Chasers Thames Path Beer Run

Saturday was the first ever Chasers Thames Path Beer Run.  Saturday I ran nearly 20 miles for the first time in over a year.  Saturday was pretty epic.

Martin (Chasers Beer Run founder, run director, die-hard Chaser, beer enthusiast and shameless short shorts poser) devised a run along the Thames Path, just shy of 13 miles, that involved 11 pub stops.  I mean, he didn’t do anything sensible like reccy the course, so he didn’t know where he was going, but given the day was a stonking success, he’s forgiven!

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A few of us met early for a jaunt over to Richmond parkrun and a hearty Bill’s breakfast to set us up for the day.  Whilst this was fun, I hadn’t quite thought through the bit where I had therefore run 7 miles before the main event…

The vibe was all about being social and having fun (apart fron Kev ‘last one to the bar buys the drinks’ Smith…who may not be invited to the next one), so there were generous time allowances for getting from one pub to the next.  As the day went on though, we started to get closer and closer the the time allowances (or was that just me?!)

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Starting in Richmond, we almost fell at the first hurdle because our opening pub wouldn’t serve us any alcohol without food!  Alas, this is London, and there was another pub just a few metres up the road who welcomed our booze-only custom.  We had a pretty good turnout, the sun was shining and we were all in good spirits.  Martin then gave us a ‘safety briefing’, which was something about drinking water and knowing your limits and…zzzzzz.

Pub 1!

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Bang on schedule we headed off to the next pub, I could already taste smoked salmon and feel the cider swishing around so I devised a new drinking strategy, because I’m sensible like that.  I decided if I alternated between cider and vodka I would be drinking less liquid and reduce the unwelcome ‘swishing’, perfect right?!

On to Pub 2

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At somepoint early into the run we lost Barry who had taken a frantic call to say his girlfriend had potentially gone into labour.  Yep, he let us all down and headed to the hospital.  Sigh.

Sans Barry, we continued on our schedule, running from pub to pub, occassionally losing a Chaser who dared to have something better to do with the rest of their day, and occassionally picking up a Chaser who clearly decided they wouldn’t make it to the end if they started from the beginning.  We had ample time to enjoy a drink (or two) in each pub and it was still sunny.

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As time wore on, day turned to evening, legs turned to jelly, tiredness set in, the miles racked up, and the pubs got busier.  It’s a strange feeling running and drinking, you don’t quite feel drunk, but you definitely don’t feel sober, everything is funny and you’re in a little happy place.

We had news that Barry had become the father of baby girl twins and we all had a toast to the newest little Chasers.   An injured Louise came to to join us on her bike and Emma decided to hop on the back, Martin moved onto the Pimms, Dez and I moved onto the prosecco and Gemma suffered a grazed knee after taking a tumble.

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Finally, we made it to The Ship in Wandsworth.  I’m not going to lie, we got some very odd looks and we were very aware that we smelt like we had been running all day…not sure it was appreciated by the folk who had got all dressed up for a night out. Soz.

For the doubters, Emma and I made it in once piece and in a sensible, coherant state.  So there.

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WHAT a day!

  • 14 hours time on feet
  • 1 x Parkrun
  • 1 x Breakfast
  • 12.8 miles of Thames Path
  • 11 Pubs
  • 1 x portion of fries
  • Several ciders
  • Several vodkas
  • A Prosecco
  • The return of the snakebite and black (not me)
  • 1 x bike (again, not me, I didn’t cheat…)
  • 1 x drunken fall and grazed knee (Gemma)
  • 19.6 miles run in total
  • 2 x new Chasers join the world (congratulations to the baby Valentine twins)
  • The realisation, for the first time in a while, that my body is stronger than I think and the Berlin Marathon is no longer an impossibility

The talented Del Huse also put together this little video of our day out – thanks Del!

Finally, when I asked Martin how he thought the day had gone his response was:

No one’s dead. So we’re all good

Thanks for a fabulous day Rutter, apart from your shorts, you did good 🙂

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From 2 Feet to 2 Wheels

Back in February I got home to find the coverted ‘Congratulations. You have been successful in gaining a ballot place in the 2017 Prudential Ride London-Surrey 100’ magazine on my doormat.  RideLondon is pretty much the London Marathon of bike rides and I’d just got myself a place…I haven’t owned a bike since I was a teenager.

