South Coast Path Run

I like listening to the Marathon Talk podcast. I think the idea is that you listen to it on your long run, but I go ‘pah!’ to that and listen to it on the turbo trainer, get me! I was very inspired by Martin Yelling’s Long Run Home and did a little dance when I realised that it would coincide with our trip to Cornwall. Martin’s goal was epic: to raise money for three charities by running 630 miles over 21 days. This in itself is an incredible challenge, but the path is rough, narrow in places and very, very hilly. I followed Martin’s progress before we set off towards Fowey and looked on as he battled the heat, the rain, the terrain and the subsequent pain.

We were due to arrive in Cornwall the day he ran the section nearest where we were staying, so I planned to head over to the next stage on the Sunday morning. Sadly, Martin succumbed to injury and took an enforced ‘rest’ day that day. I had really looked forward to this run, so decided to cover the ten miles I had planned near our house, so Fowey out towards the west and back. It was stunning, but I soon appreciated what Martin must have been going through in the days before. First up, I found myself in a field of maize (it’s easy right? You just go along the edge of the sea and you can’t get lost?!).

Maize maze

Maize maze

Picking my way through, I was soon on a romantically named road and back in the right direction…

Love

Love

At this point it was raining and I went thump on my bum, with a loud ‘oof!’, yes, this path is really, really challenging! The thing about this kind of running is that you are so focused on the path ahead and keeping your footing, that you almost forget to look up and enjoy the view (perfect excuse to pause and get your breath back).

The view

The view

There were steep hills to conquer, with interesting structures to aim towards…

Look-out

Look-out

There were steps to scramble (imagine doing this in a 20 mile+ day, never mind on a leisurely 10-miler!).

Steep!

Steep!

I didn’t see many people, but those I did see gave me a jolly ‘Good morning!’ and one chap, who was CYCLING along the path (!), stopped to have a chat. This was not London. Every so often, I would find myself in a cove, just me and the water lapping around me. This one was the inspiration for Daphne de Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’, giving it an eerie and romantic air.

Menabilly

Menabilly

As I went on, the weather changed and I was getting gradually wetter and wetter, but this felt lovely. The air smelt delicious, the cows lapped up the grass and the structures I had seen on my outward journey slowly disappeared…

Nearly.

Nearly.

I returned to the house, where people had eventually emerged from their bedrooms, feeling refreshed, invigorated and recharged. Martin went on to complete a few more legs of his run, helped along the way by runners who, like me, had wanted to share the experience. His injury put his own running on hold and others took charge of the tracker, to complete the Long Run Home, reaching his fundraising goal along the way. After a few more runs along this path, my ankles ached, my glutes ached and my cheeks ached from all the smiling. Holiday running is just wonderful!

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Summer Breeze 10k Race Report

(Almost a week after the event, whoops!)

I was intrigued by the idea of running a race that starts at 4pm and it was a good job too, it took me ages to get to Wimbledon Common from SE London! The Summer Breeze Running Festival consists of a 10k, half-marathon and a crazy 12-hour, through-the-night relay (or solo, really!). As we arrived I glanced at the hardcore few who were sitting relaxing around their tents.

Sleep-run-relayers

Sleep-run-relayers

I had imagined, with it being such a long series of events, there might be more to it and had dragged Edward and Hector along for the ride. There were a couple of stalls, a yoga tent and some live music, but it was quite low-key – this was ok because Hector soon found a piece of cordon tape to jump over for about an hour, before he and Edward moved around the course to offer some support.

Hi-five!

Hi-five!

It was great getting a (low) hi-five early on, it really made me smile and pushed me to go a little faster…

