#BeatBoxHill

Last Sunday I thought it would be a good idea to run up Box Hill.  Twice.  When my alarm went off on Sunday morning I wondered whether this was a horrible mistake.
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If you’re not familiar with Box Hill, it’s part of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that offers stunning views for miles across Dorking.  I’ve cycled up it a few times and always been rewarded for my efforts.  But I’ve never run up it.  At least not the zig zag road bit that feels like it won’t end.  Because, why would you do such a thing?
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RunThrough debuted their Beat Box Hill 5k and 10k to offer a pretty unique opportunity to run up and down 2.5k long road that zig zags to the top and, if you’re in for the 10k, you get to do it twice! I know, what a treat!  I love me a unique opportunity and obviously I wasn’t going to get out of bed and go all that way for the 5k…so twice up the hill it was.
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The car park is at the bottom so the first task is to trek 1k to the start at the top, it’s steep, really steep, but the amuzing signs in typical RunThrough style made me chuckle.  It was a sunny but crisp morning so it was worth a bit of hanging around at the start, there was even a choir belting out a bit of Don’t Stop Believing so I had a little dance (obvs).

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The race starts at the top of Box Hill, which means the hard bit comes later.  I wasn’t sure how I felt about that.  OK, I am sure.  Angry, confused and hurt is how I felt.  I mean, what the hell?!!  They tried to organise people in order of speed but that didn’t work because I overtook a lot of people on the first descent and I certainly wasn’t running particularly fast.  It was pretty annoying as it’s fairly narrow if you stick to the assigned half of the road but, as there was no one coming the other way I ignored the cones (soz).

Other people aside, the first 2.5k was fun!  Although you know it wont last, there’s something liberating about starting a race, on fresh legs, with a solid downhill section.  In other words…wwwweeeeeeeeeeee.

At the bottom, you run round a cone and start the 2.5k back up again.  It was tough but I took my time and Box Hill isn’t actually that steep, it just goes on a bit and you know walking isn’t an option because once you start walking up a hill it’s game over…that and the voice in your head won’t let you…or is that just me…?

Photo Credit: RunThrough
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I didn’t hate it, 2.5k isn’t that far and once you’re at the top you know you get to fly back down again.  The second loop was much quieter because I think the majority of people opted for the 5k so I preferred the second time down.  It was still really sunny and it was warm when there was no shade.  The marshals were fab, they yelled encouragement and asked for smiles and banged their tambourines.

The second time back up the hill wasn’t as bad as I expected, I think the marathon fitness is finally kicking in and, although I was by no means fast, I was consistent and didn’t have any intention of giving in to the burning legs.  Finally I was at the top and at the finish line.  I think my face says it all…

 

Photo Credit: RunThrough
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I loved the Box Hill 10k.  I really did. I came so close to staying in bed that morning and I’m so glad I didn’t, it was a lovely run, tough, but lovely.  Sunshine, green hills and running, what more could you want on a Sunday morning (apart from poached eggs and smashed avo but there’s always time for that after).  Genuinely, the worst bit was climbing back down the steep grassy hill to the car park, I hated that bit!

Word of warning though, hills will give you aches in places you forgot about…like your core and your glutes…it hurt to walk for a couple of days.  Doesn’t matter though, I’ve now beaten Box Hill both on wheels and on foot.
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Berlin Marathon

Training for the Berlin Marathon was hard.  Proper hard.  It was literally like starting from rock bottom and building back up to 26.2 miles.  My enjoyment was limited but I point blank refused to let another opportunity to run Berlin slip away because it was ‘too hard’.  I’m not that kinda girl.

I was supposed to run it last year but luck was against me and a string on injuries put me firmly on the sidelines.  I promised myself it would be me next time and I couldn’t let myself down because that would totally suck.

On the bright side, spending last year being a Berlin tourist meant that I could concentrate on all the important things this year such as laying down, eating carbs, napping and eating more carbs.  Luckily I found some pals who were up for doing the same and we got an apartment near Hermannplatz in the south of the city.

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The Expo: The Stressful Bit

Arriving on Friday afternoon meant I could head straight to the expo to maximise the opportunity for resting and napping on Saturday.  Situated in a disused airport, it was big and busy.

