Hackney Half: The one that was a little bit shambolic

It wasn’t that long ago that London didn’t really have many big half marathons.  There was Run to the Beat, which died an embarassing death after a few fiascos and loosing their sponsors, and there’s the Royal Parks Half who insist on a ballot only entry system which I find frustrating.

Anyway, more recently there seems to have been an explosion of high profile halfs in the city and one of them is Hackney.  I entered back in November mainly because I hadn’t run it before and it’s was one of the biggies.  At £52 though, it ain’t cheap and I believe that included an early bird discount.

The first fail was realising that, although I had opted to pick my race pack up rather than have it posted (because the £52 price tag isn’t enough they charged you for posting and it annoyed me) you couldn’t actually pick it up on the day of the race.  The race village is a good 3 hour round trip from where I live but luckily I managed to rope a pal at work to collect it on my behalf.

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I was meeting Lee with my race pack at 8:30, this meant a 5:30 alarm and I was still late.  Hackney Marshes is a real trek from Stratford station but it does mean you can use the nice toilets in Westfield, I highly recommend this ’cause there ain’t enough at the race village…

The race started at 9am but I didn’t cross the start line until 9:18 despite waiting in the pen for some time.  I already knew I was going to have to use one of the on-course toilets because I never would have made the start if I’d tried queuing – I don’t think I have ever had to do that before.  They came up just before the 3 mile mark.  I had to queue.

I was also desperately thirsty, not helped by the warm weather, but hadn’t studied the course to see where the stations were.  I think it was just after 3 miles but when I got there it was a total shambles, there weren’t enough people and there were too many thirsty runners.  I had to queue…and a little bit fight..for my tiny cup of water.  I was still thirsty.

Surprisingly upbeat at mile 10

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The course takes you around Hackney, Dalston and Victoria Park.  It’s all on closed roads but it’s pretty twisty and narrows in quite a few places.  It’s not flat but not exactly hilly, I guess it’s what you call undulating.  There aren’t a great deal of water stations which is probably why every runner wanted water at every station, they just didn’t seem prepared for it at all.

The support and atmosphere was brilliant, as the course is on residential roads there were plenty of people who had come out of their houses to cheer and hand out bananas and sweets.  It was much appreciated and, for me, these people were the only thing I loved about this race.

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At around 10 miles I spotted Steve on the sidelines cheering me on which also gave me a huge lift.  I was worried he’d be bored waiting around for me but the race village had plenty of bacon sarnies, coffee and entertainment and apparantly the app was tracking my progress well so they did get some things right.

The finish took you back to Hackney Marshes which was,  you guessed it, a shambles.  The race village is pretty awesome though, it has a mini festival feel, lots of food stalls and entertainment (although I didn’t see any of it) which is great for supporters and a post race little lie down.

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What’s good about it?

  • The atmosphere
  • The crowd support – Hackney you were brilliant
  • It’s Run Dem Crews home turf and they know just how to give you a boost
  • East London is pretty cool

Ermmm, I think that’s it and, sadly, these things aren’t really anything to do with Virgin Sport’s organisation

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What’s bad about it?

  • The race pack collection – they either charge you extra or make you trek over to the village in the days before the event
  • The water stations – not enough of them and not enough people on them.  You don’t ever want to QUEUE at a water station but you had to. Every. Single. Time
  • The course is undulating, not bad in itslef but does mean PB potential is slim to none
  • The course also narrows quite sharply in places
  • Did I mention the water situation? Yeah, I was thirsty…
  • The finish area was chaos – why don’t you want your runners to have any WATER?!
  • The t-shirt – it’s just too short
  • The medal is chunky but I don’t love it I’m afraid

Virgin Sport – If you had put more effort into the end to end experience of your runners than who the DJ’s were going to be you may have delivered a much better event.

If you’re looking for a London Half I would give this one a swerve…

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A Sunny Hampton Court Half

Around about 8pm on Saturday night, staring at my Chasers race vest on the floor and listening to Taylor Swift (low point, I know) I had a meltdown.  I had a meltdown over a half marathon.  A distance I used to fly around in a decent time with joyful boundless energy finishing with a skip and a smile (this may not entirely be true…but it’s how I remember it…). In the midst of that meltdown I vowed to finally resurrect that girl from the grave.  Might take a while though.

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Anyway, the unopened race pack I had left on the side (despite arriving in a timely manner a couple of weeks before) indicated I had been in denial.  I also hadn’t really read any of the event emails which turned out to be an error because there was a Park & Ride option I should have signed up to…which had since closed.  Luckily street parking was aplenty, just frowned upon (soz).

