given a talk by a chap from Lucozade, a sports nutritionist who works with elite athletes on their diets for training and competition. He had some great advice about race day strategies and the importance of starting a race already hydrated. I asked him about cramping, something that I have had problems with in past races, and he said I should stick to the sports drinks over gels in a race to replenish electrolytes and said I might like to try Nuun, which you can just pop in a bottle of water. We were also allowed to help ourselves to some Lucozade Sport, gels and jelly beans to try out in training, as this will be the drink around the course on race day.

The Lucozade Sport proved a necessity in the next section of the day, British Military Fitness.

We piled our bags into the British Military Fitness van and walked as a group over to Hyde Park Corner. It was super busy in Hyde Park, with a concert about to start and loads of young drunk people, just waiting to stare at us and shout abuse. Great. I have looked on these British Military Fitness nutters in the past and thought ‘fools’ as I plod around the park, and here I was subjecting myself to goodness knows what in broad daylight, for all to see. There were three instructors who, after giving us a thorough warming up, divided us into smaller groups and asked us if we were tired yet. Yes. There was a lot of squatting. I like a good squat and thought I had done pretty much every kind of squat going, but these guys are the kings of squat. We even did one in a circle, holding hands, on one leg – you stuck your leg out straight in front and lowered yourself right down, leg off the ground. You then lifted yourself back up again, keeping the leg straight. In theory. I did get the going down bit eventually, but I don’t think I looked pretty.

The thing I liked about the BritMilFit session was just how pleasant these chaps were about making us hurt. I had preconceived ideas about being shouted at and having mud kicked in my face, but they were smiley, encouraging and ever so polite: what they were making us do was tough, but they were not tough with us. One thing I found very useful was the interval session: we sprinted in a line to the first tree in a row then jogged back, sprinted to the second tree and jogged back and so on for five trees. This was hard, but I really pushed myself and got back with one other woman ahead of the others and I could easily replicate this in the park on my own. If I could afford it, I would definitely be signing up for BritMilFit because I loved it, but I will try to do some of the exercises on my own, though I doubt I could ever achieve the same level of effort I got from the group session.

I really enjoyed the workshop, and think it will give me a good boost for the start of my half marathon training. Things I will take away with me and try my hardest – really, I will – to implement in my weekly schedule are strength training and intervals. I think, if I am to run my dream of a two-hour half marathon, then I need to kick my own arse into gear and these chaps might just have helped me on my way. There are other workshops coming up and also training runs, and I would recommend them highly.

On my return journey I bumped into one of the other participants, who it turns out lives not very far from here. We talked about running clubs and how having children slows you down then went our separate ways to be with our families. I caught the tail end of the school summer fair with a happy Hector and Edward, and decided to run alongside them on the bike as we made our weary way home.

Time: 21 minutes 48 seconds

Distance: 2.12 miles

Average Pace: 10.18

Best Pace: 7.02

Calories: 222

Now to this running for a month lark. I totally missed out on Juneathon this year, I tried, but June was such a silly month for me that there was no chance I could keep up. July, however, is a different month entirely and I have decided to do my own little Julyathon. I will attempt to run and blog as with Juneathon/Janathon and, if anyone else wants to join in, then please do! One person who is definitely on board is Highway Kind, who is not only dedicating himself to another month, but the rest of the year, go HK!

Janathon Day 29: Helsbels, it’s a cake!

Ah, this is what running is all about, this is what Janathon and Juneathon are all about, making friends and finding some of that support that we all need to get us to the finish line. This morning I got together with HelsBels, who lives in the same area as me, and we did a sociable run to ease us into the weekend. We had planned on maybe a three or four miler and, with Helen having been ill all week, we didn’t want to push it, but we did get carried away chatting and went slightly further than planned. We started off with a saunter around Ladywell Fields, which was surprisingly bereft of runners after last week’s ten or so Lycra wearers (although we did pass an eager looking group of people who seemed to be doing the ‘running for beginners’ course I’ve seen advertised around the park). We then did the ‘spirally footbridge’ and over  into the mud and towards the next stage of the Waterlink Way. Helen had ventured part way earlier in the week, but had come unstuck at Wickes, so we thought it might be good to go along for a bit so she knows where to head on future runs. I rarely run with company (other than Hector in the running buggy of course, but that’s different), so hadn’t appreciated how distracted you become when you can chat to pass the time. We were soon turning around and heading back towards our agreed end point, via the Fields again and a handy church yard. Hmmm, who’d have thought wall-leaping could make up a Janathon run?

Helen had mentioned that there was a hill on this bit of the run, but we somehow kept our pace up and virtually flew towards the finish line, and who can blame us when the cool down was to be carried out in a lovely cafe, with beautifully presented coffee in vintage cups and a giant wedge of the most scrumptious orange cake?! (see image here).

In the meantime, Edward and Hector got to work on lifting some slabs in our front garden to make way for our native hedge.

After a well-earned pit-stop and a good chat, Helen and I ran towards home, saying goodbye along the way. I had reset my Garmin in the cafe, so today’s run is broken up into two.

Janathon day 29, Part 1:

Time: 56 minutes 01 seconds

Distance: 5.03 miles

Average Pace: 11.08

Best Pace: 7.46

Calories: 507


Janathon day 29, Part 2:

Time: 12 minutes 25 seconds

Distance: 1.27 miles

Average Pace: 9.46

Best Pace: 6.51

Calories: 135

After I ran home and had some lunch, we all set off back along the Waterlink Way to the salvage shop, so probably another two and a bit mile walk. We were delighted to spot this chap at the edge of the water, sitting patiently then, every so often, darting into the water to catch fish. Perfect.