Race report: Edinburgh Marathon Festival

20x30-EMFF0815
Going up to Edinburgh to take part in the marathon festival has been on the top of my list for a long, long time now. It’s only been a matter of weeks since I ran in the London Marathon a haven’t done a great deal of training since then so this was only ever going to be an excuse to check out Edinburgh and have some fun. The Edinburgh Festival is a weekend of running, starting with the 5 and 10k on the Saturday and ending with the half and the full marathon on the Sunday.

10388129_10154207386400711_7492561905265288581_n

Rich, Ewan and I headed up on the Friday night for our epic trip. The drive took us 6 hours and we didn’t get there until gone 11pm. Thank goodness for the lovely owner of the B&B, who kindly waited up for us. Rich was running in the 10k on the Saturday morning so we were up quite early to see him off. The 10k takes place around the beautiful Holyrood Park at the foot of Arthur’s seat. He said a lot of the course was flat apart from one section which was quite hilly. Anyway, he managed another fab PB (around 50 minutes). We spent the rest of the day mooching about in Edinburgh, watched the gun go off at 1pm outside of the castle.

10371987_10154201395980711_6239681155656639806_n

On the Sunday it was Ewan and my turn to run in the marathon and half marathon, respectively. Ewan, who crazily runs lots of marathons (I think he’s as mad as a box of frogs), was aiming for a PB as close to 4 hours as possible. I realised pretty much an hour into our journey that I hadn’t bought my TomTom GPS watch, but it wasn’t the end of the world because I was just going to use the half marathon as a training run anyway. Besides, I had my Nike+ app (or so I thought).

10419630_10154207386225711_4277851447041456197_n

In true Scottish style, the conditions on the morning were pretty horrible and I was drenched standing around waiting for the race to get off. Here’s how the race went:

Picture2

Ewan achieved an official race PB of 4:13. I loved Edinburgh, but next year I think I’ll do the 10k on the Saturday so that I can spend some more time checking out the city!

20x30-EMFM4718
The verdict: DIVA rating 4/5

rating 4 of 5
Good points:
– Nice coastal route
– Started in a central location (easy to find)
– Starting pens
– Nice medal and really good goody bag with a decent technical T-shirt
Bad points:
– The finish is nowhere near the start so you have to organise your own transport or book the buses, which is not ideal when you usually just want to get back and shower
– Really early start (8am on a Sunday)
– Not overly keen on loopback courses

IMG_2536

sian

A weekend of running: Nike we own the night and Oxford Town and Gown

10297602_10152470239803338_6755954173605159787_n

A couple of weeks ago (my first proper run since the London marathon might I add) I took part in the Nike We Own the Night 10k and managed to rope in a friend of mine in on it too. I did the same race last year (you can read about it here), but there were a few organisational issues making it a pretty below par affair. I’m pleased to report that every single one of these issues had been resolved and this year’s event was pretty awesome (well done race organisers!).

– Race corrals – check!

– Race bling – check. After last years disappointing bracelet (which landed up in the bin), this year we got given an awesome necklace

– Bottle necks – nearly gone, apart from a section towards the finish.

– Warmup – check. Last year I was randomly jumping up and down not knowing that the hell was going on, but this year they had people demonstrating the moves on the podium.

– Pacers – check!

– Bar – check, which I was just too cold to go in! 😦

The only thing that let it down slightly, which is beyond anyone’s control, was the fact that it was unseasonably cold, wet and miserable so I was too cold to meet anybody and just wanted to get home straight afterwards!

I didn’t really own the night – the Night owned me! My legs felt heavy and I managed to run a personal worst 10k time (certainly in the last year), but it was fun! 🙂

10300683_10154152968130711_3229175104568762345_n

Race number 2 was the Oxford Town and Gown 10k, which takes place through the historic centre of Oxford. This time I was official photographer/bag holder for Rich who was running with his friend Matt – a total newbie to running.

last_garmin

I was originally supposed to be pacing Matt, but I decided that two back-to-back races would probably kill me. We also had no idea how fast Matt would be running as, in typical newbie runner style, he hadn’t really been taking much notice of time and was counting a ‘5k’ as anywhere between 5.5k and 6k (soon he’ll be like the rest of us though and stopping his Garmin dead on 5k and running up and down the road past his house to make his watch say ‘13.1 miles’).

