Poole 10k: That race you do time & time again

Running round this lake has inspired me, made me a stronger runner and broken me in equal measures.  This is the place I ran my first ever race of a mile at 8 years old, my first ever 10k and my current 10k PB.

This was the sunrise over Poole Park last Sunday morning – it was going to be a warm day.Poole Park

The Poole Festival of Running has been going for as long as I can remember.  Each year, on the first Sunday in June, Poole Runners host a series of races in the park, from children’s 1 or 1.5 mile ‘Minithons’ for 8-14 years olds to 5k or 10k races for 15+.  It’s a real family day out and I’m hugely supportive of any event that encourages participation at all ages.  The only problem with the 10k is that it’s the last race of the day, and therefore doesn’t start until 2pm, which is something I think they’ve got wrong.

The 10k is positioned as the main event and is referred to as the ‘prestigious Poole 10k’ that attracts top international runners, club runners and fun runners.  Why on earth they decide that 2pm is a good start time for a race in June is beyond me.

Many a time has the sun been high in the sky as runners wilt helplessly below, visions of water dancing before them, wishing it could have been a 9am start. However, that doesn’t stop nearly 1,000 people taking part each year and it was the festivals’ 34th anniversary last week so they must be doing something right!

The Boating Lake


I think this was my 9th Poole 10k.  there’ll always be that one race you’ll do time and time again and this is mine, I have more Poole 10k t-shirts than I know what to do with!  The first was in 2003, I don’t really remember it but I’m pretty sure Dad did it with me and it was the hardest thing I’d ever done.  I can’t find any results older than 2010 so I have no idea what time I did but I was over the moon just to have finished!

It became an annual event for me, sometimes Dad would do it, sometimes Mum would do it, sometimes it was stifling hot, sometimes it was raining, one year I ended up with a stress fracture in my foot and one year I came away with a PB I’ve still not been able to beat.  I’ve got no idea how I managed a 45.24 10k.  It was a much cooler, slightly rainy Sunday in 2011 and all I really remember was targeting a man in front of me and desperately trying to keep up with him!

After a 2 year hiatus brought about by frustration of the late start, and fact that they dropped chip timing, I found myself back in Poole for the weekend and lining up under the heat of the 2pm sun (the chip timing is now back!).

I love Poole Park, I love the local feel of this event, I love the history it has for me, I love the view, and I can’t deny it is well organised, I couldn’t stay mad at the Poole 10k for long.

This year I brought my little niece along for good luck, it was her first spectating experience and she loved it – don’t let the snoozing fool you, she was the biggest cheerer out there!  One day I’ll run the Poole 10k with Chloe…


The course is 2 laps that weaves round Baiter, Whitecliffe and the Boating Lake in the park, they seem to think it’s pretty flat…I beg to differ!  Sure, it’s not hilly, but it’s not flat, especially for runner used to London streets – there are 2 or 3 inclines just waiting to zap your speed on each lap, laughing at your foolishness for believing it was flat…

Last Sunday was warm, very warm and I was anticipating a helpful wind on the far side of the lake (during the winter this wind can knock you sideways), but the wind never came and the sun was relentless.  I started too fast (obviously) even though I really hadn’t planned to, I knew I wouldn’t be breaking any records so just wanted to enjoy it.  I felt really comfortable so was surprised when the first mile came up at 7.33, I’d probably regret that then.

Mum’s getting better at race photography, i.e. I’m in it…and it’s not accidentally a video…


I got progressively slower as each mile passed, cursing my eager start, and I melted in the heat, I could try to blame this on the sun and, errm, rolling hills (?!) but really it’s because I have the pacing skills of an excited puppy.  I really do.  It’s shocking.

Coming into the finish I was actually a bit quicker than I thought I might be so I wasn’t too annoyed with myself.  I met my family at the end and went in search of a Mr Whippy.  I didn’t get my Mr Whippy…the ice cream stall was manned by the slowest ice-ceam server in the world and the queue made me cry a little bit inside.  I was OK, I got over it eventually.

I’ve never had a single digit race number before!


The course record was broken this year, an international runner from Uganda came over the line in an impressive 29.05 – I guess the ‘hills’ didn’t bother him too much then!

I randomly entered another 10k on Saturday to see if I could pace a little better, this one was held in the Chasers favourite stomping ground Battersea Park, so I knew that flat meant flat.  I ran about a minute faster…but the excited puppy inside me is still very much in charge…. *sigh*


Wimbledon Half: The search for Wombles & my usual self

The weekend before last was my birthday.  I ran a grand total of 5 miles across the whole Bank Holiday and drank all the alcohol and ate all the food.  I had a great birthday, I really did, I had an amazing time with some amazing people but it left me a shadow of my usual self.

By Monday, after 3 nights out, I was hungover, tired and fat…I hated myself, and I mean I absolutely loathed myself.  I realise that sounds a tad dramatic, it’s really a really difficult feeling to describe and might not make sense, but that Monday was really not a happy day.


On Monday evening I decided my goal for the week was to get to next Sunday feeling my usual healthy and annoyingly energetic self.  I made a commitment to spinach and my trainers – everything was going to be OK. Probably.

So, I had spinach, orange, banana and chai seed smoothies for breakfast everyday, and kept my promise to my trainers, squeezing in a workout around my job and seeing friends:

  • Tuesday – 5 mile run
  • Wednesday – SOFunctional Athletic class at the gym – it was a high intensity class with lots of squats and lunges and jumping and punching and stuff…
  • Thursday – Spinning
  • Friday – Spinning
  • Saturday – 5 mile run
  • Sunday – Wimbledon Half – just so we’re clear, this had absolutely nothing to do with a Womble medal. Cause that would be silly.

On Thursday, a post from Run Through popped up in my Facebook newsfeed advertising the Wimbledon half on Sunday.  I’ve done some Run Through events before, they’re fairly low key but very well organised, cheap to enter and offer a t-shirt and pretty awesome medal to finishers, definitely value for money.  So, on a whim, I entered 2 hours before it closed – this would make sure I stayed out of trouble this weekend (ie. no booze, no dancing on tables) and force me to run further than I would have by myself (ie. more than 5 miles)

I haven’t really run much since the London Marathon 5 weeks ago.  Partly because back to back marathons left me in a desperate need for a little break from running and partly because I pulled my hamstring a few weeks ago and would have done anything to make sure it was better for Green Belt.  Also, partly because life just got in the way…sometimes that’s OK you know.

I then started to wonder if I could actually run 13 whole miles…without stopping??  The furthest I’d run since London was during the Green Belt Relay which was just under 10 on the Saturday and 9 on the Sunday – what if I couldn’t do it?

The race would be 2 laps of the Common, it was all off road, there were some hills, and the forecast was heavy rain.  I decided my only goal for the race was to just run the 13 miles, enjoy the route and, ahem, add a Womble to my medal collection.


Sunday morning was grey and dreary, but it wasn’t raining.  I live down the road from Wimbledon so it didn’t take long to get to the start on the NW side of the Common.  Registration was very quick which left some time to visit the free Lucozade stand (they have a new flavour, mango & passion fruit, it tastes like Um Bongo!) and loosen up my legs with the music booming over the loudspeaker.