They’re quite hot on ID but, once you pass all the checks, you get given a wristband and sent on a mammouth trek to the opposite side of the airport to get your number.  Berlin gives you a choice of opting for a bag drop OR a poncho.  If you choose the poncho you can’t drop anything off on the day, but they will give you a poncho at the end of the race which promises to be both warming and multi-faceted.  Obviously I wasn’t that silly, but Charlotte and Cathryn seemed to think it was a brilliant idea and couldn’t stop raving about how jealous we would be…

It’s worth noting that if you want a finishers t-shirt you need to pay €30 and buy it in advance.  It’s a bit offensive on top of the €108 entry fee and a bit worrying if you’re not entirely sure you’ll finish but, for me, it wasn’t an option, I wanted a finishers t-shirt.  I also came away with an event jacket and a pint glass but I didn’t spend much time at the other stalls because I just wanted to get away from all the people.

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Hasenheide Parkrun: The Warm Up Bit

Our apartment was rather conveniently, and maybe a little bit on purpose, located next to Hasenheide Park which is home to one of the 10 parkruns in the whole of Germany.

Hasenheide usually attracts a field of less than 100 but a whopping 517 people turned up to run this weekend.  They were awesome.  Truly brilliant.  Although totally out of their comfort zone, they had put on a host of extra marshals and could not have been more welcoming or excited to have us.  Hasenheide was the epitome of running spirit and it was lovely to be a part of.

The course is pretty, especially under the morning German sunshine, winding around the park and including a short, but very sharp hill.  I loved it, thanks for having us!

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The rest of the day was spent as planned, sitting, and eating, and napping, and eating and laughing uncontrollably on the carb high.  For dinner we headed to a local Italian called Masaniello for a massive bowl of pasta with a side of garlic pizza bread and another side of, ermm, bread.  It ticked all the boxes – definitely recommended.

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Berlin Marathon: The Main Event

The marathon starts in Tiergarten Park where you will find some very long and unorganised queues for toilets (not your usual German style), some inconsistent bib checks (it’s easy to jump the fence if you’re so inclined) and some questionable starting corrals.  You’re placed into your start zone based on your marathon PB, no matter how old it is, and if it’s your first time you’ll be at the back.

Runners are set off in three waves, 20 minutes apart, which helps with crowding on the course, especially with over 40k runners, and you head straight through the park towards the Victory Column.

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As planned, I started off slow and tried not to get swept along, it wasn’t long before Cathryn trotted past me and it was nice to see a friendly face.  The race is well supported with spectators cheering on either side.

The water stations are plentiful and well stocked and they also supply some kind of warm herbal tea (slightly odd when you’re expecting a cold electrolyte drink) and a rather ‘interesting’ beetroot sports drink.  I don’t think I liked it but in the latter stages I knocked it back anyway. Needs must.

The miles ticked by and my first focus was to get to the halfway point.  My longest training run was only 18.5 miles and I only did that once.  It wasn’t my normal prep so I was a bit worried about how I was going to get to the end.  However, I knew people at home were tracking me and I kept thinking about the finishers t-shirt and jacket I had already bought…finishing was the only option really.

I kept progressing, half way came and went, and I took my planned walking breaks where I had mentally scheduled them.  If you’re going to walk, I really recommend having a structure to it (ie 0.1 mile walk, 0.9 mile run) so you don’t get disheartened, honestly, it works.

I didn’t take the gels they offered (there’s only one gel station), but I did take some pieces of banana towards the end.  I’ve never done this before but, as usual, I couldn’t face my last gel so opted for my pre-packed Haribo Smufs and banana.  It really seemed to do the trick so I’ll be doing that again!

The last few miles are a bit of a blur, everything hurt and it was hot, but I knew I was going to make it.  I took water at each station and plodded on until I finally turned the corner and saw the iconic Brandenburg Gate.  From then on I just kept running until I crossed the finish line.

It was a road marathon personal worst time, but I had already accepted that and was more relieved to finally complete my 14th marathon after 2.5 years out of the game.

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After I collected my bag the only thing I could do was plonk myself on the ground and not move.  It hurt.  I was just going to have to sleep right here.  Luckily a super perky Alice came and found me and scraped me off the floor before taking me to the group and bounding off to find me a goody bag which I had missed (where does she get the energy from?!)