Wimbledon Wombling

Wimbledon Wombling

The course is lovely, all trail and through the woods. It had been an overcast day, but the sun had come out good and proper just as the race started, but the trees offered shade, although it was humid and this made it hard work. The course was very well sign-posted, with arrows, km markers and little hi-viz markers on the ground every-so-often. The marshals were all very friendly and encouraging, with smiles and kind comments all round. I loved the variety on the course, with lots of tree roots to negotiate and some really tough hills. One hill was long, up and up and up and another seemed to loom out of nowhere as I turned a corner. It looked like a sand dune (and felt like it in the heat) so I gritted my teeth, part grin, part grimace and went for it. Puffing and panting for air, I scrambled down the other side and enjoyed the pull of gravity back into the shade of the trees. I soon started to see the front-runners from the half-marathon passing by in the opposite direction, looking strong, so gave a few nods and well dones. At this point, the humidity was getting to me so I grabbed a cup of water and took a little slurp – not something I normally do in a 10k. As the race neared the last few kilometres, it took some interesting twists and turns – at one point I wondered where everyone had gone, only to find they had taken a sharp left and then right! We were now in the field with the finish in sight 🙂 I saw the boys, Hector with his hand out for one last hi-five: “You’ll have to run with me! I’m not stopping!”. I could see a couple of women ahead of me and, out of nowhere, found it in me to give a sprint finish (no way!).

Bling shot

Bling shot

I was given a lovely medal, a t-shirt (hmmm, not sure about the colour though – men had blue, women had pink, but the *wrong* shade of pink, maybe something less pastel would be more suitable…please 😉 ), water, coconut water, a banana and a copy of Women’s Running magazine. Lovely! Once the results were out I had a look through and found that a small field leads to some pleasing stats: tenth woman (!) and third in age group. All the more reason to run smaller, challenging races!

New Balance New Shoes

I recently had the chance to go along and see the new range of shoes and apparel from New Balance. Having tried out a few of their shoes now, I’m always keen to see what they’re bringing out and any new innovations they have up their (lycra?) sleeve.

Running shoes running track

Running shoes running track

Something that stood out were the new style Fresh Foam shoes, which feature a Fresh Foam midsole and durable blown rubber outsole, which responds to the runner’s footstrike and impact patterns. This has been carried over into the 980v1 trail shoe, to give a more natural feel under foot on varied terrain.

980v1 Trail

980v1 Trail

I was particularly interested in the underside of the shoes (yeah, I know, geek), and like what they’ve done:

Grippy

Grippy

I have found trail shoes that have too deep a groove just pick up sticky mud as you go and you end up clomping around with heavy, solid feet. These grooves are just deep enough to grip and have the teeth running towards the back for the upward climb…and they’re light. Excellent!

I’ve recently been trying out some NB trail running shoes:

Autumnal shoes

Autumnal shoes

The Leadville 1210 has been made especially for ultra runners and has a tough Vibram outsole to cope with different terrains, but has been stripped of any unnecessary extras to lessen the chance of rubbing on longer distances. I haven’t exactly been going that far in them, but have certainly put them through their paces on slippery hills and wet paths.

Box fresh

Box fresh

They’re a lovely looking shoe (not that this means a thing once they’re caked in mud) and feel light enough to be responsive. I always find NB shoes to be a bit tight, so tend to go up half a size, but this pair are one whole size bigger, which makes them a little loose for my narrow feet – I think they are roomy to allow for the inevitable swelling that happens over longer distances. I would definitely recommend trying them on and giving them a test to make sure you get the right size, so important when you’re taking on epic distances.

Petts Wood 10k, 2014

Remember this time last year, when I ran my first race in a long, long time, splashed through mud and puddles and came home with a great big smile on my face? Well, I enjoyed it so much I went back for more. The weather had been pretty much the same as last year, with lots of rain in the week and a good soaking through the night but, travelling over to the race, I knew I would just have to contend with some good muddy bits and a few tree roots this time. Thankfully the trains were running as normal and my journey was quite straightforward. Now, these 10.30 starts are a bit of a funny one and I was wondering if this might be contributing to my poor race experiences recently. For parkrun, I am up at my usual time, eating breakfast as normal and ready to get going for the 9am start, but when things are shifted back a bit, I’m thinking that maybe I need to introduce an extra drink along the way…more of this later.

Getting off the train, I started chatting to another lycra-clad woman, who was running the Petts Wood 10k for the first time, and we sauntered towards the playing fields with further running types. I could hear music as we approached, and there was a general buzz in the Petts Wood air, how lovely then to find that the music was live and the field was filled with happy faces and a feeling of excitement. There’s a real local feel to this event, with lots of families turning out to cheer people on and residents coming out into their gardens to encourage you around the course. Once I was registered and had fixed my number in place, we were soon taking our positions in the starting pens. Based on recent runs, I put myself in the 45-50 minute section and bobbed up and down on the spot to keep warm. After a once round the field, we headed out onto the road and towards the woods with cheers all the way.