Today, all I wanted was to be just another anonymous runner so I left the Chaser vest at home and wore a black t-shirt.  I didn’t want anyone to recognise me, I didn’t want to race, I just wanted to go for a jog.  I think this has been the first event I’ve been to in 2 years where I haven’t worn my club vest and it felt a lot stranger than I thought it would, but I just didn’t feel worthy of the vest today.


The race started on time at 9.30 and we ran up the grass for about 200m before turning off onto the trail path.  It was a 2 lap course and we were warned that the first 1.5 miles or so would be up a hill before hitting the flat and a coming back down a hill for the last mile.  Everyone started off quite fast but I held back, determined to stick to my jog pace and enjoy the run, especially if we were about to head uphill!

The course was lovely, all off-road along the trail paths around the common, we ran through trees, jumped puddles, ran past the windmill and the golf course and barely saw any cars, perfect!  Despite being so close to home, Wimbledon Common is fairly uncharted territory for me, I know Richmond Park inside out but Wimbledon seems much more closed in and therefore easier to get lost!


The rain mostly held off and the cool air was nice to run in, the marshals were friendly, there was plenty of water and I even high-5d a real life Womble (fact!)  The miles ticked by and I tried not to look at my watch, I was going to put some tape over it so I couldn’t see but I forgot!  I felt comfortable and knew I was running slowly but I was fine with that, I was just another anonymous runner right?!

The last mile was mostly downhill, I saw my Womble mate again and then there was a small section on an incline before we turned back onto the grass to finish where we started.  I didn’t even pick up the pace for the finish, I really was happy just to jog.  Over the finish line and I got my hands on my Womble medal and t-shirt – I was sooo pleased that I could still run 13 miles, order had been restored.


The power of a good run never ceases to amaze me, I wish more people knew.  Just the woods, fresh air, my own thoughts and a few other runners around me.  With a familiar stiffness in my legs I feel like me again, and I don’t hate myself so much anymore. Thanks Wimbledon.

Womble Medal!!



Green Belt Relay: The one where we ran round the M25

When you’re in the pub on a Friday night, how exactly do you explain to your colleagues you have to go home because you’re getting up at 5am to spend the weekend in a 220 mile running relay round the M25, spending most of the time in a sweaty minibus, before spending the night in a classy Essex hotel called the Miami, then getting up at 6am on Sunday to do it all over again….and you’re just soooooo excited?

My colleagues think I’M WEIRD

Luckily for me I know a fair few other weird people, 46 to be exact, so at 6.45am last Saturday morning we all met in Clapham Junction to head over to Hampton Court to start our 220 mile journey around London’s Green Belt…


The Green Belt Relay is a fantastic event and is made even more fantastic by the fact it’s the Chasers annual weekend away, we’ve all been embarrassingly excited about this for weeks!  In short, it’s an 11 person relay ran across 22 legs over 2 days around 220 miles of London’s green belt.  There’s lots of river running, greenery, a fair few hills and brambles to negotiate and you need to be familiar with the route to avoid getting lost but the course is pretty and scenic.

Last year we entered 3 teams but word spread about how much fun it was so there was enough demand for 4 teams this year, that’s a lot of Chasers on tour!  Rather than putting all our fast runners in one team and competing for the outright win, we were mixed into teams of weighted ability to create a bit of banter between ourselves (much more fun!).  We had Blue, Simply Red, Deep Purple and Green Day…

The banter started early, which was mostly Alex demonstrating he clearly has too much free time at work during the day…but it succeed in getting everyone even more excited!


The race starts at 8.30 from Hampton Court (although not actually within the grounds because they wanted to charge a shameful amount of money) so we all headed over to cheer off the leg 1 runners, there were 30 teams in total.

Everyone runs 1 leg on Saturday and 1 on Sunday of various lengths from 6.6 miles to 13.5 miles.  Each leg is given a difficulty level of 1 to 10 which combines distance, course profile and navigation so a 10 means there’s a fairly high probability of getting lost if you haven’t done your homework!

Organising an event like this is hugely challenging both for the Stragglers, who run the event, and for the clubs that participate (in our case Bryn, who does an outstanding job of ensuring everything runs smoothly which we are all massively grateful for).  We had 4 minibuses, each with a clear schedule for the day and list of people who needed to be on it at different times.  You get dropped off at the start of your leg by one minibus and picked up at the end by another before heading off to the next location.  If that wasn’t enough to plan, the event is also self-marshaled so each team has several marshaling duties to make sure other runners get round safely.  It’s a logistical nightmare, and that’s if everything goes to plan!

Can you spot Ingrid…?


The course is marked with sawdust and orange stickers but locals find it hilarious to tamper with them so, if you haven’t studied the route, or foolishly follow someone else, you could be in trouble.  Naively, I failed miserably to memorise my route last year, relying on on-the-go navigation so this year I spent some time learning my legs and writing myself step by step instructions!

Although Green Belt is a relay, it wouldn’t be practical to run the event in the traditional sense and wait for your runner to come in (the first day is already quite lengthy) so each leg starts at the time of the previous leg’s course record.  This means, unless someone breaks the course record, you will start before the runners arrive.  Each runner is still timed individually for a cumulative team time.


I was on the 2nd leg on Saturday, a 9.64 mile stretch from Staines to Boveney through Windsor, I also ran this leg last year so I was already vaguely familiar with it (plus it only had a difficulty level of 3!).  My minibus headed over to Staines to drop Ruth, Natalie, Hannah and myself off for our 9.42am start and pick up the leg 1 runners who would be finishing around the same time.

After injuring my hamstring I hadn’t actually run for 10 days and was really worried I wouldn’t be able to do it, it definitely felt dodgy.  We had quite a few people pull out due to injury and had struggled to fill the places at short notice so I knew I had to run, plus there was no way I was missing this weekend! I just had to hope I wouldn’t be limping my way round.

Green Belt Relay Leg 2

We headed across Staines Bridge and along the river on the towpath but within the first mile my hamstring was getting tighter, I’d only just started!  Trying not to panic, I made a conscious effort to slow down and hoped it would ease off…if I could at least make it to 7 miles it would be fine right?  Luckily, I think a combination of slowing down and warming up worked and I actually started to enjoy the route at my slower pace.

I even sort of knew where I was going…right at the fork…across the bridge…away from the river…so I didn’t need to follow anyone else.  I was a bit confused at the end but, relying on memory from last year, and asking the odd random if they had seen runners, I made it to the finish.  I saw Adam and Alex a few metres from the end and tried to give Alex a high-5 (I missed and it was more of a high-1 but encouraging all the same!)

It feels a bit odd finishing the leg.  Unlike other races, because there’s only 30 of you, you’re likely to be running on your own and finishing on your own with a crowd of people waiting for you. Everyone cheers and claps (and no one makes a noise like the Chasers!) but it’s hard not to feel a bit self-conscious.


Our bus had a bit of spare time before we needed to drop anyone off for their leg so we headed to Great Kingshill to cheer on the leg 4 runners coming in and leg 5 heading off.  Leg 4 is one of the hardest at 12.2 miles and rated a 10 so it was pretty awesome to see Cat come in on a head-to-head sprint finish against a man, she totally nailed it!  Sorry mate, you’re chicked.