We had a successful day all round with everyone finishing the race.  Alice and Sam got new PB’s, Ed smashed it as usual, Charlotte and Cathryn ran strong times and were awarded multi faceted ponchos, Ellie completed her 2nd marathon despite struggling with an injury over the last few weeks, and I completed my 2nd Marathon World Major.  Most importantly, I think everyone had enjoyed it.

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10 Things I learned from the Berlin Marathon

1.   You can’t blame the conditions for your poor performance when Kipchoge decides to totally obliterate the world record by a massive 78 seconds. You also can’t expect the UK to give this any kind of decent news coverage because apparently it’s not significant enough.

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2.   If you have any adverse feelings towards beetroot make sure you swerve the bright red sports drink on the course.  It won’t end well for anyone.

3.   If you forget to pack any pants and are forced to buy new ones at the expo, you will be at considerable risk of bankruptcy, but you’re highly likely to get a new PB.  Sam forgot all his pants.  Sam has a new PB.

4.   If you fancy running a sub 3 marathon, getting a new PB AND coming home as 6th Brit you should do as Alice does.  Alice likes to swop running for pilates, water for Aperol Spritz and excited race morning banter for solo quiet time.  If it works, it works…

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5.  When you’re faced with a pre-race portaloo without an inch of toilet paper in sight, you can always rely on tearing off strips of your pre-race foil blanket.  Almost as genius as actually remembering your own toilet paper right?!

6.  If you decide to have a little sit down after 25 miles like Ellie, be prepared for a friendly but persistent German lady called Brenda to repeatedly shout ‘nine’ and drag you on your merry way.  We like Brenda.  Ellie is undecided.

7.   The Berlin Marathon does NOT end and the Brandenburg Gate, there is still 400m to go.  If you’ve run this before you will know this.  Unless you’re Alice.  Who promptly stopped running and stopped her watch whilst wondering why everyone else was still powering past…and she still got a PB!

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8.   If you haphazardly opt for the warming and multi-faceted poncho over the traditional and sensible bag drop, be sure you’ve mastered the look of unequivocal joy on the outside to mask your deep, crushing disappointment on the inside.  Charlotte is available for advice on how to nail this…

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9.   Don’t expect four post marathon runners to agree on a post race cuisine in any less than 58 minutes.  Also do not expect Charlotte to even remotely tolerate a vegetarian menu, even if the restaurant has a cute name like ‘Burrito Baby’ and you’ve already conquered the challenge of sitting down.  After further debate, we ended up at Jimmy Woo’s.

10.  A personal worst marathon time on the clock does not equate to a personal worst marathon experience.  Far from it.  Marathons are about so much more than just the time, most importantly they’re about the people you share them with.  Thanks guys!

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Tough Mudder: The one I said I’d never do

Tough Mudder is one of those events I always swore I would never do.  Mostly because the price tag is simply offensive, but also because it’s 10 miles of obstacles…and I am not good at anything that involves upper body strength.   However, it also bugged the hell out of me that it’s the one I had never done.  So I had to do it.

When my work pals decided to get a team together, I found myself parting with my hard earned cash to roll around in the mud collecting bruises.  What else are Bank Holiday weekends for right?

MediaCom Mud Runners: The before photo

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It was an early 5am start to head down to Henley for the London West event but the sun was shining, it was going to be a beautiful day and I was in high spirits.  Our start time was 9:30 and we were ushered into a holding pen with a fairly small group of people for a little warm up and to get down on our knees to make the Tough Mudder pledge.

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The course is 10 miles broken down into two laps.  And it’s hilly.  Like, proper hilly.  In fact, one of the obstacles is Killa Gorilla and is simply running up a very steep hill, and then down again…and repeat.  Bad times.

The obstacles are a mix of having to climb over things of various heights, often involving people lifting you up, running up things, water based challenges and rolling around in the mud (in Devil’s Beard you literally get on the floor and roll down a hill under a net).