So I bought me a bike.  A pretty blue bike with bright green flashes.  And I’ve named him Walter.  Walter and I haven’t known each other for long, which only gives us a short period of time to get acquainted before tackling this pretty-big-deal 100 mile ride.  Just 11 short weeks in fact.

Learning how to ride in cleats in Wimbledon Park

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RideLondon is a three day cycling festival in its’ 5th year.  It came about after we hosted the Olympic Games in 2012 and is part of London’s long term goal to create a safe, easy, and well-connected environment to get more people active through cycling.  On the 30th July, the 100 mile sportive gives participants a rare opportunity to ride on closed roads around London and Surrey, finishing on the Mall.  It’s one of those things I’ve always admired from afar but never actually thought I’d do.

I know it’s difficult to get a place, and the fact I entered the ballot without a bike annoys people, but I’ve felt the same about the London Marathon (and other events) for many years.  It’s a new challenge for me and I’m going to give it my best shot, so I refuse to be sorry.

11 weeks really isn’t very long to get used to a proper road bike, on London roads, with cleats AND get ready for the challenge in hand.  I probably should have bought a bike earlier, but I was desperately trying to build my fitness post foot surgery and throwing a new sport in the mix was all a bit too much.

Gemma taking me out for my first proper ride in Richmond Park

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Cycling doesn’t seem to be quite as easy as just chucking my trainers on and going for a run.  I have to plan ahead, I have to know where I’m going, I have to have the time to do it to get any decent miles in, and, ideally, I have to avoid as much traffic as possible.  Plus cycling for 3+ hours is exhausting so then I need a nap!

I’m lucky to have some great friends, and a great Dad, who know a lot about bikes because I literally knew NOTHING.  They helped me pick out the right bike for me and showed me the ropes (ie how to remove the front wheel when you’re panicking about getting the bike in the car, THANKS MARTIN).

But not only that, Gemma & Martin came with me to pick up Walter, which was a lifesaver because I don’t think I would have made it home on my own.  I mean, Martin did tell us 3 times we were going left at a busy junction and then proceeded to cross 3 lanes of London traffic to go right after I had been on the bike all of 2 minutes, but I survived…I forgot that Martin’s left is everyone else’s right.

A hilly ride around the Purbecks with the brother.  Ice cream stop selfie

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I’ve since been riding with Gemma, my brother, a Chasers group and even all by myself.  I’ve even got those stupid cyclist tan lines that I can’t get rid of!

Anyway, so far, so good.  A couple of near misses and a few bruises but Walter and I are progressing nicely and have made it up to 40 miles.  Whether I’ll ever be able to keep up with other people, I don’t know, I just need to figure out how to put the tiger in the Kat…so to speak.

Dad – I’m bringing my bike home for us to clean ‘together’ and do puncture repair practice soon. You’re welcome 🙂

Boston: Not yet worthy

So, I went to Boston.  I went to Boston to watch my friends run the Boston Marathon because, unfortunately, I am not quite worthy of my own Boston bib just yet.  Instead, I attempted to console myself by spending £46.11 on the official Boston Athletic Association 5k, to give me full licence to buy the expensive Boston Athletic Association running jacket, because it was the only thing not actually branded with the marathon.  I see how B.A.A make their money…

Bryn, Gaby, Martin, Me and Gemma at the start of the 5k:

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When I didn’t qualify for the race, I didn’t want to go to Boston.  I was grumpy and resentful and sad.  But, as time wore on, I realised that loads of my friends were all going on this amazing trip, all staying in the same house, and were all going to have a great time without me.  I was going to have to add ‘missing out’ to my grumpy, resentful and sad self.  So I changed my mind.

Luckily, our fabulous Phil has some friends in nearby town Newton, with a HUGE house, and there was still space for me!  Together with 11 others, we all went to stay with Joan and Donna for Chasers Marathon Camp.  Our wonderful hosts even came to the airport to pick each of us up!