We then headed off to St Albans to send off James, Steve, Dan and Louise and pick up those running leg 6.  We were really lucky with the weather considering how much wind and rain we’d had so we got to enjoy some sunshine while we waited.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, we ended up staying in St Albans a little longer than planned, we’ll call  this ‘nameless blameless incident’ to protect the identity of those involved…but eventually we were on our way to drop some people off for marshaling duties.


Finally it was time to drop off Rob, Simon, Ellie & James for the final leg of the day (which didn’t even start until 6.58!) before heading over to the finish to meet everyone else and cheer everyone home.  There were some very drunk Chasers to be met (case in point, see above…)

It had been a looooong day and was time to head to the grand Miami hotel for dinner, drinks and a couple of hours sleep.  Perhaps the best part of the evening was an appearance from a VERY special guest.  Yep, we only had Spiderman (ACTUAL Spiderman) pop along to present some fetching gold spoon awards for various achievements throughout the day such as Drama Queen, Loose Women, LAD!, Least Likely to be a Getaway Driver… around midnight, it was time to sleeeeppp.

Welcome to Miami…


Not for long though, the alarm went off at 6, we were out the door by 7 and leg 13 was off at 8!  Sunday saw much of the same with each bus heading to various legs to drop people off, pick up those coming in and completing our marshaling duties.

For some reason I thought it would be a great idea to sign up for the very last leg, aka the glory leg, but this would mean I wouldn’t be running until 5pm and I was starting to get nervous about finishing in front of absolutely everybody.  The finish is at the Hawker Centre in Ham and is also where the end of event BBQ is held and everyone meets back up again, there were going to be a lot if people!

My hamstring was tight, and my legs ached in general, so I was glad of the maximum recovery period, but as the day wore on I was getting more and more nervous.  Instead I focused on helping Gemma navigate our way around for most of the day (Gemma was also on the last leg so we tried not to think about it).

Eventually, after travelling round a lot of narrow country lanes, it was time to head to Walton Bridge for the start of leg 22.  Our leg was 9.15 miles and was apparently the easiest route to navigate, but I was worried about my leg giving out, worried about being too slow, and worried about finishing in front of 300 odd people when I knew I was likely to be running alone.  Stupid glory leg.


I was running with Gemma, Hannah and Nikki and we had a bit of a team huddle pep talk before we started.  Alex had also been trying to tell us calming stories (inbetween singing Oasis and rapping Fresh Prince) about how everything would be just wonderful but all I remembered was something about seaweed.

Then we were off running along the river.  We’d only got up the road before Gemma was chatting away about how she was going to shove me in the river and I started to doubt how genuine her pep talk was… Anyway, my hamstring didn’t feel too bad and after a couple of miles I picked up the pace and caught the girl ahead that I had been chasing.  All I could think as I passed was ‘yes, my seaweed is greener than yours!’, but then she offered me some encouragement and I felt bad about my greener seaweed.

The route was lovely and there was another girl not far in front that I was trying to keep up with so I had a reason to keep pushing.  As the miles ticked by I started to feel nervous again about coming into the finish so I slowed down a bit to conserve some energy for a sprint finish, I had to finish strong!

At 9 miles I could see the big yellow finish line and see everyone up ahead, stomach churning I just ran as fast as I could and didn’t make eye contact with anyone, I don’t even think I smiled (sorry!)

Finishing on the glory leg was amazing, although I was nervous having all those people cheer me home was the most fabulous end to the weekend I could have asked for.

And that was that, my 2nd Green Belt relay done! When everyone was across the line we headed back to Clapham for a well earned drink, everyone was shattered!

So….in summary

  • 46 Chasers (2 of which couldn’t run due to injury but didn’t want to miss out!)
  • 880 miles run
  • 6 leg wins
  • 1 course record smashed by our leader (Bryn, if you weren’t sure)
  • Several sprint finishes
  • 1 furious Alice after Marcus sent her the wrong way then casually ran the right way himself…
  • 1 sweaty Adam insistent that he had no moral responsibility to call back a runner who had taken a wrong turning a couple of metres ahead of him (we all thought Adam was a nice guy)
  • Several surprised guests at the Miami hotel who had smelly Chasers walk in on them after being given the wrong key
  • 1 surprise visit from the best superhero ever
  • 1 ever so slightly dented minibus (nameless blameless)
  • 46 completely exhausted people

Once again, Green Belt weekend was bloody ace!  Thanks to the Stragglers, thanks to Bryn, thanks to all our drivers, and thanks to everyone who made it such a great weekend. See you next year!


London Marathon: The Big Jog

I was disappointed not to run a London Good For Age qualifier last year but I was over the moon to be successful in in the ballot, it’s a rare occurance!  Last Spring, the Rome Marathon didn’t quite go my way so I made a last minute decision to enter Manchester 2 weeks later.  I ran better in Manchester, but it was tough knocking out that kind of distance again so soon and I believed myself when I swore I’d never attempt such a thing again.

Not expecting a place in London I had already entered the Brighton Marathon, but October rolled around and I came home to the coveted ‘You’re In’ magazine on my doormat…pain and consequence long forgotten, I wanted to do both.  Obviously.  Why It's Like A Dream

The London Marathon is hands down the best day of the year and if I’m not running, there’s nowhere I’d rather be than cheering on the sidelines.  I first ran London in 2011, it was my first ever marathon and is completely responsible for giving me the bug.  In 2013 I qualified for a GFA entry, I went off way too fast and suffered in the later miles, it was a tough run.

This year I really wanted to enjoy London for the spectacular 26.2 mile street party it is and I didn’t want my over ambitious dreams to ruin my enjoyment. The only way I could guarantee that was to make Brighton my A race because I really can’t be trusted!


I’ve been in limbo the last 2 weeks, it’s odd trying to strike a balance between recovery and taper and in a shockingly sensible approach I simply listened to my body. There was a bit of running, a lot of rest, a lot of early nights and a lot of hand sanitizer, I was really fun to be around.

On Sunday I woke up to the best good luck message ever!  It immediately put me in a good mood despite the 5.45am alarm, how could it not be a good day? I was sooooo excited!

My new little niece Chloe. She’s going to be a runner 🙂

Girl Running Crazy

The weather was pretty damn perfect.  It’s been getting warmer over the last few weeks and London Marathon day nearly always ends up just a bit too hot.  But it was grey and drizzly on Sunday morning, it looked ideal!  Zoe, my housemate, was running her first marathon this year so she was an excitable bundle of nerves, we made our way to the start at Blackheath in a sensible, calm manner…

It was actually pretty cold when we got there but there wasn’t too much waiting around after a couple of trips to the toilet and dropping off our bags. I met up with Laura who was in the same start pen as me and then it was time to line up. Whhhaaaaa, good luck!!

Me and Zoe before her first marathon


I usually know exactly what I’m going to do on marathon day – what my goal is, what my back-up goal is, what pace I’m going to start at, what I’m going to do if, if, if… What was different about today was that I didn’t have a game plan. I really didn’t.  Today I was going to turn up at the start line and see what my legs would let me do.

Could I pull off another 4 hour marathon 2 weeks after Brighton? Maybe 4:15?  4:30? A bit slower?  In my heart I knew I’d be disappointed at anything over 4:15 but I needed to be realistic that it was a very real possibility, especially if I was going to achieve my ultimate goal of enjoying every second.  I wasn’t entirely sure how I would deal with a disappointment though.