I went to bed wondering if I could still run 13.1 miles and I woke up thinking I was going to do it anyway.  It was an early rise for an 8.30am race start but I actually didn’t mind, waking up on race day is just waking up on race day and 30/40 mins here or there doesn’t really make much difference, it’s always going to be earlier than one would wish to rise on their day off…or in fact ever.  It was glouriously sunny (OK, it was dark at 05:50 but it turned into glourious sunshine) and it felt like Spring was on the way.

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The event is well organised and I seamlessly positioned myself towards the back of the start pen after downloading my self-lothing doubts to some Chaser pals.  They put me at ease – it’s funny how a sea of blue, green & white bobble hats will do that.  I actually felt a bit excited that I was going to run a half marathon and that a half marathon was actually quite a long way and I could totally do it, not do it well, but do it all the same.

The route is quite lovely, especially in the sunshine.  It starts at Giggs Hill Green in Thames Ditton and follows the river from about mile 3 taking you past Hampton Court at mile 10.  I even remebered to look around and take it all in rather than ploughing on obliviously like I often do.

They say it has PB potential but I’m somewhat doubtful as some of the course is on open roads and the pavements can narrow.  Given I’m no where near PB level I cannot confirm or deny PB potential-bility but I can confirm it’s a great event and there are always a few Royal celebs…

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My plan was to run slow and finish the race.  Not only did I successfully manage to execute the plan without getting swept up by the people around me, I felt better than anticipated and I actually enjoyed it.  Amazing what a bit of sunshine and a palace backdrop will do.  Sure, there was some walking near the end, but it was all methodically planned and under control.

Headphones were banned because of the open roads so I had a lot of time alone with my thoughts (and my inside singing voice which, whilst angelic, is somewhat like a broken record).  Anyway, a few things occured to me:

  • I love running
  • I love running in the sunshine
  • I love race day
  • Running makes me feel strong, even if it is slow
  • I’m still desensitised to distance if I think 9.98 miles to go isn’t very far because ‘it’s less than double figures…’
  • High-fiving Henry VIII flanked by a couple of his birds doesn’t give you super powers
  • I STILL haven’t mastered the art of smiling for the photographer
  • Seriously, there are 103 photos of me, there is only one half decent one

 

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So, the sub zero frost has subsided, the sun is out, spring is on its way and my happy running mojo is back.  The next goal? Knock 15 minutes off my time in May’s Hackney Half…

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Cycling Skillz

I haven’t been on my bike since September.  I had full intentions of a leisurely New Years Eve ride with some of the Chaser girls but I discovered I had a puncture (I tried for an hour to get the bloody tyre off but it wouldn’t budge) so I didn’t make it.

The problem is, the more time I spend not riding, the more I find my confidence drops and my bike seems like a big scary monster.

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On Saturday, I went to a Surrey League ‘Race Preparation Training Session’.  In all honesty I had absolutely no idea what I was in for but it was positioned as being suitable for all levels and a session to improve group riding skills so I thought it would be perfect, especially as it took place on a circuit with no cars.  Despite being ‘suitable for all levels’, I was by far the most novice rider in our group as I made my way to Ardingly with some of the most speedy and experienced Chasers on earth.  The very thought of this made me so nervous that I almost didn’t turn up, but I reasoned with myself that the best way to gain cycling confidence is to surround myself with confident cyclists and, anyway, they’re all lovely people so there was nothing to be scared of.

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I almost fell at the first hurdle when I arrived at the train station and discovered I had another sodding puncture (and yes, I rode the 2 miles from home on a flat without noticing…)  I knew I couldn’t fix it on my own so was very grateful when Warbo said he would fix it on the train, it was as good as new by the time we got off (THANK YOU).

The next ‘hurdle’ was the 4 mile ride from the station to Ardingly showground.  How exactly do you keep up with the most experienced and speedy Chasers on earth when they’re riding at ‘an easy pace’, in the rain?  Well.  You don’t.  But, as I said, they’re a lovely bunch so they didn’t leave me behind (THANK YOU!)

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When we arrived (soaking wet and freezing cold I might add) I was surprised at how few women there were, maybe about 8 of 45-ish, I always thought cycling was a much more mixed sport but it would appear not.   The first thing I learned was that there’s a difference between a cycling ‘sportive’ and ‘race’.  A sportive is a mass participation cycling event which, although use timing chips, is a non-competitive event and attracts riders of all levels.  A race on the other hand, is exactly that, a race, and requires you to be a member of the British Cycling Federation as well as attending two of these Race Preparation Sessions.  For the record, I have no intention of competing in a race anytime soon.

The session, which was run by cycling coach Paul Butler, was split into two sessions with an indoor theory bit and an outdoor practical bit.  It was still raining and it was still cold.  It did not being rainy or cold allllll day.  Luckily Anna gave me a spare pair of tootsie covers (is that what they’re called?) which kept my tootsies warm and my shoes clean (THANK YOU!)