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The 5k Story

On the Saturday, 5 of us went into Boston to run the 5k.  I’ve never quite seen such a big set up for a 5k but, with 10,000 people running, it was probably necessary!  The route started on Boston Common and took in some of the marathon course, including running over the official marathon finishing line on Boylston Street, before heading back to the common for the 5k finish.

The route was just as crowded with spectators as I would expect for a big marathon and, with a great atmosphere the whole way round, it made me feel like I was part of the marathon weekend.  Much different to the London Marathon, in which the event is just a day, Boston as a city really get behind the marathon and everyone really gets into the spirit for the whole week beforehand.

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Despite the pricey entrance fee for the distance, I loved this race.  You get to run part of the marathon course, a tremendous atmosphere, and a t-shirt and medal, definitely worth a trot round if you’re in Boston!

To top off a lovely sunny morning, on the other side of town Rob was pacing our host Joan to a big 5k PB in a different race and she was over the moon!

Chasers Marathon Camp post 5k: Full Team!

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Temperatures were starting to rise and, by the time Sunday came around, it hit 29 degrees.  Perfect for a cider in the sun, but not so perfect for running 26.2… It could be a warm one.

After Joan and Donna put on a big pasta party on Sunday evening, it was an early night for the runners as they needed to be up disturbingly early considering the 10am start time.  Everyone had left by the time I got up on the Monday but I still had Phil and Sally, who were also spectating, as well as Joan and Donna.  Phil, Joan and I went out for a 5 mile run up Heartbreak Hill (part of the marathon route named so because it comes at mile 20!) and, despite only being 8am it was already very hot.

The Best Support Crew in Boston:

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After watching the start of the race on TV, we all headed down to mile 20 to watch the elites come through.  Joan’s house is only a mile away so we didn’t have to go far.  Unsurprisingly, there were police everywhere, and everyone was in high spirits.  As predicted, it was hot but we took a blanket and a picnic at set up the Chaser banner.

The marathon app was working pretty well so we knew when our guys would be coming through but the heat was clearly getting to people.  We successfully spotted and got a smile from everyone, with Sally getting a surprise hug from marathon-obsessive Rob, and Gemma telling us off for not having any beer waiting for her.  In fact Gemma didn’t really shut up, we practically had to push her up the road to get rid of her so she could finish…

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It was a tough day out there, both the course and the heat took it’s toll on people, but everyone finished in one piece and we even had a PB!

The Strava Socks Story

We all love Strava.  We love Strava segments, Strava challenges and Strava stalking.  So when Strava announced they were giving away socks at a pop-up shop in Boston to anyone who completed their ‘26.2 miles in 10 days challenge’, I was almost as distraught at missing out on Strava socks as I was on Boston Marathon branded gear.  There was no way I’d get those miles in by the time I realised.

Shuffling along quietly behind everyone to said pop-up, I watched with envy as they were all given a pair of special socks.  It was fine.  However, as we left the shop, Bryn (who is never nice to me unless he thinks I’m going to cry) actually gave me his socks!

Just to be clear. These aren’t just socks. They’re STRAVA BOSTON SOCKS. Thanks Bryn 🙂

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Boston was brilliant.  It’s a brilliant event in a brilliant city and I want to go back.  But next time I’ll be running.

So the BQ quest continues. Roll on Berlin.  Oh, didn’t I mention?  I’m now running Berlin in September…  #MarathonLove

You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone

They say you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone and, when it comes to fitness, I can definitely concur.  I’m not sure how much time I had off from running, but I think it was a good 3 months of doing very little, including an entire month off exercise completely, whilst recovering from foot surgery.  If nothing else, I’ve learned that I genuinely had no idea how fit I actually was.

When you constantly surround yourself with people who do more exercise, and more running, and more EVERYTHING, than you do, it’s easy to forget that what you’re doing yourself is actually far from ordinary.  I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t, at the very least, half marathon fit, if not marathon fit, and be able to not only run the distance, but race it in a time that was better than average, even though I was never happy with my time!