Suddenly, the gun went off and we were moving forwards!  It only took about 2 minutes to get across the line and there we were, running the greatest marathon in the whole world!!

The first few miles are always quite congested but not so much that you can’t run, if anything, being held back slightly is a good thing.  I just went with flow and enjoyed the atmosphere, we’d only got up the road before someone was shouting, ‘3 cheers for Paula, hip hip…hooray!’

I didn’t want to go off as fast as I did in Brighton, I wouldn’t be able to hold it and I knew I’d be in for a tough ride later, but, although today was about having fun, I still wanted to do justice to all the winter miles.  As Paula said:

You can’t come to the London Marathon and not give it an honest effort

With the image of little Chloe in her ‘Go Auntie Katherine’ outfit firmly in my head, all I knew was that I needed to be able walk away today knowing I did the best I possibly could.  I didn’t want to feel like I let myself down and I didn’t want to be embarrassed by my effort.

I started off comfortably, I was running under 9mm but wasn’t pushing it.  After a few miles I  could tell my legs weren’t fresh, but I was still hitting a fairly good pace and I was happy.  I remembered to high-5 a few kids and smiled at everyone who cheered me by name. Fun, remember, FUN!

By mile 10 I knew I was running slower but it felt much slower than the 9mm pace my Garmin was telling me so I was quite pleased. 9.04, 9.02, 9.04, they kept ticking by consistently, hey, I was doing OK and I was enjoying it!

The crowd support is pretty good in the first half, but it really thickens when you get to Tower Bridge between 12 and 13, you really know you’re in London when you turn the corner and see that Bridge!  Running across the river is freggin awesome, the atmosphere is buzzing and I remembered to look up and take it all in, I almost forgot we were nearly half way already.  My legs hadn’t forgotten though, they were starting to ache earlier than I would have liked…I ignored them.

I knew the Chasers would be somewhere around 15 miles and I couldn’t wait to see them, there’s nothing like a Chaser Cheer to give you a boost and I really needed a boost.  Luckily there’s so many of them you can’t miss them and they let out a huge roar as I trotted past.

Chaser Support Crew…complete with Ingrid the inflatable Chaser (I find it best not to ask…)


Before I knew it I was at mile 16 and I re-evaluated how I felt, it was getting harder but I was still OK, it was the the flippin London Marathon!  I was a bit slower by 18 miles but I told myself I absolutely needed to get to 20 before I could even consider a walk…I kept going.

True to my word, my legs made it to 20 miles and I rewarded them with a timed 2 minute walk, trying not to make eye contact with the crowd.  They wanted me to run, they didn’t know about the deal I made with my legs, they didn’t understand, ohhh the shame!

I saw the Chasers again around mile 21 and they had split into smaller groups so there were more cheers (except Gary, Gary ignored me to talk about bananas with a stranger, even Ingrid gave me more attention…)

It’s all mind games after 20 miles.  I don’t like 20 miles, it means there’s still 10 whole kilometers to go, I like 21 miles because there’s only 5 miles left…make sense? Of course not!  But, by the time I’ve worked out in my head how exactly I feel about having 5 miles left I’m at 22, and, today, that meant another teeny little walk.  Don’t judge me.

The walk didn’t last long, the crowds just wouldn’t have it, ‘you can do it Katherine, you’re nearly there!’, they didn’t come out to stand on the streets all day to watch me walk.  People at home were tracking me, they’ll see my splits.  Chloe’s wearing a special outfit, don’t let her down.  There’s a sodding TV camera in my face, OK, MOVE.

The next few miles were a bit of a blur but I didn’t stop running, I couldn’t, not only was it too hard to get going again, at this point absolutely anyone I knew could be on the sidelines and I didn’t want to be seen walking, it’s the friggin London Marathon!  The crowds are totally wild by this point, they cheer and shout and yell ‘go on Katherine, you’re looking awesome!’  Errrm, I’m really not am I, I’ve probably never looked less awesome, but thanks!

It was really starting to hurt along the Embankment but my legs were ticking over and I was still enjoying the atmosphere, I just wasn’t sure why the miles were getting longer, why would they do that?!  Eventually I turned the corner to face the home stretch along The Mall, it was the best sight ever!

The flags were flying high, the crowds were roaring and I could actually see the finish line. Just. Keep. Running. I finally crossed the line in 4:05:52 and was totally overcome with emotion, I don’t know how I got through the last few miles, I just wanted to sit down.


Collecting my medal and shuffling along I quietly reflected on what I had achieved. It was slower than Brighton but it was well within ‘you-can’t-be-disappointed-with…’ time.  So why was I a little sad?  I really didn’t know.  It wasn’t a bad time, especially after Brighton, but I have so many fast friends it’s hard not to think you’re a little bit rubbish.

I’d really enjoyed the run, enjoyed the atmosphere and loved the Chaser support, it had been a brilliant day.  Plus, I genuinely don’t think I could have put more effort in, I couldn’t have tried any harder today, I had to be pleased with that.

I slowly made my way to the finisher area to wait for Zoe and hoped she would come in under her target time. When I saw her she looked in much better shape than I did at the finish and was really pleased with her time. I reckon she’s hooked!

Then it was a quick turnaround and off to the pub for Chasers marathon celebrations with cider and some sensible sambuka.  Another weekend, another marathon and another London medal, that’s pretty awesome right?!

Whatever happens, the London Marathon is always a special day.  It won’t be the last time I run it, not a chance.



Back in the Game: Brighton Marathon

I’ve never really been interested in running the Brighton Marathon.  I always thought London was the only marathon worth running in the UK.  But, last April I found myself signing up for the 2015 race after failing to run a London GFA and realising my ballot chances were incredibly slim.  I knew my jealousy would know no bounds if I was the only one not training for a spring marathon.

Yesterday I realised how foolish and short sighted I had been because the Brighton Marathon is a well organised, high profile, worthy event in a vibrant seaside city with incredible crowd support.  It’s an all round bloody brilliant race and I’m sorry I ever thought otherwise!


On the drive down to Brighton on Saturday the rain came down thick and fast and I was a bit concerned how the weather would pan out the next day. Heavy rain and inevitable wind on the coast would be challenging to say the least!  It seemed to clear by the time I arrived and I headed to the Brighton Centre to pick up my number.

The expo wasn’t too busy, it was quick and painless so I found myself doing the usual fossicking through the various stands. I came away with a bright pair of coral shorts, 3 pairs of socks, 5 protein bars and 3 bags of Honey Stingers. What are Honey Stingers? Well, they look like little jellies…

‘Are these like Shot Bloks?’, ‘Yes, but better’, ‘Oh, OK, I’ll have 3 packs then please’

I then made a swift exit before I bought anything else…

My Mum and Dad were coming to support and my Aunt and Uncle, who live in a nearby village, had kindly agreed to let us stay for a couple of nights.  I had my usual plain pasta for dinner and got an early night (despite my uncle trying to convince me to get on the wine!)