My favourites were the water based obstacles:

Block Ness Monster: Jumping into cold, muddy water you have to grab and hold a large rotating block to get over the other side…before moving onto the next block

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Shawshanked: Pulling yourself backwards up a dark tube, you reach the top and have to fall backwards into a water pit below. Loved it!

This isn’t anyone I know but perfectly depicts why I loved the water challenges!

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Cage Crawl: You float under a cage elevated just above water and pull yourself along.  Just don’t freak because there’s no way out until you get to the end!

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Arctic Enema: A simple slide down a tube into an ice bath that takes your breath away.  It doesn’t end there cause you then have to fully immerse yourself again under a beam to get out.  It’s a tad chilly

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My least favourites were the ones with high walls, they had a narrow edge at the top and you were totally reliant on other people to get you up there.  However, Everest was quite fun where you had to run at a curved wall with people at the top to pull you over, and the Pyramid Scheme was also good where you made a human pyramid to get to the top of a high ledge.

The Best Bits

  • The atmosphere and camaraderie.  It was second to none
  • Team spirit – not just from my own team but from every single person out there who worked together to help each other out
  • The water challenges. I loved them all!
  • The photos are free to download…but only if you’re lucky enough to be snapped
  • The hills.  Love to hate ’em…but I know they did my fitness the world of good
  • The pledge
  • Getting a piggy back from Lucy in the ‘Hero Carry’!
  • The weather.  We were so lucky to have such a warm day, I think it would have been miserable being in and out of muddy water in the cold!

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The Worst Bits

  • The big price tag #1: You’re looking at £100 – £140 for the ‘full’ 10 mile version
  • The big price tag #2: It cost me £15 just to park my car in a field. IN A FIELD
  • The big price tag #3: £3 for the bag drop.  Fair enough, it went to charity, but surely TM could have siphoned off some of the entry fee for the charity?!
  • The lack of water stations: Even without the hot weather there weren’t nearly enough stations.  I lost count of the number of people I saw suffering from cramp – this was inevitably down to dehydration
  • Some obstacle duplication: Not the end of the world, but it would have been nice if they were all unique
  • The lack of photographers
  • The climbing / high wall challenges: OK, this is just me because I can’t do them and am totally reliant on people helping me over (sorry guys!)
  • The hills: Did I miss the warning about ALL THE HILLS?!
  • It totes ruins your nails 🙄

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The Ugly bits

  • The scrapes
  • The bruises
  • The DOMs.  I opted for rolling rather than walking the next day
  • …but I wouldn’t expect anything less and I’d have felt cheated if these things hadn’t happened!

MediaCom Mud Runners: The after photo

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It’s fair to say that Tough Mudder exceeded my expectations in a lot of ways.  It’s a lot of fun and it’s totally do-able if you don’t mind some hard graft and getting bashed around in the mud.  Importantly, it genuinely is a really inclusive event that brings out the best in human spirit, everyone is willing to lend a hand…literally.

Is it worth the price tag though?  I’d have to say no…but it’s not far off.  If you love this kind of thing it’s very much worth getting your mates together and having a go.  I mean, no one messes with people wearing this little outfit now do they?!

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London’s Big Half: The ‘time on feet’ one

In fact, we’ll call it the LOT of time on feet one.  But that’s OK.  It’s allllll just part of playing the long game….the really long game.

After the Beast from the East hit London last week it was touch and go whether the first ever Big Half would actually go ahead, but a combination of slick organisation and snow-thaw meant it was full steam ahead.

London a few days earlier

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Sunday morning was actually beautifully sunny when I headed to the start at Tower Hill, positively warm in fact after the arctic blast.  As the race is point to point, finishing in front of Cutty Sark in Greenwich, all baggage had to be dropped off by 8.25.  I was in a later start wave than usual which meant I had over an hour to wait in my race gear before running.  I took advantage of a sunny London whilst I waited, I mean, who would even know we were blanked in snow just a couple of days before?!

The Big Half is run by London Marathon Events, so organisation was pretty smooth with the 15,000 runners setting off across 8 waves at 5 minute intervals.  I started at around 9.30.

Tower of London

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I’ve had the Big Half in the diary for some time now, but I still managed to go into it undercooked (by which I actually mean totes raw…) with my longest run in preparation clocking in at 7.3 miles.  Not my usual preparation by a long shot.  However, the route looked awesome and I really wanted that medal to add to my collection so bowing out was never an option.