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Coming back from an injury that has set me right back to square one has been challenging on many levels.  How exactly do you motivate yourself to do something that has become so difficult and laboured unenjoyable and, quite frankly, hard work?  It’s a bit like dragging yourself to a hardcore tempo session that you know you need to do, but the difference is, there’s no reward.  There’s no reward to sending yourself out on a run that’s not only half the distance than you’re used to, but takes you 90 seconds per mile longer than you’re used to and leaves you more knackered than you’re used to.  No reward, just a lot of AAAARRRGGGGHHHHHHHH.

I’ve had a lot of arguments with myself.

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Undeniably, I’m getting fitter and stronger.  I can feel it.  Especially with the strength work I’ve been doing – Monday nights burning at the Barre in a ballet inspired strength class are becoming my favourite!

While I know I’m still fitter than most, I’m still not ‘me fit’ and I’m not ‘my friends fit’ and that means I still can’t run with them.  That’s right, I can’t play with my friends and I’m miserable about it.  (Fair play to Gemma though, she has offered to run with me but I fear she doesn’t quite know what she’s letting herself in for…)

As I plod on with my slow runs home from work, attempting tempo at Parkrun because I can’t join in at actual tempo, and slowly increasing my mileage, I’ve found a new found awe for my former self.  She was tougher than I thought.  In light of that I thought it was time to set myself a new goal and, being lucky enough to get a place in Great North Run, I thought it would be a good opportunity to finally try and beat my half marathon PB of 01.40.50. Gulp.

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The Graceful Art of Aerial Fitness…

If you’ve ever been to a Pink gig you’ll be familiar with her spellbinding ability to combine flawless vocals whilst hanging from the ceiling twisted up in aerial silks and effortlessly flying through hoops.  More than just entertaining, it’s a little bit spectacular and a little bit magical.

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On Saturday, Bloggers that Slay invited me to an Aerial Fitness taster session at Skylab Studios, a small but perfectly formed dance studio in the heart of Camden.  I was excited to find my inner gymnast and learn how to gracefully glide through the air (ahem…)

The mirrored studio is fully kitted out with hoops, silks and hammocks that hang from the ceiling, and enough crash mats to make you feel pretty safe.  After a 10 minute warm up, our instructor, Astra, took us through the 4 key poses we needed to learn; tuck, straddle, pike and needle.  I was familiar with these from yoga, and they’re all quite simple…at least they’re quite simple with the security of the floor beneath you and gravity in your favour…

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We started on the hammocks, they’re a bit like silks but instead of 2 separate pieces of silk hanging down, they form a loop to help support your weight – perfect for beginners right?! ‘Sitting’ in the hammock the trick was to bend your legs like a frog and use your core to flip yourself upside down in a straddle position.  It sounds easy, Astra made in LOOK easy…but it wasn’t easy.  In fact it was really bloody hard!

With a little help I finally managed to get myself upside down so once there, I thought I would just hang out for a bit…

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We swiftly moved on to the silks where Astra showed us how to hang from them (again, a lot of upper body strength required) and hook your feet through to a pike position then hang upside down in a needle shape.  Soooo I got little further than this…

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Finally it was time to give the hoops a try.  I had high hopes that these would be easier than the silks but I was wrong, so very wrong…  There’s a particular method of getting up onto the hoop (of which I fell at the first hurdle, quite literally) which involves more upside-down-ness before flipping yourself up into the hoop and doing the ‘showgirl pose’.  So we’ll call that the plan for lesson 2 shall we?!

It’s safe to say that nothing about aerial fitness is simple or easy.  It requires a lot of core and upper body strength and it will definitely hurt to laugh or sneeze the next day (I suggest surrounding yourself with adequately dull people to limit the pain).  Despite its challenges, aerial fitness really is SO MUCH FUN and clearly has many fitness benefits to help improve strength and flexibility, I’m definitely keen to give it another go.

Many thanks to both Skylab Studios and Bloggers that Slay for having me, it was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon!  If you’re keen to give aerial fitness a try, the guys down at Skylab are super friendly, super patient and welcome beginners.  You can find out more here.

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Suck it up Princess

Running is hard.  Running is harder than it’s ever been (if you can actually call it running at all) and  I’m really struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel (there’s going to be a light isn’t there…please tell me there’s going to be a light??)