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Cornering

After going through the basics and importance of a good warm up, we learnt about cornering, when to break, the correct position of your pedals and where your body weight should be.  Out on the road, we went in a rectangular circuit (well, a circle would be no good for cornering would it…) and practised taking the corners, more in the correct position that at any speed, on the drop bars (I rode the drop bars and didn’t fall off!)

One Handed Riding

I still haven’t mastered the art of drinking and cycling at the same time, and signalling right is somewhat an issue, so when we were told to pair up and ride with one hand on someone elses shoulder I wasn’t overjoyed.  Luckily Ruth was a rock and we got through it without me hurting anyone!

Peloton

Next we had to form a peloton and the rider at the back had to make their way through the middle of the group to the front, not round the outside, straight through the middle.  This was my least favourite bit of the day, shouting at people that I was coming through whilst trying not to knock myself or anyone else off their bike AND trying and ride fast enough to get to the front was a tad stressful.  I was happy when that bit was over.  Plus I could no longer feel my fingers.

Chain Gang & Paceline

After another short theory bit we were back out practising how to ride in chain gangs and pacelines in small groups.  After a few hiccups (such as Dude A who insisted we had the push the pace so the group fell apart, and Dude B who rode straight into a cone…) we totally nailed this part.

The Puncture Crew

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Despite the rain, the wet muddy lycra, the mud on my face, and the frozen limbs, I had a really good day out.  I learned A LOT, gained some confidence, and had fun.  Even though I have no intention of participating in a race, this is a really worthwhile session for anyone looking to improve their group riding skills, if nothing else it will make you safer.

Also, I don’t want to show off or anything, but I can pretty much ride like this now…but I wouldn’t…cause that would be silly…and the very opposite of safe.

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RideLondon: 100 miles on 2 wheels

At 2am on Sunday morning I was staring out of the window watching the rain come down in sheets.  It was so loud it woke me up.  It was the worst rain I had seen in a very long time and it was far from ideal.

Just two hours later my alarm went off, but my heavy heart subsided with a quick glance outside.  The rain had stopped and it looked fairly promising.  It was going to be a good day.

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Just before 5am, after forcing some porridge down, I hopped on my bike and set off into the sunrise towards the Olympic Park.  I didn’t really know where I was going but I soon saw plenty of other cyclists heading the same way.  Following everyone else, I made the 12 mile journey to the start line taking in an eerily quiet Rotherhithe tunnel which was closed to cars.

Getting into the start area was easy, there were loads of signs, loads of toilets and plenty of space.  Luckily I bumped into my friend Laura so I had a pal to share my last minute worries with.  She had sandwiches and chicken nuggets…I did not.  Our start time was 7:24am and, although we still had an hour to go, it flew by.

Early Risers

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With credit to the organisers, the start was a military operation with each wave going off bang on time, I don’t know how many waves there were, but c.30,000 riders left the park at roughly 6 minute intervals over 4 hours.  It was an impressive set up.

Stage 1: Miles 1-25: The Jolly Bit

For the first 25 miles I felt great.  The air was cool and dry, everyone was in great spirits and I was pleasantly surprised that, not only was there more space around me than I was expecting, people were (mostly) riding considerately.  There were even some Rider Safety Captains.

After riding through London, I got a big cheer from Darren in Richmond Park, and we headed to the first ‘hub’ near Hampton Court.  As I’m really bad at drinking and riding at the same time, let alone eating, I took the opportunity to stop.

The hubs exceeded my expectations, there were tables and tables piled with bananas, Cliff Bars, gels, Shot Bloks and Graze snack boxes, as well as loads of water and electrolyte tablets.  There were toilets aplenty, and medical and mechanical help if needed.  The volunteers were all super friendly and happy, especially given the fact they had an earlier start than me!

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Stage 2: Miles 26-48: The Learning Curve Bit

The next section posed some challenges.  I hadn’t been eating anywhere near enough and I was feeling it.  Ruth had told me repeatedly that I needed to constantly scoff my face but I didn’t realise that meant literally.  A Cliff bar at the start line and a gel at the hub just wasn’t enough.  Somewhere around 40 miles I was feeling ropey and decided that if I had to stop every few miles to make sure I ate something, that was what needed to happen.

The Surrey countryside, with its beautiful views, was upon us now, and just before the second hub at mile 48 there was a fairly short, but fairly steep climb.  I was glad I had taken on some extra fuel (GU Stroopwafles for the win by the way).

At the hub at Newlands Corner, I took a longer time out, ate some proper food and had a little sit down with views over Surrey.  I was feeling much better. Onwards.