In stark contrast to my usual race day strategy (ie suicide pace until I vomit), I took the more sensible* approach of not really giving a damn.  Genuinely, I had no expectations other than to get to the finish and it was really refreshing.  I wasn’t nervous, I wasn’t worried, and I didn’t have a target pace.

*As sensible as running a half marathon on no training can be.  Don’t try this at home kids.

Starting further back in the field meant I couldn’t start too fast even if I wanted to, so I just jogged, and looked around, and high-fived some kids, and jogged some more.  The only real plan I had was to switch a a purposeful run / walk strategy when I needed to.  And I was totally OK with that.

Cutty Sark

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The route is actually pretty cool and takes in a lot of the same roads as the London Marathon.  Running on closed roads, it starts near Tower Bridge by the Tower of London, and goes east to Canary Wharf before doubling back to cross Tower Bridge and follow the river and finish in Greenwich.

Given my lack of training, I only expected to get to about 5 miles before running out of run-love but I surprised myself by making it to nearer 9 (small wins right?!).  I learned a long time ago that the key to a run/walk strategy is to make a deal with yourself and stick to it, without that deal it all goes to s**t (trust me!).  My deal was to run for five minutes and walk for one, which I honoured until the last mile when I was struggling and all I really wanted was for it all to be over and a Lucozade.

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Running down the home straight did nothing but remind me why I love this stupid, wonderful, heart breaking, glouroius and painful hobby of mine.  With the crowds lining the street either side, the commentator cheering people by name, runners giving it their all in the final push and the finish line in sight, I was in a happy place.

There it was. The first race of 2018. Done and did.  And I had absolutely qualms about my time.

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Generally I though this was a well organised race with huge potential to become a solid fixture in the race calendar, attracting a strong field of all abilities.  Finishers got a fun medal, which I really like, a technical t-shirt, and a goody bag of drinks and snacks.  My only negative comment is that it was a nightmare to get on the DLR to get home because you had to cross the race course to get to it…maybe a consideration for next year.

It wasn’t pretty (my run, not the course), it wasn’t fast, and it wasn’t even in the same league as my PB, but it was a half marathon.  And it was my first half marathon in 18 months.  And I loved it.  And, more importantly, I loved the people that were running around me, the people that got out there and did it, the people that were supporting each other on the way round, the people that reminded me that us runners stick together.  You guys are just brilliant.

Thanks Big Half, you were special.

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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

Tallinn Marathon: The one that wasn’t

  • At mile 8 I was still hopeful
  • But at mile 9 my right leg really wasn’t so sure
  • By mile 11 my jog had turned to a distinctive shuffle
  • At mile 12 I was walking…
  • …and at mile 13.1 I was well and truly OUT

Just 2 and a half hours after I had started the Tallinn Marathon, I was back in my hotel room, physically and emotionally broken, having only completed half of the course.  I wasn’t sure how much cider and wine I was going to need to deal with the situation.

It turned out to be a lot, luckily I had good company…

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It was never going to end well.  I was undertrained and injured.  But my head was in a different place to my body, in fact, it was so far away, it may as well have been on a different planet.  Through a combination of really not wanting to go running, being too busy, and carrying some kind of leg injury that quickly shut down my late attempt to get marathon ready, it really should have been the one I never started.

But I did start.

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Tallinn is actually a very beautiful city, and with the weather bright and sunny, and some Chaser buddies around me, it really could have been a lot worse.  After a lot of thinking, and trying to figure out how I felt about the situation, I realised that although I didn’t run the full marathon, and I didn’t get my BQ (which was the reason for signing up in the first place), I still ran half of it and had a really good weekend in a place I had never been before.

The marathon is part of a weekend of events that consists of a kids 5k on the Friday evening, a 10k on the Saturday, and the marathon and half on the Sunday.  The marathon is 2 laps of the half, which starts later in the day.

The kids 5k in full swing

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Beginning in Freedom Square, the route takes you around the city and heads out along the coastline for around 7 miles, before switching back to the city again.  It was actually better supported than I expected, I thought it would be quite low key with less than 2,000 runners in the full and around 3,000 in the half, but there were people cheering along the route and a few bands making some noise.

