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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Adidas 1 Hour City Run

It’s fair to assume that most people wouldn’t be enthralled at the idea of running round and round in a one mile circle.  But there’s a certain charm about doing it in the City centre of London, on closed roads, with music being pumped into the streets, random people lining up to high-five your sweaty hand and large timer ticking down the seconds as you race against  the clock…even if it is dull and grey while the rest of the country apparantly basks in sunshine.

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Sunday was the Adidas 1 hour city run, part of a series of City Run events that take place across the capital but, rather than running a set distance, this race challenges you to run as far as you can in an hour. One Hour. No Limits.

I was going to sign up to this a while ago but, in all honesty, the £40 price tag put me off for such a short race…however, my incessant Instagram competition entering habit finally came up trumps and, not only did I win a place, but I was also treated to a pair of the brand new Ultraboost 19 by Runners Need!  Not a bad win considering these are one of my trainers of choice and I was tempted to enter the race anyway!

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I’d already met some of the winners at a Runners Need event the week before so I recognised some of the gang when I arrived at the event village near St Pauls Cathedral but, if in doubt, we were all wearing the same kicks so they was easy to spot!

We were introduced to 400m hurdler Lina Nielson, who took us through a warm up before heading to the start line.  There was a little bit of hanging around but we were soon off on the first lap.

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The course starts at Mansion House going up to Bank, then past the Guildhall and St Mary-le-Bow church and there are chip mats every 0.1 miles to track your distance.  It was a bit twisty, but not overcrowded, and there were a great group of spectators just after the 0.2 mile mat who went wild if you gave them a sweaty high-five, it was worth taking the bend wide just for that!

There are large digital clocks on the course so you can see how much time you have left and, when the hour is up, a hooter sounds and you make your way back to the event villiage, which isn’t very far no matter where you finish.

Start line selfie with the Ultraboost crew

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There’s something mentally challenging about knowing that it doesn’t matter how fast you run, or how much effort you put in, you won’t actually finish any quicker…which is unfortunate because that’s usually how I sweet talk myself to keep moving forwards…

So, what’s good about it?

  • However fast your friends may be, they will never be able to finish the race before you!
  • The T-Shirts are pretty good quality and a good length (I hate short t-shirts!)
  • The medal is chunky if you’re into the bling  thing
  • FREE race day photos – you don’t have to bankrupt yourself if you find a gooden’ (I didnt but ‘ere you go anyway)

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  • Grenade Carb Killa protein bars are given at the end, none of this apple nonsense
  • There is no ‘front’ or ‘back’ so you’re never out on your own no matter where you are in the field
  • There are four start waves if early Sunday mornings aren’t your thing
  • The course wasn’t over crowded (at least not in my 11:30 wave)
  • There are chip mats every 0.1 miles to give you an accurate finish distance (although I did weep internally when I missed my final one by 5 seconds)
  • There are plenty of clocks (four I believe) round the loop so you know how long you have left
  • They went plastic free on the water – paper cups on the course and cans at the finish (now if only they could get rid of the unnecessary plastic wrapping on the t-shirts…)
  • I ran past Ted Baker so many times I now know what top I want to buy next 🙂

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What’s not so good about it?

  • As well organised as it is, I don’t believe in a £40 price tag for anything shorter than a half marathon
  • The twisty course plays havoc with your GPS
  • You can’t wear your club vest…
  • There wasn’t any coconut water left for my wave which I was really disappointed about
  • I imagine there is a potential risk of dizziness if you’re super fast…but I wouldn’t know so that’s somewhat unconfirmed

It’s a simple idea, it’s a little bit different, it’s well organised, it’s smack bang in the middle of London and they put on a pretty good show. Is it £40 good? Probs not but there are worse things to spend £40 on.

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#BeatBoxHill

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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The Expo: The Stressful Bit

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

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

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

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Hasenheide Parkrun: The Warm Up Bit

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

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

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

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

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Berlin Marathon: The Main Event

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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10 Things I learned from the Berlin Marathon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

London a few days earlier

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

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

Tower of London

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

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

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

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

Cutty Sark

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks Big Half, you were special.

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Nothing to prove. Not a damn thing

In just 11 sleeps time I’ll be heading to Estonia to run the Tallinn Marathon.  Tallinn is the last chance to get a BQ for next year, which is one of the reasons why I entered.  So, how’s training gone?  Well, it’s been pretty non existent to be honest.  And I’m not sure I care.

Genuinely, I haven’t run more than 12 miles in one go since London and I haven’t done any training of significance over the last few months.  Again, don’t care.

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I’ve committed to a marathon training schedule for the last 7 seasons in a row and I forgot what it was like to just do whatever the hell I wanted.  Stay in bed on a Sunday morning, get drunk and dance on tables on a Friday night (not my fault), fall off said tables on a Friday night (definitely not my fault), go out for dinner with my friends on a Tuesday instead of going to track.  Just to say yes to things I would normally say no to..

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Sometimes, life happens.  And life did happen.  Sometimes you just have to go a little crazy to get through it.  Sometimes you realise how lucky you are to have some pretty awesome friends to be crazy with.  Because they’re friends with you because you’re you, not because of how many miles you’ve run.  Sometimes you realise there are more important things in life than running.  Yeah, I said it.

I was never sure if I really wanted to run Tallinn, purely because I just didn’t want to do the training.  But somewhere along the line I entered anyway and just decided I would see what happened.  I got sucked into the idea of a weekend in Estonia and the promise of a post race party, it gets me every time.

Of course, I’m not one to sit still for 5 minutes so I’ve still been sweating it out in my lycra at 7am with the best of them, I’ve just been doing different things, a bit of running sure, but mostly anything but running.

I could, and probably should, downgrade myself to the half, but I just can’t bring myself to do that.  I know I’m not going to run a half PB anyway, and the half doesn’t start until midday, so I may as well just spend the morning jogging round Tallinn…

Being so underprepared is strangely liberating because there are absolutely no expectations at all.  I almost broke myself training through the winter for the London Marathon, I was bang on form and still managed to f**k it up.  This time there’s nothing to lose.

So, I’m going to Estonia, I’m going to run a marathon, I’m going to get drunk and I’m going to try not to miss my 6am flight to Croatia.  And I don’t care how long it takes me. Because I really have nothing to prove this time. Not a damn thing.

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Eye of the Tri-Ger: Thorpe Park Triathlon

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

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

The lake was ready and waiting

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

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

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

The swimmers are off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A smiley Mike

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

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

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

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

Chaser Domination

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

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

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Chaser cakes!

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