The alarm went of at a painful 5.40am but I had already been awake a while, it was marathon day! Again!!! I forced down my porridge (and chia seed, new addition to mara day brekkie) and banana and hurried out the door. Because I’m so clever I didn’t read any of the emails I was sent in the lead up to the run (well, none of the boring bits anyway) so by the time it came to planning the journey to the start I realised that you were supposed to book parking 2 weeks ago. And I hadn’t.  Luckily my cousin lives not far from Madeira Drive and offered me a parking space for her awesomely located house.  Perfect, thanks Carol!

It was a short walk to Preston Park where the race started and the sun was starting to feel warm in a nearly cloudless sky…I guess I didn’t need to worry about driving rain!


Marathon runners were milling around and there was the usual long queue for the toilets, but there was plenty of time to chow down some Honey Stingers and drop my bag off.  I hadn’t seen anyone I knew so was delighted to bump into my friend Jasmine who was doing a wonderful thing and pacing her (super) mum round all 26.2 miles, a friendly face was just what was needed.

I was in the red start which seemed to be the first wave (the sub 3.15 runners were starting somewhere else) so I was over the start line in a couple of minutes.  I was nervous.  I knew I wasn’t going to get a PB, and I was fine with that, but I desperately hoped I would be able to finish in a strong time and shake off the Amsterdam demons.  I didn’t know what was going to happen, what if I fell apart at mile 9 again?

The race was started by Jo Pavey and there was a fabulous atmosphere.  I made a really conscious effort NOT to start too fast so was pretty pleased not to be running my 10k pace which I often seem to do in all the excitement.  I tend to panic at the start and worry that the crowd will hold me back, but of course they don’t, I just go tearing off like a lunatic wasting a lot of energy stressing and weaving in and out.

Not today.  Today I felt like a marathon grown up, totally in control and calm.


The pace felt comfortable.  It felt easy and quite slow so I was surprised that I was averaging under 8.30 which was faster than PB pace.  I tried to slow down as I knew there were a few hills on the way and wanted to hold the pace.  The hills are in the first half as it takes you round Preston Park, past the Pavilion, and away from the sea for a couple of miles before running past Kemp Town and the Marina.  There’s an almost continuous incline between mile 5.5 and 9 but there is a welcome decline for about half a mile or so.  A turnaround at mile 9 brings the course back to the seafront along a fast stretch.

The crowds were truly awesome.  I made a last minute decision to get my name printed on my Chaser top at the expo and was very glad I did because I’ve never had so many people cheering my name!  I wasn’t expecting such strong crowd support so it was a real lift.  I saw Mum and Dad at miles 3, 5 and 13 and I definitely heard some Chaser support along the route as well.

image The water stations were frequent and well marshalled, the organisers made the decision to use cups this year which I know some people weren’t keen on but I didn’t mind.  I think this change meant they could increase the frequency of the stations (which were almost every mile), I appreciated this on such a warm day.

At mile 16 the sun was getting to me and by mile 18 I had noticeably slowed…it was getting tough.  By mile 20 I was adamant I was pulling out of London later this month, I didn’t want to do it again.  Mile 20 to 23 were pretty dead miles as we ran towards Shoreham and past the power station, there weren’t many crowds around, just us runners focusing on the road.  Why was I doing this?


The last 3 miles were thick with screaming crowds.  They lined either side of us as we trudged along the sea front to the finish line and it was the only thing holding me together as I desperately tried to keep jogging.  I saw Alex with the Chaser flag at mile 24 which gave me a boost and Mum and Dad saw me again at around 25 but I didn’t see them.  I tried to smile at everyone cheering me but it was getting harder…and harder.

Finally, with the finish line in sight, I tried to calculate if I could finish in under 4 hours. It would be close.  As I approached the mile 26 marker I picked up the pace, my god it hurt, why was it 100 degrees?  The clock was ticking and I wasn’t going to make it, I couldn’t run any faster.

I crossed the line in a happy 4:00:12, certainly not a PB but definitely a time I could be proud of.  I’d worked hard to get back here and it was a huge improvement on my performance 6 months ago, I was pleased.


Shuffling along, I picked up my medal and goody bag and headed to the Beach Village to meet my parents. It hurt. Everything hurt.  I really wanted to sit down, to lie down, maybe to cry.  That means I worked hard right??

Mum and Dad dragged me through the crowds and we made it to the pub with my cousin for a cold cider and a little sit down.  Marathon number 8 was done!  I didn’t want to do another one.  I really didn’t.


But in the car on the way back to my aunt and uncles house I thought it might be silly not to do London…I could just jog round and enjoy the experience, I didn’t have to race did I?  Yes, maybe I would do London if I recovered well.

That evening my Auntie Mareline cooked up a a delicious roast chicken with all the trimmings and Uncle Ken made sure my glass was always topped up with some kind of booze.  Perfect recovery 🙂

It was an all round brilliant weekend seeing family, jogging round Brighton and collecting some more race bling.

Brighton Marathon. 4 hours dead. What did I learn? I’m baaacccccckkkk!

The Brighton Marathon 2106 is open for entries. I kinda want to sign up. SOMEBODY STOP ME. Please. Please?



3 Molehills & a Bit of a Swim

The weather forecast was grim.  Unfortunately, it was also entirely accurate and we were about to take on a muddy 3-person relay event…as solo runners.  Because we don’t believe in taking the easy option.


The 3 Molehills is a race that takes in the three hills of Moles Valley – Box Hill, Norbury Park & Ranmore.  Each leg starts and finishes at Denbies Wine Estate in Dorking and you can either run as a relay team, or all by yourself if you haven’t got any friends.  Turns out I haven’t got any friends so I was in for the solo, all 14.25 muddy, hilly miles of it.

When we arrived at Denbies on Sunday morning it was pouring with rain, soggy, muddy, cold and just a bit miserable.  Why wasn’t I still in bed?


Denbies had opened up early for us which gave us a warm, dry place to get ready with proper cups of tea and real life proper toilets (a runners dream!). Frankie and I met up with some other Chasers and set up base on one of the tables.

Whilst Ross tucked into a pile of sandwiches (breakfast…I have no idea how he can eat so closely to running?!) we discussed the benefits of making a pact to sod the run and just tell everyone we had done it anyway – you know, throw some mud around, take a few snaps running around in the rain and then enjoy the rest of the morning having a chat and a nice cuppa….

Then we remembered how badass we are and badass runners don’t let the weather get in the way of race day fun.

The before shot…


There wasn’t any chip timing but, as the race was quite small (141 solo runners and 82 relay teams), it wasn’t a problem.  It took me most of the morning to decide what to wear, trail shoes? road shoes? long sleeves? waterproof jacket? just a vest?, but I was quickly grateful for the waterproof jacket and gloves I settled for, it was the kind of rain that just wasn’t going to stop.

We set off up London Road for about a mile before turning offroad and heading up Box Hill (it was so wet and misty you couldn’t even see the top at this stage).  The route should have taken us across stepping stones over the River Mole but the water had risen so much you couldn’t see them so we were diverted over the bridge.

This then led to the bottom of 270 steps up to the top before a quick turnaround and down the Burford Slope to the bottom.  We were warned it would be very muddy and slippy and I skated around a fair bit whilst managing to stay upright.  The 1st leg should have been 4.5 miles but my Garmin clocked less than 4, this was dubbed the toughest leg so I didn’t mind!