We had absolutely no idea if he would smash it out in 30 minutes or 60 minutes. As it happens, I wouldn’t have been able to keep up with him for more than about 30 seconds because he was AWESOME! I’ve been running for ages now (about 3 years), training all the time, eating well, doing drills, threshold and Fartlek sessions, etc and I still look like Gollum when I run. Matt rocks up with a running style like Mo himself – high knee lift and a kick to die for – barely breaking a sweat and making running look completely effortless in an incredible time of 50:30. Poor Rich was shortly behind him after nearly dying trying to catch up with him with a massive PB of 51:06.

10262242_10154152967870711_4151697178960302490_n

Matt is now running the Oxford half marathon, where we expect him to either win or maybe come second? 😉 You can check out his fundraising page here.

London Marathon 2014: What an amazing/awful day

1508504_10203593196020453_7377284422848809602_n

There are two things in this life that terrify me: bananas and feeling/being sick. One of those fears I overcame and the other I didn’t.

————————————————————————————————

It’s no great secret that I have struggled with the training for this marathon. When you add in a new place you don’t know well, not knowing many people to run with, having two jobs (one of which is busy and new), being a company director, having a previous life to sort out – any kind of marathon training is virtually impossible.

I haven’t enjoyed the lead up to this marathon much either. The training for Brighton involved beautiful runs along the beach and runs out in the countryside, not a bypass!

BUT London is a once in a lifetime marathon and I was so fortunate to be given the opportunity to run I was going to give it everything I had, in spite of picking up ITB strain and glute pain 2 weeks before.

1958063_10154052187760711_2846735506830647274_n

I stayed up in London the night before with a friend of mine who was also running where I was treated to fajitas, a comfy bed, copious amounts of delicious banana cake and a lift to the station.

10259904_10154072105870393_5412821777207396912_n

I’d been feeling quite tired, my leg was stiff and I was a bit apprehensive beforehand, but having someone to chat with before the race was great, Zoe went off to her insanely quick pen (3:15-3:30) and I headed back to my pen (4:15-4:30). I knew a few people from my running club would be the same pen, but I didn’t spot anyone until just after we got started. So what a lovely surprise when I bumped into Tony!?! What a treat to have someone as positive as him to run with! My strategy was to start quite slowly and save any energy in the legs for later on when it gets tough. I started to feel twinges in my legs from about mile 8, which got me feeling quite worried to start with, but actually they started to go after about 10 miles and I was starting to feel quite comfortable, if a little hot. Tony and I chatted for the next 5 or 6 miles and I started to feel really jaded in myself and as if I was going to vomit. My heart was racing and I felt ‘wrong’. I had to stop for a little while and get some salts on board so I ate a few salted cashews and off I went again.

Between miles 19 and 21 I walk/jogged a bit as the running was making my feel really quite ill and I had a lump in my throat. I just wanted the whole ordeal to be over, but the crowd support was wonderful – ‘come on Sian – you can do it’ brought tears to my eyes and warmed my heart. I called and sent a text to Rich and told him how ill I was feeling and he said to just take it easy and not go for a time so that’s what I did. At mile 22 I decided to suck it up and push on. My legs were feeling good, my stomach wasn’t and it took every ounce of strength for me to keep going.

All that time I had worried about my legs and didn’t even think about how I would actually feel in myself.

Highs

– Hanging out with Zoe at the start.

– Crowd support was epic! I felt like everyone in the crowd was a friend looking out for me.

– Seeing the legend that is Sami at mile 8!!

– Running 17-odd miles with the lovely Tony.

– Superb organisation – like a well-oiled machine.

– The phenomenal support I had from Adidas UK and the lovely guys at Speed Communications. Thank you! x

– Showers along the route – awesome!

– No blisters and feet in one piece – loved my Adidas Boosts!

Lows

– Having to duck and dive, and lose my rhythm because of congestion.

– The heat and the lack of a breeze (I forget how stuffy cities can be).

– Feeling sick when my legs were feeling good.

– I hate sweets of any nature (well, at least for a month).

I finished in 5:08 – still a PB by 12 minutes. I am counting the days until my legs are able to get faster again and start working towards my goal of a 1:50 half marathon.

Will this be my last marathon? Probably – I went out on a high though! 🙂

———————————————————————————————–

Thanks to Zoe for a place to stay, Sami for the hug at mile 8, Tony for running with me and taking the fab pictures, Adidas for providing my kit and my place, David and Harry at Speed Communications for being fab, and Ben from Full Potential for his support! And well done to everyone who took part and all the marvelous supporters – you rock! x

sian

Race review: Banbury 15 – the one with the guardian angel

Apart from the marathon, Banbury 15 is the longest race on my schedule this year. That, coupled with the fact that Banbury, unlike other parts of Oxfordshire, has some pretty gnarly hills in it made this race a pretty formidable challenge.