It’s pretty flat, and a great course for a PB, although it could get quite windy by the sea in different conditions.  There’s also a smell, a kind of putrid dead fish type of smell that gets worse as the day goes on and really puts you off your caramel macchiato caffeine gels.  Be warned.

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I was feeling OK for the first 8 or so miles, I was running slowly, but I felt OK and was even enjoying running again.  But somewhere on the way back to the city, my right leg started to hurt and my hip flexors felt tight, I was getting slower and slower.  It was frustrating, and I was trying to calculate how I could adopt a run-walk strategy to the finish but, by 12 miles run-walk was more walk-walk.  It wasn’t happening.

As Freedom Square got closer and closer, I had to make a decision.  And I knew what the decision needed to be, I just didn’t want to admit it.  I could have carried on and shuffled around, but I really didn’t see the point, I was injured, I was going to be painfully slow, and I was already back near the hotel.  As my watch hit 13.1 miles, I pulled out.

Tallinn is a well organised event, I can’t take that away from them, but I wasn’t impressed that they wouldn’t let me get off the course very easily, and they wouldn’t give me any water despite having run 13 miles in warm conditions.  It didn’t help my mood.  Plus, as I hadn’t officially downgraded to the half, I didn’t even get rewarded for my efforts despite having run the half course.

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Well yes actually, I do. And I deserved one. So I got one.  And I wore it allll night.  Thank you to Paul and Lorraine, who managed to sweet talk the Estonian medal police into letting me have one, it made my day!

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Although Mike unfortunately couldn’t run due to injury, the rest of the Chasers ran really well with a sub 3 PB for Paul, a sold BQ for Rob, a great run from Emma despite hurting her back 2 days before, and an awesome PB for Lorraine in the half.

What then followed were a lot of drinks, some dinner, some more drinks, some silliness and some music.

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There’ll be other marathons, and other opportunities to get a PB and a BQ but, right now, I’m a little bit over 26.2.  I’ll face up to the fact I’ve signed up to a mountainous marathon in Gran Canaria next year a little later…

Eye of the Tri-Ger: Thorpe Park Triathlon

It was 4:15am when the alarm went off on Sunday.  I ignored it.  The first thing you learn about triathlons is that they start early.  As in, you have to get up in the middle of the god damn night early.  It was the morning of the Thorpe Park Olympic Triathlon, our club champs, and I had decided I wanted to be part of a relay team.  At 4:15 in the morning I couldn’t tell you why.

By 4:38 I realised I absolutely had to get out of bed, throw on my race kit, get myself down to Thorpe Park for the briefing, and assure my teammates I was alive and kicking and ready to race.

The lake was ready and waiting

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I decided pretty late in the day I wanted to be part of the club champs, there were over 100 Chasers signed up and we were co-hosting with the Tri Project, so my FOMO got the better of me.  On the plus side, I figured if I managed to get in a team at this stage, I would be with other people late to the party so I would be in a ‘slower’ team.  Wrong. So very and frighteningly wrong.

When Rachael said she was looking for a cyclist and a runner to be part of a team I jumped at the chance.  The only problem is, Rachael is a very strong swimmer, she’s practically a fish. I tried not to worry about it.  Then Darren decided he wanted to join as the cyclist… I didn’t know how fast Darren was on the bike, but I knew how fast he was at running and given he’s spent the last year or so focusing mainly on the bike, I could only assume he was up there with the best.  Looks like I was the weakest link then.

We named ourselves the Eye of the Tri-Ger (see what we did there?!) and I quietly hoped they weren’t expecting us to win (OK, maybe not so quietly, in fact I was quite audible about it, especially as Darren had actually been in the winning relay team last year).

The swimmers are off

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It was 6:10 when I arrived, a little later than promised but I’ve never been a morning person (which may be why I’ve never got into this tri thing…) and it was heaving with friendly Chaser faces.  I found the team, we went to the race briefing and it was time to cheer on the swimmers.  Everyone was together, because there were so many of us, all Chasers, both solo and teams, were in Wave 1.  The water didn’t look as intimidating as I thought it might but we had been warned there were patches of weeds that could cause panic if you got caught up in them so I was glad I wasn’t in there.