I’ve moved on from the run/walk strategy.  It was good while it lasted, mostly because it took the huge pressure off hitting a pace I was vaguely happy with rather than my foot, but it had to end at some point.  In all honesty I hadn’t planned to end it quite as soon as I did but it was actually snowing in London and my blood is 100% southern so, you know, I get cold and running is quicker than walking.  I didn’t dare look at my watch.

Of course after I had transitioned to continuous running there was no way back, you don’t make progress by taking steps backwards, and so for the last 2 weeks I’ve been shuffling around London trying to remember how to be a runner again.  It was hard and it was scary and it wasn’t particularly enjoyable.  I didn’t know why I was doing it.

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The last two Saturdays I’ve made an appearance at my local Parkrun on Tooting Common.  Running with other people helps me to forget that I’m running and that I’m finding it hard, Parkrun is the perfect place to learn to run again.  It feels kinda safe.

The only problem was trying to run a Parkrun without running as fast as I could, that was another new one on me.  Being much slower than I usually am is difficult to deal with, but I have been enjoying running again and that was the whole point.  You’re ace Parkrun, thank you!

You can’t be at the top of your game all the time, there will always be times when you’re just a little bit rubbish.  But you don’t make progress by hiding away and doing nothing about it, you have to get out the door, suck it up and do it.  So that’s what I’m doing.  I’ve also never got as much Strava kudos for so many rubbish runs so THANK YOU for making me feel better about it, it really does help.

I will get faster and I will get back to the top of my game but, for now, I need to suck it up and plod on.  Joy.

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Back to Basics

So it turns out that after breaking your foot you can’t simply throw your trainers back on and run 12 miles.  Not even close.  But that’s OK because, you know, it’s winter and it’s dark, and it’s cold out, right?

Yep, that’s really OK…

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I’ve had some physio. Sometimes we got on (when she let me run) and sometimes we didn’t get on (when she didn’t let me run), so throughout most of our relationship we didn’t really get on much.  But we did have a common goal, and as frustrating as I found it, I did everything she told me to, like rest, and glute activations, and mobilsation exercises, and squats, and more rest…which was, you know, lots of fun.

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On my final physio session, 6 and a half weeks after surgery, and after lots of squatting and hopping and jumping around, I was actually  allowed on the dreadmill. It was the BEST DAY!  We’re talking 2 whole minutes of running…OK maybe ‘jogging’…but still huge progress!

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What I’ve really had to learn is to simply go back to the boring stuff basics, which has been mentally challenging.  When my physio told me I was allowed to go for a little run that weekend, after an excessive warm up of course, BUT I was only allowed to alternate between 1 minute running and 1 minute walking, I wasn’t sure my ego could handle it…I mean, what if people SAW me?

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However, I did as I was told, well, almost, my legs being the little rebels they are settled into a pattern of 2 minutes running and 1 walking but it was close enough.  It was actually quite enjoyable because it took the pressure off trying to run at the pace I was used to, so I just didn’t worry about it at all.  Three miles successfully completed and I was back in the game!

The one thing I’ve found most difficult to deal with is my running confidence hitting rock bottom.  Just the very thought of actually going outside of my house and running in the actual outdoors made me anxious and nervous, how I ever managed to run a marathon was beyond me.  Something that used to be so natural, and a normal part of my life, now seemed a little alien and a little intimidating.  I now understand why people find the thought of taking up running daunting.

Of course, I really didn’t have a choice, I HAD to find my confidence again because, you know, running is like oxygen.  So I’ve been getting back into it slowly with short runs of 3 minutes running, 1 minute walking which has helped both physically and psychologically, as well as getting around because I can finally run home from work again (yeah, screw you tube strike!)

I’ve also taken the running-down-time to up my game in the gym which has helped improve my strength and stability and I’ve promised myself it will remain part of my regular routine, ya hear that body?  PROMISE

It’s taken a couple of months but, this morning I woke up with my entire body aching and feeling exhausted, and that makes me soooo very happy because I actually feel like my old self again! Well, being well rested and ache free is for wimps right 😉

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