#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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!!

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10k’s are for wimps*…

…I’ve drawn this inevitable conclusion after finishing my 4th 10k race in 6 weeks and still not clocked a new PB.  10ks are stupid.

Sunday was the RunThrough Clapham Common 10k and it was the hottest day of the year so far.  The Metro reported temperatures of 27 degrees in London, quite a contrast to the wind and rain just 7 days earlier (where I also blamed the weather for my under par performance…)

Saturday was also a beaut of a day and I found myself in a beer garden with a craving for cider.  I never drink before a race so this surprised my friend who was more than happy to join me for some fruity pear goodness (practically one of your 5 a day anyway).  Staying sober and sensible hasn’t done me any favours in the speed stakes so I thought I’d try the ‘fluid & carbs’ approach.  3 seemed about right.

I also made a careful effort to match my nails to my trainers to see if that improved my speed…

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Conclusion?  Well, neither of these things worked but you can’t compromise on style just because you’re a big sweaty mess and fluid & carbs are as important as oxygen (this is a fact), so I stand by my race prep.

It really was a hot, hot, hot day and I was even beginning to feel the heat as I left the house at 8.30am.   The sun was scorching as we set off on the 2 lap course and it wasn’t going to let up.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the sun and I love the heat but running in it is HARD, I even took a cup of water at 5k which I wouldn’t usually bother doing.  I finished in 48.16 and couldn’t get my hands on a bottle of Lucozade quick enough.  I’ll just call it a training run then.

The best part of the day was spotting super speedy Cat in the crowd, who I met for the first time at the Richmond Relays and meeting  Hannah & Lorna who I hadn’t met before but were both fabulous.  It’s always great to meet up with people who think the same way as you and, despite all being amazing runners doing amazing things, they all had their own self-doubts and concerns.  I think they’re just bloody brilliant.

On my way home from work yesterday I was trying to draw some positives from my recent 10k attempts and it wasn’t actually as difficult as I thought:

Race 1: I beat Paula Radcliffe, ran a time I was more than happy with 4 weeks after VLM and had a fab evening with Zoe & free Prosecco.

Race 2: I only bloody well came 2nd and am now the proud owner of a badass trophy!

Race 3: I was the 3rd female Chaser in Richmond which officially makes me a Surrey Road League Race points scorer.

Race 4: I met some truly inspirational runner chicks who reminded me of the true spirit of running and that’s something no timing chip or Garmin stat can ever take away from us.

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On the plus side, I didn’t ache at all yesterday which meant I was totally up for the Club social run and weekly bants with the Chasers – winner!

*Obviously I don’t really think 10ks are for wimps.  I have nothing but respect, admiration and embarrassing amounts of jealously for anyone who can nail this git of a distance that’s too long to put the pedal to the floor from the off and too short to make excuses for. RESPECT