After Rachael set off on the 1500m swim, the nerves kicked in.  There wasn’t anything left to do but hang around, go to the toilet 6 times and panic.  It wasn’t long before the swimmers came in, Rachael was, unsurprisingly, one of the first out, a little distressed from losing both her swim hats but otherwise OK, she had smashed it and Darren was off on the 40k cycle.

Darren and I hanging around in transition and Rachael coming back from the swim

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I still had about an hour to kill.  The swimmers were finished and chilling out whilst the runners were pacing around and wondering who would be back first.  We had a lot of quick cyclists out there so it could be a number of people.  The first was back in under an hour, it was one of our solo triathletes, quickly followed by 2 more.  It was really difficult to tell who was coming in off the bike because everyone was wearing Chaser kit, a helmet and sunnies.

The 4th cyclist came in.  It looked like Darren. Was it Darren?  Oh no, it was Darren, he was in 4th place and we were first in the relays!  After a brief helmet issue, the the timing chip was on my ankle and I was off on the 10k run…in 4th pace…whhhaaaaaa.

As I set off, with just 3 people in front of me, I tried to keep my cool and not panic.  I ran up the grass with cheers behind me and rounded the corner to a path.  It was empty.  How exactly do you set the pace on an empty road when you’re trying to race a 10k without burning out too early but still giving it your all?  I didn’t know.  I just ran.

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It was warm.  The sun was beaming down and bouncing off the ground creating a mugginess that’s unusual for 8:30 in the morning.  There wasn’t a breeze.  I tried to relax and enjoy the epic lead whilst it lasted.  The course was 3 laps so it wasn’t long before I saw the boys in front of me heading back in the opposite direction.  At 1k my watch beeped, I hadn’t started it properly, dammit!

On the switchback I saw Rich Bull from another relay team, he was about 1k behind so I knew he’d overtake me soon.  He did.  He flew past.  As did several more over the first lap.  I was expecting it to feel quite demoralising being overtaken at such speed, it was quite clear I had no business being in this end of the field, but it wasn’t, because I was surrounded by Chasers.

The course twisted round the park and past a few rollercoasters which was fun, or it would have been fun if my lungs weren’t burning and my legs were moving as quickly as I told them to.  Most of the marshalls were Chasers and at about 3k I saw one of my favourite Chasers (and running mentors) Mike.  He gave me a confidence boosting cheer and I was so happy to see him…I don’t think I smiled.

A smiley Mike

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Past a few more rollercaosters was another Chaser gem, Danny, he also gave me a big cheer…I don’t think I smiled.  Before I knew it I was running past the finish line and on lap 2.  By this point the course was busier as more people started the run leg.  I had no idea who was overtaking me and who was still on the first lap although Danny confirmed I was still 2nd woman.

It was still very warm.  On the 3rd lap I simply concentrated on reaching Mike.  He gave me another big cheer.  I still didn’t smile.  Then Danny.  He gave me a cheer.  May have managed a thumbs up.  I then started to speed up thinking the finish was round the corner, but my sense of distance was messed up after starting my watch late.  It went on. And on.  Finally I reached the finish line, a bit of a sweaty mess.

Eye of the Tri-Ger. 3rd place Chaser Relay Team

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I didn’t know what time I’d run but I knew it wasn’t very fast.  It turned out I’d started the run in 4th place and finished in 15th, of the Chasers at least, I’m not sure where we ended up when all the waves were accounted for (sorry guys!).  Only 2 women overtook me though so it could have been worse.

Chaser Domination

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Rachael and Darren found me, we got our medals and ate some cake.  It’s what all good Chasers do.  Despite my fear of letting the team down (completely unfounded fear, no one put any pressure on at all), I had a great time, it was fun to do something a bit different.

Huge thanks to my supportive teammates Rachael and Darren, it was a privilege to race with you, I enjoyed the feeling of being out there in the front for a change! Huge thanks to Mike and Danny, who I genuinely looked forward to seeing on every lap despite my poker face.  And huge thanks to everyone involved in organising such a logistically challenging event.  I may, very possibly, attempt to go solo next year.

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Chaser cakes!

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