My pacer was Rich’s friend Ewan. He does all of his running for Helen and Douglas House because of a little boy Thomas who sadly, only about a week before the race, passed away.

Ewan is way faster than me and also has the constitution of an Ox (his mantra is ‘man the fuck up!’), unlike me who goes into every race thinking I’m instantly going to fail and fall flat on my face. He agreed to stick to my pace of 9.30 min/mile (or there about) aiming to finish around the 2 and a half hour mark.

We were just packing the stuff in the car before I had a quick last-minute costume change and threw on my running skirt instead of my black running tights – best decision of the day as what was probably 18 degrees felt more like 28 degrees when running!

IMAG0049

The Banbury 15 is a local race run by the local running club – it’s a no frills race with no timing chips and not many spectators along the course, but sometimes that’s nice!

The first gnarly hill hit about a mile in and I was feeling pretty good – I’ve almost nailed this hill thing, in fact I enjoy a course with a little bit of undulation in it.

Ewan was running the race in memory of Thomas and that’s what drives him to run. I run for the (minimal) glory/achievement and the bling to add to my already overflowing collection. It was nice to have a little bit of that positivity rub off on me though. At mile 13 we were sure little Thomas was watching over us as a yellow butterfly (his favourite colour and he loved butterflies) fluttered by.

We were both feeling pretty strong until around mile 14 when all I could think about was water and I came over feeling decidedly odd, and Ewan’s knee started playing up. We both pushed on though to finish in a respectable 2 hours and 20 minutes – 10 minutes quicker than I had hoped.

IMAG0052

The good…

–       Great undulating course – gives you confidence that you can complete a flat spring marathon

–       Well organised

–       Easy parking and easy access to the train station for those who don’t drive (race starts in the middle of Banbury)

–       Good value race entry

…the not so good

–       No timing chip – didn’t bother me, but might some

–       It was an unseasonably hot day and I think we could have done with an extra water station

Diva rating: 4/5

rating 4 of 5

What did I learn? 

–       Maybe running for a cause would be nice and would give my running a sense of meaning rather than being a selfish, self-indulgent pursuit

–       Don’t do your shoe laces up too tightly as your feet swell up massively on a long run – my poor little toe is really feeling it now!

Helen & Douglas House has the time and expertise to care for children and young adults with life-shortening conditions and support their families. The two hospice houses offer specialist symptom and pain management, medically supported short breaks and end-of-life care, as well as counselling and practical support for the whole family.

sian

 

 

 

 

 

Silverstone half marathon: The mental challenge

767855-1066-0017s

I was really looking forward to the Silverstone half marathon, not least because I knew it would be well organised (being sponsored by Adidas) and it was a mere 15 minutes drive from my house – boom!

BUT, what I had mistakenly forgotten about was that it is still only March, we’re in the UK and Silverstone used to be an airfield – cue bitingly cold wind. I haven’t been that cold since I turned up to watch Brighton play on a July day in shorts when a freak weather front came over and the heaven’s opened! What was a real shame was that I knew a few people would be there, but both Rich and I were so cold we just wanted to ‘get it done’ and get home.

Silverstone is a extremely flat half marathon course and although you are not literally running around multiple laps of the track, it can feel like that. However, if you are looking to get a PB it is a good one, just be mindful of the fact that although it’s flat it is a very exposed and can be quite windy. I was going great guns to start with, despite major bra chafing that appeared at mile 1 (not ideal) and  a very strong head wind. I hit the first 10k at 54 minutes, but by mile 8 I became a bit bored and hit a mental wall. After downing a few jelly babies I had a burst of energy and managed to hit 10 miles at 1:29 (think this may actually be a 10-mile PB). Sadly, I wasn’t able to maintain this pace though and finished in a marginal PB of 1:58:31 – 26 seconds faster than Oxford half back in October last year. What it does prove is that I am actually a lot fitter this season than I thought and it also shows me that Oxford wasn’t a total fluke!

What surprised me the most is what a race can teach you and that is I’m not quite as much of a PB hunter as I thought I was because the PB didn’t make me wild with excitement. What I realised as I ran multiple flat and windy rings around the course was that I am knocking on the door of 35 and I started running properly at 32, I’m also not built to be a runner so I’m unlikely to ever be a fast runner now, but the best I can hope for is maintaining a level of fitness, knocking maybe a handful of minutes off my times, and enjoying myself. Perhaps with my build and strength, and my boredom with road running maybe I should reinvestigate trail running?