Back to race HQ and through the handover point we were off on the 2nd leg, Norbury Park.  I think this was my favourite, there was a good mix of road and trail and, whilst the hill was longer, it wasn’t as steep so I managed to keep up a jog for the most part.  At the top there was maybe 1.5 miles on the flat which went down a muddy path and I had a great time running through all the puddles!  I was a bit confused by the man desperately clinging onto the bush at the side of the path to avoid the puddles (maybe this event isn’t for you matey?!) so I powered past and showed him how it was done.

Back into HQ again and nearing 10 miles, I was getting tired.  Little did I know at this point that Si had not only finished the whole thing but he had won the race!

This is Si collecting his winner’s prize whilst I was scrambling up the last hill in the rain trying not to cry.  It’s OK, because Si’s on my team… Well Done!


The final leg, Ranmore Ramble, was a simple out and back, up and down, on the North Downs Way, it was mostly road with a short muddy stretch near the turnaround.  The most depressing thing was that all the quicker runners were coming past me on the descent and heading to the finish, but it did mean I got to see a lot of friendly faces (especially Frankie…I’m not sure I’ve ever seen her as happy as she was flying down that hill in the freezing rain in shorts…must have been the beer at the finish line…)

I ended up walking more of the hill than I should, it seemed to go on forever even though I knew it was only 2 miles before I got to come back down again.  I enjoyed the decline before heading back to Denbies for the final time to the finish.  It took me 2 hours 35 with 14.25 miles on my watch, not my quickest run but with hills, mud, slippy paths and the non stop rain I’ll take it.  I got my medal and was sent to get my beer and chocolate, just what I wanted to hear!

Back inside (I was the last Chaser to finish by a long way) I realised how cold I was when I couldn’t move my fingers to get my gloves off.  I went to get changed quickly before it got worse and noticed that Denbies had now opened to the public – it was full of little old ladies trying to enjoy a peaceful day at the craft fair – sorry!

….and the after shot, I love these guys!


The 3 Molehills is a great little race with a good mix of on and off road, amazing views, fresh air, lung busting hills, enjoyable descents and, with a range of distances available, there’s something for everyone.

It was also superbly organised, with plenty of water stations stocked with sweets and Powerbar gels, and some of the friendliest and happiest marshals I’ve ever come across (much appreciated, THANK YOU).  I really felt for them having to stand still in that miserable weather for hours, they must have been colder than us.

Cheers Mole Valley, I might even be up for this one again 🙂



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Running the Trails in Wales

When you’re obligated to carry a list of items including a whistle, foil blanket, windproof jacket and first aid kit on a half marathon you know you could be in for a tough run…

One of my favourite Chasers, Cat, absolutely loves a trail run or 5.  Over the last year she has single handedly driven our running clubs participation in trail running from casual Sunday jaunts along the North Downs Way (if you can count 18 miles of tough running in the rain casual…) to organised events across the country.  One of these events is the Endurance Life Coastal Trail Series (CTS) which, in their own words, promise the most amazing trail runs in the UK, bar none.

No lie – View of the beach at the top of (one of many) hills


I’ve done a few trail runs but I was generally of the mindset that trail running really wasn’t for me.   You have to run slower, concentrate on what you’re doing, have some kind of technical running ability and the risk of spraining an ankle for a clumsy fool (like me) is pretty high.

Last year, groups of Chasers went on weekends away to pretty much all of the 10 locations on offer and I was more than a little jealous of all the fun they seemed to be having….

So, with Cat and Frankie’s bullying support and encouragement I found myself signing up for CTS Gower this year.  I was sold into a weekend in Wales with all my favourite things – friends, running, stunning views, fresh air, the beach, wine and an after party.  Sounded perfect.

A 6 hour road trip on Friday afternoon left us all pretty tired but, as Sainsburys failed to deliver the food shop (apparently the driver couldn’t be arsed to read a map leaving 16 hungry runners with no dinner or breakfast stuff), we had to head out again to the pub for dinner.


The CTS offers 4 distances.  10k, Half, Marathon & Ultra but they don’t conform to road distances so all come up on the long side.  I went for the half but a fair few did the Marathon and Cat & Adam (both completely nuts when it comes to running) went for the Ultra (34 miles if you didn’t get lost…)

It was cold and sunny when we got to race HQ, very lucky considering the incessant rain that had hit us all week, and even the night before, and we collected our race numbers before the pre-race briefing.

Each event is graded from 1-5 in terms of difficulty with 5 being ‘extreme’.  Gower is graded 3 (strenuous) with 2,337ft of accent over the 14.4 mile half route so I was expecting some pretty steep hills, technical descents and tricky paths to navigate…

As soon as we started it was clear the course would be muddy and I was expecting the worst.  The route took us along a mix of cliff edges, up and down hills and along sandy beaches, with the recent rain creating some waterlogged areas in places.  A lot of areas were exposed to the wind but with the beautiful weather it actually got quite warm at times.



Starting at the Rhossili Village Hall we ran along the rocky coastline overlooking the sea and started to climb some pretty steep hills, it wasn’t long before everyone slowed to a walk as all you could see was up, up, upness.  Eventually we came to a steep decent of grass, rocks and water from the heavy rain.  I carefully picked my way through the terrain but it was a bit like running through a stream, a slip & slide affair! I was glad to reach the bottom where there was the 1st checkpoint to dib our timing chip and grab some go-faster gummy bears.

We were then taken onto some soft sand that led down to the beach, the sand was much firmer here and it was nice to run a mile or so on the flat by the sea.  The beach was pretty empty, apart from the runners and some surfers, and with the sun shining brightly I think this was my favourite bit and definitely my quickest mile!


Of course that had to come to an end and we proceeded to climb up and up and up more hills, there may have also been downs but I’m struggling to remember them…

There was mud, wet grass and rocks to navigate and each mile seemed to be getting slower.  We ran past sheep, horses, cows, a sheep’s skull(?!) but not so many other humans, luckily the course was well marked with red chevrons so I wasn’t worried about getting lost.  Unfortunately some wrong-uns took down some arrows on the marathon & ultra course which resulted in extra miles for some but I don’t think it’s a common problem.

I was surprised to see the ‘1 mile to go!’ sign at about 12.2 miles as I thought the course was going to be longer but I was happy to see it!  Through some fields, over some stiles, down a hill and then there was a flat road!  A fair few people were around at this point so I knew we were close to the finish.  I turned back into the field we started in and heard people shouting my name.  Finish line, whhhaaahoooo!


There were some awesome performances from the team including Hamish winning the marathon and Pete coming 2nd in the half, there were also a lot of top 10 finishes across all distances.  Adam came 11th in the ultra despite adding on 2-3 miles after a wrong turn and Cat finished as 7th female.  I’ve always had a lot of respect for ultra runners but trail ultra runners?  An absolute inspiration!

It’s fair to say the Clapham Chasers dominated in Gower.

As for me?  Well I just about finished in one piece with a smile which is as much as I could of hoped for!

Post race dinner in the local…it went downhill from here


There are more differences between trail and road running than I gave it credit for – not only is it really, really tough but it uses different muscle groups and skills as well as different etiquette. For me, road running is about speed and chasing PBs, trail running is more about running in the moment and enjoying where you are.  It’s perfectly acceptable to walk and take in the scenery and with views like this how could you not?