Musical encouragement

Musical encouragement

Last year I had embraced the rain and simply had some fun, leaping over and into puddles, but today, as it was dry, I felt a little pressure to push harder, but wasn’t really feeling the push. It’s quite a narrow course in places, and you could find yourself stuck behind a slower runner, but people were very polite about it all (and as I felt like the slow one at times, I was glad of this!). The lovely people of Petts Wood Runners had positioned marshals throughout and had very thoughtfully pointed out tree roots and obstacles using a sprinkling of flour to catch your eye. I found the KM markers were appearing quite quickly, but was really slowed down by a long muddy hill around the 7k mark. Head down, I slogged my way up but, on reaching the top, had to duck to the side and subject those around me to a moment of hideousness as I almost threw up (what is going on?!). A few deep breaths and I was back in action.

There had been rumblings at the start that the band might reappear in the woods, so what joy to hear their jolly tones as I struggled through the trees, and they were so well placed, just before a sharp turn and one last hill. Smiling supporters and encouraging marshals pushed us onwards: ‘Just 2k to go!’ and the road felt good and steady after the uneven ground we had trodden until now. I looked at my watch and clung to the hope that I might go sub-50, but it wasn’t to be, and I rolled in after 53 minutes of determined discomfort. Compared with recent 10k times, this was a little disappointing, but I will remind myself that it’s a tough course, I wasn’t feeling great and, on looking at last year’s results, I took around seven minutes off my previous time!

On crossing the line, I was handed a medal, water, a banana and had the option of a samosa, which looked lovely, but…I collected my bag from the perfectly organised baggage area and instead bought myself a cup of tea and a piece of walnut loaf. Perfect.

Refuel

Refuel

Heading home, I felt ok and met the boys – who had been swimming – when I reached Lewisham. Hector was starving so we went in search of beans (it had to be beans) and ended up in Lewisham Wimpy (!). Everything was so much better all round after a bit of food and we did some shopping and headed home. This was where I started to feel unwell (again). I felt exhausted and my stomach wasn’t right. I was nauseous and weak, as if I’d run a marathon, not a 10k. So, what’s going wrong here? I made sure I ate well on Saturday and had plenty to drink, I had porridge for breakfast and again, had plenty to drink ahead of the race. I ate and drank straight after finishing and had lunch not long after, but still I felt awful. I have a ten mile race on Sunday, and don’t feel super confident right now! Any thoughts on why this is happening and what I can do?

Trail Running with Berghaus

It’s that time of year again, when I pull on my trail shoes and get good and muddy. For now I’m exploring new local routes (and looking forward to the Petts Wood 10k again – what a super muddy experience I had last year!). But, if you are travelling or exploring further afield, you might find these route recommendations useful. I would say the Moel Eilio route in North Wales is possibly the most beautiful, but then I might be a bit biased 😉

favourite uk trail runs infographic
Favourite UK Trail Runs Infographic

Autumn fun

Last time I wrote I was still crawling back from the depths of a cold, which seems such a long time ago now (sorry, I’ve been busy having fun!). I booked myself a place at the Petts Wood 10k ages ago, prompted by my Parkrun buddies Siggy and Stephen, who belong to the Petts Wood Runners, and were dutifully positioned around the course to shout out encouragement and generally say nice stuff to make you feel good and not like the wet, muddy mess you really were. Of course, in true FitArtist style, I had good intentions of training hard towards the 10k distance, but in reality I ran a few hills, did a few longer runs and succumbed to The Cold in the weeks leading up to the race. Race day dawned and it was absolutely chucking it down and had been all night. Not the light, refreshing sort of rain, but the heavy, sideways, not-going-to-let-up kind of rain. ‘Oh well’ I thought as I worked out a long-winded bus journey to get there during Sunday engineering work hell.