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Stage 3: Miles 48-75. The Hilly Bit

The next section brought the dreaded Surrey Hills.  Leith Hill came first, it was new to me, it was the the steepest on the course, and it was bloody hard.  People were getting a little narky with each other as the course narrowed and I eventually caved somewhere near(ish) the top and got off the bike.  I was far from the only one.

Finally at the top, with 58 miles on the clock, I got back on my bike and enjoyed some downhill rolling towards Dorking.  Soon after, we were at the bottom of Box Hill, I had already conquered this one recently and I have to say I quite enjoyed it!  There were some signs every 250m or so telling you how far you had come and some motivational words of wisdom such as ‘don’t fear the granny gear‘ and, of course, ‘shut up legs‘.

I had stuck to my new fueling plan but, as we neared the third hub at Leatherhead, I was looking forward to another break.

Thanks Buxton!

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Stage 4: Miles 75-86. The Blurry Bit

The next few miles rolled by in a bit of a blur.  I was tired, my quads were complaining, and my hands were sore.  I didn’t really know where I was and I couldn’t tell you what I saw, but we were heading back to London and that was all I could focus on.

Just as I was planning to pull over for more food, I saw a sign for hub 4.  There was a HUB 4??

Pulling into the stop at Kingston I have never been so happy to see a bag of salt & vinegar crisps.  I was less happy to see yet another banana, but I ate it anyway.  After a short mental battle with myself I got back on the bike again and set off on the last 14 miles. Shut up legs.

Stage 5: Miles 86-100. The Bloody Awesome Bit

The last section was the best.  The crowds were thicker, the roads were flatter, we were back in London and the finish was near.  I found a new lease of life and powered through the last few miles, not even Wimbledon Hill could get me down now.

The miles were ticking down quickly, I got a cheer from Jen at Parsons Green, and we were soon riding along the Embankment.  It wasn’t long before we were heading up Whitehall and swinging round for a pretty spectacular finish on The Mall.  The 100 mile finish line was in sight!!

I couldn’t help but grin like a lunatic as I flew down the final few metres and over the finish line, I even made it on the telly!

I’m in the background, I’m not the man being interviewed:

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And that was that, I had completed 100 miles on two wheels and I loved it!  It actually turned out to be 119 miles in total what with cycling there and back, no wonder I was a little sleepy…

The Reflection Bit

In my opinion, Ride London was organised pretty flawlessly.  Sure, there will always be some hiccups with the complexities of an event so big, but I was really impressed with everything, it couldn’t have been easy.

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I’m aware, although disappointed, that cycling generally, and this event in particular, attracts a lot of haters, especially from those who live along the route.  Sure, it’s an inconvenience, but it’s just one weekend a year.  One weekend that not only brings a lot of positivity towards sport and fitness and inspires people to get active, but keeps the legacy of the London Olympics alive and raises millions for charity.

The Best Bits:

  • Riding on closed roads. A privilege
  • The atmosphere. Electric
  • The cheery volunteers. Incredible
  • Box Hill. It’s Fun
  • Hitting a new max speed of 38.3 mph. Weeeeee
  • The Mile 86 salt and vinegar crisps. Godsend
  • The last 5 miles. Unreal
  • The finish along the Mall towards Buckingham Palace. Epic
  • In fact, almost everything. Fan-flippin-tastic

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The Worst Bits:

  • The 4 o’clock alarm. Zzzzzz
  • Having to stop to eat and drink. Such a newb
  • Leith Hill. Ouch
  • The dude who overtook me on a Boris Bike. Really
  • My sore hands. Hurty
  • Cycling through London traffic to get home. Wobbly

The Thank Yous:

  • Thank you to all the volunteers that made it possible, there were a lot of you, your constant enthusiasm and kind words gave me strength
  • Thank you to the emergency services who responded quickly to incidents
  • Thank you to the roadside angels who were offering mechanical help to those in need, you made me worry less
  • And thank you to everyone who wholeheartedly embraced the event and lined the streets in thousands to cheer and shout at us, you made the dark times brighter

Like the London Marathon, Ride London is a true testament to the spirit of this City and I can’t wait to be part of it again.  It was tough, it was challenging, it was rewarding, and it was a whole lot of fun!

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Chasers Thames Path Beer Run

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

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

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

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

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

Pub 1!

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

On to Pub 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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WHAT a day!

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

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

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

No one’s dead. So we’re all good

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

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From 2 Feet to 2 Wheels

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

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

Learning how to ride in cleats in Wimbledon Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boston: Not yet worthy

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

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

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

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

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The 5k Story

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

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

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

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

Chasers Marathon Camp post 5k: Full Team!

17903925_10154752684389737_2053016657189547864_nThe Marathon Story 

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