I’m massively grateful to Cat for giving me the confidence and support to give trail running a proper shot as well as teaching me that, it’s not just OK, it’s expected to walk the tough hills!  She’s also promised lung busting trail running will give me gains on the road too and I have no doubt she’s right.

CTS Gower, you may not be for the faint hearted but you more than delivered on all your promises.  Next one?  Game on!




Review: Zombie Evacuation Race


When I was invited to take part in the Zombie Evacuation Race by Currys the day after Halloween I was dead excited and immediately said yes.  This was promptly followed by a warning that I may be electrocuted….erm, OK, what’s a little electrocution right?!

“Run for your life through a 5km course dodging the UNDEAD and navigating a multitude of challenging obstacles designed specifically to slow down your escape from relentless ZOMBIE horde who are hungry for fresh brains! Survive or be become one of them!!

Only the fittest will survive…”

I arrived at Allianz Park in North London at 8am and headed to the registration tent, or the Evacuee Check-In, where I signed the bit that precludes you from suing anyone if you do in fact get infected by zombies, or electrocuted, or lose a limb, all the usual stuff.

I was then given a ‘GPS tracking device’ which was a waist belt with 3 lifelines attached with velcro – loose all 3 lifelines and you’re officially infected!

I met up with my fellow bloggers (and fellow Clapham Chaser Fiona who was also ready to take on a few zombies) and the nice lady from Joe Blogs gave us all a different piece of the latest wearable tech to test out during the run courtesy of Currys.  I was given a Withings Pulse O2, a nifty little device that tracks steps, running, elevation, heart rate and sleep, I couldn’t wait to give it a go!  There will be more on the Pulse O2 to follow as I’m still giving it a full test run but so far so good!

The cold rainy start to the day had made way to sunshine and the atmosphere was brilliant.  As we made our way to the start line on the track (the same track that was used as the warm up tack for the 2012 Olympics no less) ominous music was blasting over the tannoy and we could see the gruesome zombies shuffling and limping on the rugby pitch.


The race organisers did a great job getting everyone in the mood – a Sargent from Majesty’s RAZORS (Royal Army Zombie Outbreak Response Squadron, obvs) explained that as of 0700 hours the UK Mainland had been placed under quarantine due to a zombie outbreak.  We were warned that we should not engage in any physical contact with the zombies as the infection was highly contagious and we should proceed directly to the evacuation zone – uh oh!

Start Line Selfie. Photo by @BeiFit


As the zombies hovered dangerously close, eager to get their grubby infected paws on our fresh skin, the Sargent started to lead us round the track and into the woods on our mission.  I really wasn’t sure what to expect but I had the same nervous energy I get when I know I’m going to be doing some sprinting, I’ve just never sprinted away from zombies before!

Together with the music building a sense of fear and dread, thick smoke was pumping out on the ground creating a mist that was difficult to see through, were the zombies going to attack us already?!  We started with a jog, sticking together seemed the safest thing to do, but as the course opened up and I decided to put my legs to work and go for it.

All over a sudden we were rounding a corner and the music from some kind of horror film with a baby (Carrie?!) was playing and THERE WERE ZOMBIES!!! It really was quite terrifying to be faced with a group of mentalists swaying back and forth looking like death and trying to attack me…so I ran faster and screamed!


The course continued through the woods with a number of  zombies zones to navigate, some covered in sheets with blood smeared over them, some zombies hidden under things waiting to pounce, some just milling around looking completely insane, there was even a zombie bridge and groom!

Various obstacles, as well as zombies, also plagued the way including barbed wire, ditches, dogs (although I’m not sure they were part of the course, they were much more friendly than zombie dogs…), more smoke, minefields, steps, even the brambles in the thick woodlands were attacking me!

And as for this guy…was I scared to run up the stairs towards him to get past…?  Maybe a little, wouldn’t you be?!


My bull-in-a-china-shop approach didn’t really work and I was left without any lifelines in less than 10 minutes, a more cautious approach may have been more effective in hindsight.  As the course came back towards headquarters we were taken into a large, pitch black warehouse…a pitch black warehouse full of zombies, that was definitely a scary part!

Action shot. This may have been the point of infection…


Out of the warehouse we went over a bouncy castle and then were faced with the final challenge. The rugby field.  This reminded me of a scene from The Faculty, stood at one end we had to run to the other but the the field was full of insane looking zombies that wanted to catch us, it was quite unnerving.  Head down and RUN!!!!

Of course I was already infected but it was still scary.  At the end there were 2 tunnels, one for Survivors and one for the Infected..I crawled through the Infected one and I was done!


The race crew then whisked me away and turned me into a zombie so I could join in the chasing on the rugby field to scare a few unwitting suspects – it was fun, fun, fun!


The Zombie Evacuation race was brilliant, a brilliant idea, brilliant execution and a LOT of fun.  There are a few logistics that need to be ironed out (some of the course was very unclear and I didn’t actually get a finish time despite the timing chip) and it’s very expensive for a 5K, but I can promise you will have a great time.

I’d like to thank both Currys and Joe Blogs for sponsoring me for this event.

As for me, well, I feel fine now. The infection’s gone.  Totally recovered in fact.

I mean, I’ve got a little headache I can’t shift…and a twitch in my eye…but who doesn’t??  I’m also looking a little pale but that’s nothing a little fake tan can’t fix, right??

Then there’s the bleeding and….Oh



Please note that this post was not sponsored and all views are my own




Amsterdam Marathon. The one that broke me

“Cause sometimes you just feel tired.  You feel weak.   And when you feel weak you feel like you wanna just give up.  But you gotta search within you.  You gotta find that inner strength and just pull that s**t out of you, and get that motivation to NOT give up, and NOT be a quitter, no matter how bad you wanna just  fall flat on your face and collapse”


The Marathon is a relentless, unforgiving, gruelling event.  The second you show just a moment of weakness it will turn on you, digging its painful claws deep into your soul draining you of everything you have, punishing you, willing you to fail, laughing at you.

It hurts. Then everything gets a bit fuzzy.


The Amsterdam Marathon broke me.  It broke me early and it broke me hard.  I genuinely started to wonder how I was going to make it to the finish line in one piece and I’ve honestly never felt like that before.

When I arrived in Amsterdam the concept of running 26.2 miles still didn’t feel very real.  Training had been anything but perfect, but that’s nothing new, getting to the start line of a marathon injury free having nailed every training run would put you in a very small minority.

I had started well, ticking off the miles and sticking to my plan, but my lazy bum triggered an injury that I struggled to come back from.  On the plus side, the injury has gone and didn’t flare up on the day, but the consequence of 4 solid weeks of bum exercises meant that the muscles I’m using when I run have changed, and 4 weeks is not long enough to get them used to the kinds of distances I was running.

My physio was brilliant, I did everything she told me and she spent hours painfully ramming her elbows into my leg so I could run without pain, but I was running very slowly.  I just couldn’t do any of my speed sessions, my legs seemed to be tiring much quicker than usual and on my last 20 mile run I stopped several times (in the pouring rain…)

Alex and I feeling hopeful at the start (he totally nailed it and got a new PB)


My Mum & Dad had come over to support me so we all went to the Expo on Saturday morning to register followed by some lunch.  I then went back to the hotel for an obligatory day-before-the-marathon-afternoon-nap before going out for a huge bowl of pasta and then back to bed for an early night.