Eventually, I made my way onto the cricket ground that plays host to the start and finish of the race, and nodded knowingly to other hardy souls who ploughed on, heads down. I must say, I was immediately impressed by the slick organisation of the event, which was apparent even through the sheeting rain and across the slide of mud. Once registered and rid of bag, coat and umbrella, I huddled under a gazebo with a shivering group, who talked mostly about the weather and what might lie ahead, accompanied by the tempting smells wafting over from the bacon roll tent. Before long we edged reluctantly to the start line and cheered each wave as they set off (yes, this small race even has a wave start and chip timing!). This was where my smiles began. I couldn’t help but break into a wide grin as I splashed through puddles and avoided slipping all over the place as we made our way onto the residential road and out towards the woods. You might imagine that a 10k run in these conditions would be hell, but I would go as far as to say that the rain added to the fun: I had no time to think about how far I had run or how fast (or rather slow) I was going as I kept my eye on the deep, dark puddles beneath my feet and avoided tripping on tree roots and rocks.

A couple of years ago I did Grim in Aldershot with Grant and Tom, and I would say that this race was on a par with that, but on my doorstep and way cheaper to enter! I quickly realised that there was no point in trying to go round the mud and puddles, so leapt in them with abandon, often squealing with delight. Around the route were the friendliest marshals you are ever likely to encounter in the rain, and I thanked every one of them as I went. Lovely people. Before I knew it I was heading out of the woods and back towards the recreation ground, encouraged by a few determined locals, who happily urged us on from their driveways. I managed a sprint finish of sorts, my shoes heavy and full of water and, once across the line, I was handed a medal, a banana (by a gorilla, really) and a warm samosa (excellent post-race food) and I quickly joined the queue to retrieve my belongings so I could buy a steaming cup of tea to ward off blue lips. I will be entering this race again next year for sure, but only if they arrange rain for me.

I rode the bus home like this...

I rode the bus home like this…

I am loving this gorgeous Autumn weather (though I have got annoyingly wet pretty much every time I’ve left the house in the past few days), especially the leaves and the bright skies.

Coordinating with nature

Coordinating with nature

With half-term coming up next week, I will be making the most of the warm weather and glowing trees, pulling on my walking shoes and doing some conker-gathering and bat spotting (a cool Halloween event we’re looking forward to…).

Coming next: a return to club night.

Head down, teeth gritted

I’m not used to running in the rain, we’re kind of lucky really in London, apart from that rubbishy ‘summer’, we tend to have quite dry weather, or maybe I’m just lucky when I run. This week has challenged that, but it hasn’t challenged me. I am so determined to get this PB and not to miss out on a run when I have the chance, I have been turning up to the school gates in full gear, and enduring ‘you’re mad’ looks from normal parents who are safely ensconced in weatherproof macs. Little do they know, that this run is a necessity – if I don’t do it, I won’t get that rush of endorphins that will see me through the rest of the day, on a high of achievement.

Wednesday’s run was one of these grit-your-teeth runs, the perfect opportunity to try out my gorgeous new trail shoes, sent to me by the generous people at Sportsshoes.com. I am always a bit reserved about lovely new running shoes: I simply don’t want them to get dirty, ever. Trail shoes can’t avoid getting dirty and, though still looking shiny and new, there is now a tell-tale clumpy line of grass clinging to the edges of these beauties:

Shiny and new

I did wear them last Saturday to give me some bounce in my role as Run Director at the Hilly Fields Parkrun, but that doesn’t really count because the only running I did was to retrieve an arrow that had fallen over. I did, however, get to have a geeky shoe chat with a fellow Parkrunner who was wearing the rather fetching purple version. My inner geek was blown away rather by the details on the fastening mechanism, not only do they have a nifty little draw-string whatnot, Salamon have even thought long and hard about where you put your neatly tied laces, arriving at a neat little pocket on the tongue, where you can tuck any loose ends away. Marvellous.

Clever stuff

So my first run was a wet one, up the hill, away from school and around Hilly Fields. I don’t know if it is because they are new, but I found the soles a little slippery on the pavement at first, a little like running in studded football boots (I’m guessing, I’ve never worn and am never likely to wear football boots!). I kept myself in check and took it easy on the wet paths but the shoes really come into their own on the wet grass and  mud. I was able to virtually sprint up the grassy hill (though onlookers might call it something other than sprinting) and the mud was no problem, the grooved soles offering excellent grip, enough to run confidently without fear of falling.

Groovy soles

After running light in my NBs recently, I find other shoes a bit heavy, but this extra weight felt reassuring for the trail, giving support and stability on a variable and challenging surface. You can find out more about this particular pair of shoes here, but the range of trail shoes on the website is extensive! These are going to be my lucky HF Parkrun shoes 🙂