The next morning I went through my usual ritual of force feeding myself porridge and a banana (not easy at 6.30am) and drank tea, tea and more tea (never again will I let caffeine withdrawal get me!) and we went to the station to meet my friend Alex.

The start was at the 1928 Olympic Stadium on the other side of town, which made for a great atmosphere, and Mum & Dad went off to find a seat in the stands.  Alex and I were in the same start pen which I was grateful for as I think I would have mentally crumbled on my own.

We chatted through our pre-race nerves, discussing toilet strategy (standard) and wondering if the dudes dressed head to toe in a weird silver outfit (we thought they were penises, Mum thought they were silver bullets…) would beat us (they beat me, Alex took them down) and then the elites were away and it was time to run!


The start was great, I wasn’t sure how I felt about having to run through the finish line to get to the start line, but it was fun to run round the 86 year old track for about 200m before getting onto the road.

The route was pretty, it took us through and around the City, including the heart of the Rijksmuseum (the famous passage which connects Amsterdam city centre with the south of Amsterdam), and along the Amstel River.  I think this was my favourite part as it felt very calming running past stately mansions and windmills, quintessentially Dutch!  As we neared the finish we ran through a very green Vondelpark taking in the trees and ponds, before heading back to the stadium for the big track finish!

Looking pretty cheery at about 4 miles


At 7.5 miles I heard someone come up behind me shouting ‘Go Chasers!!’ before realising it was fellow running buddy Ryan.  We had a quick chat, and, even at that point, I admitted I was starting to struggle.

I wasn’t feeling like myself, running felt like such an effort, it was laboured and difficult and tiring.  I think it was around mile 9 when I started to fall apart – I don’t know why, I just wanted to stop running.  So I did…and walked.  When the wheels are falling off at mile 9 you know you’re in for a very tough run.

Unfortunately it all went downhill from there, I tried to enjoy the scenery and take in the atmosphere but I was totally overcome by the need to take regular walking breaks which I normally wouldn’t tolerate.  I felt like such a failure, I was in the Amsterdam Marathon, my parents had come to support me and I couldn’t even run!

Giving up was never an option for me.  The task ahead was daunting, there were still a lot of miles left to cover, I knew people were tracking me online and I knew I was going to finish in a time that would crush me.  But giving up was not an option.

Of course that would have been the easiest thing to do, pulling out would have been the easiest thing in the world.  But it would also have been weak.  To give up on something because it’s tough, because you’re scared of failure, is weak.  I wasn’t ill, I wasn’t injured and I wasn’t weak, I was going to get to the finish line somehow.

My hardest earned medal. Ever.


I started a run/walk strategy based on distance and I think sticking to this was the only thing that got me through the last 6 miles.  My watch was ticking away with the time going up and up, my mile splits getting slower and slower and every half a mile feeling like the most difficult thing ever.  I had no idea how long it would take me to finish but I did know it would be my slowest marathon by a long way.

The support was the best spectator support I’ve experienced outside the UK and I fed off it.  Twice someone from the crowd took my hand when I was walking and jogged with me for a few metres, I love those 2 people.  People lined the streets in the last several miles and a lot of people cheered me by name, there was even a ‘free energy’ station where a group of people were having a little street party with a tannoy lifting everyone’s spirits.

Other runners were also very supportive, this really helped as everyone seemed to be struggling so we cheered each other on.  An old boy from Sleaford Striders was a big inspiration for me, he was running with a limp and a bit of a hunch but he was still running!

Eventually I made it through the park and could see the stadium ahead of me.  I was determined to run the last bit and enjoy the track finish – this is were the Olympics were held 86 years ago!  The seats were filled with people cheering us round and I could see the finish!  I tried to spot Mum & Dad in the crowd but there were just too many people to pick them out.

I crossed the finish line, got my medal and just wanted to collapse, I was exhausted!


Marathons demand nothing but 101%.  26.2 miles is quite a long way and it’s not easy whatever time you finish in.  Somewhere along the way I seem to have become desensitised to the distance and the challenges it brings.  26.2 miles is actually a bloody long way!

I’m aware I can be quite hard on myself, people tell me that all the time, I expect a lot and it’s disappointing when I don’t meet my own expectations.  Yes, I had a bad race, but one bad race does not make you a bad runner, you can’t run strong and get a PB every time.  Anything can happen in running and these things can and do happen, it’s how you deal with it that can make you stronger.

So I finished the Amsterdam Marathon in 4 hours 50 minutes.  All that really matters is that I finished and had a great weekend in a great city.   As my boss said when I went back to work and quietly admitted my time ‘Who cares? You did it and you were in Amsterdam, well done!’

It wasn’t lucky number 7.  Could it be lucky number 8?


Who’s Harry Hawkes?

Harry Hawkes was a real life man who lived in Thames Ditton in the early 1900’s and had a really cool name.  His Dad ran a bottling factory producing Ginger Beer and mineral water, and Harry was the captain of the Thames Ditton Cricket Club 2nd Eleven for 10 years.

Why is this important?

Well, in 1984, back when I found Button Moon more interesting than lycra, the cricket club launched an 8 mile race and named it after Harry (his really cool name probably had a lot to do with it).  It was a race that quickly established itself and ran (excuse the pun) for 26 years.  Even my Dad had heard about the Harry Hawkes race and he lives over 100 miles away!

After a 2 year break, the race was re-launched as a 10 mile event and a few of the Chasers found ourselves entering this year.  10 miles is a great distance, possibly my favourite.  By the time you even think about flagging there’s only a couple of miles left anyway, there’s none of that ‘no mans land’ you get in a half marathon.

Spot the Chasers!


The race started on Giggs Green by the cricket club (which I think is 175 years old, one of the oldest in the country) and looped round Thames Ditton (adding the extra 2 miles) before continuing along the towpath by the river, crossing Kingston Bridge and heading back along Hampton Court Towpath, past the Palace, and back on the 2 mile loop to the finish on the Green.

The route is on mixed terrain but is flat and fast and very pretty along the river, I wish I had a camera!

It was smiles all round as Andy took the win (by over 3 mines) AND the course record by over 4 minutes, and the boys took the team prize for the top 4.  There were also some PBs despite the warm, sunny weather.  I, however, was so far behind everyone I actually missed the team photo at the end…I fully intend to be faster in the next race and photobomb at every opportunity I find!

Winners and more winners




Although I was slower than usual, I’m attempting to follow the P&D marathon plan (in preparation for Amsterdam) which meant Sunday’s run was a mix of marathon pace and an easy pace rather than running as fast as possible.  Not only did I achieve that, but it meant I very much enjoyed the run too!

It was a beautiful sunny day so we hung around afterwards for the post race BBQ the cricket club put on (although, disappointingly, there were no vegetarian options, only burgers and bacon) and enjoyed the atmosphere.

The Harry Hawkes 10 is highly recommended.  It’s well organised, on a lovely course, with fantastic marshals and has a great local feel about it – if you fancy a flat, fast and scenic 10 miler in the Summer make sure you join us next year.

Cheers Harry!