What I also realised during the race is that my Adidas Boost trainers are superb and super comfortable!

photo-129

DIVA rating: 3/5 – not my thing, but may well be yours!

rating 3 of 5

The good

– Superbly organised – timers on every mile marker, lots of drinks stations

– Loved the Adidas shop

– Lots of eateries and things to entertain the spectators

– Prestige associated with being at the Silverstone track – great if you’re into F1

– Ideal for a PB

– Best bling ever!!

The bad

– Lack of atmosphere – probably due to poor weather conditions in fairness

– Slightly monotonous course

Big thanks to Adidas for giving me a place on the race!

sian

Gade Valley Harriers’ marathon training runs: Review

First off, I am so bored running round where I live you wouldn’t believe it! It’s flat as a pancake, it’s not pretty (bypass, anyone?) and apart from the fab times when people from my running club have run with me, I’ve been on my own so when I found that Gade Valley Harriers in Hertfordshire (not a million miles from me) organise these special marathon training runs (3 a year to be exact – 12, 17 and 20 miles) I thought it would be ideal for me. Plus it was only £5 (bargain) and cake at the end – win, win!

photo-125

An ex colleague and friend of mine was also going along so we decided to run together (she is a newbie runner also training for the London marathon).

I parked up at Hemel Hempstead station and immediately met up with a few of the runners and walked the short 5-minute walk to the clubhouse where we saw the 17-mile finish sign (scary stuff!). I wasn’t feeling amazing for a 17-mile run – we are having our kitchen done so I couldn’t find any breakfast (made do with some Brevita breakfast biscuits) and I was really late the bed to night before filling, sanding and plastering.

Danni arrived, and we set off on the staggered start. The first 2-3 miles were a hard slog over the muddy tow path, but because we had so much catching up to do (haven’t seen each other for about a year and a half) we hardly noticed the time going by. Quick water stop (yes, they had water stops!) at the top of one of the many hills, photo op and off we set.

photo-126

The route is mostly through villages and forest, which was such a lovely refreshing change for me – not a bypass in sight!

Screen Shot 2014-02-26 at 07.24.35

Up and down a few more hills we went chatting away and then I spotted the 8 mile sign – how had we done 8 miles without me noticing (particularly as between miles 5 and 6 there was an enormous hill!)? Next water stop, jelly baby refuelling (screw gels!) and off we set again.  Danni had run up to 13.1 before so up until that point we were both quite comfortable, then we said to ourselves ‘only 4 miles to go’ – by this point though my arms were cramping (clearly done too much upper body work that week!) and we were both quite quiet. The next goal was to get to the infamous jelly baby stop at mile 14. After that we were told it was all down hill and flat (phew!) which gave us a bit of a boost. We were back on the horrid, energy-sapping tow path though for the last mile where we were joined by two other ladies. We kept each other going with the promise of cake and a cup of tea.

Screen Shot 2014-02-26 at 07.24.59

We finished the very hilly course in 3h 11. I was really proud of Danni as she’s a new runner and not used to hills at all. There was no medal of course, but who cares?

It’s given me a huge amount of confidence now that I can do this marathon – if I can run 17 miles up and down massive hills then flat London is totally doable! Bring it!

DIVA rating: 5/5 – awesome!

rating

– £5 (criminal – they should charge more!)

– Amazing organisation and marshals

– Water stops

– Jelly baby stop

– Cake at the end!!!

– Interesting and undulating course (my favourite)

– Easy to get to by train (Hemel Hempstead) and car (parking at Hemel Hempstead Station)

The next training run is on 23rd March and is 20 miles. If you are at a loss as to who to run with and where to run, I couldn’t recommend this highly enough.

sian

Brighton Half Marathon 2014: Race report

I’ve already written a proper race report for the Brighton half marathon here so this time I thought I’d share with you the highs and lows from last Sunday’s race.

photo-122

Highs

– Lovely bright sunny day

– Little boy at mile 2: “Mummy, some people are sweating already!”

– Seeing a lady up ahead wearing head to toe Sweaty Betty thermals

– Completing it in 2 hours even though nearly died from heat exhaustion

– Seeing a man dressed head to foot in blue lycra and pointing out that he had matching trainers (apparently even men in Brighton don’t colour coordinate)

– Awesome pink bling!

Photo-124

Lows

– Unseasonably hot weather when all my training has been in cold weather

– Dressing like a ninja on a hot day = big sweaty mess

– Not eating breakfast or packing any gels

– Not checking the train times and having to grovel to my dad to give me a lift

– Two spectators commenting that they would run it in under 2 hours – go on then!

– Last minute change of plans meaning missed a meeting with friend

– Looking like I’m standing still in nearly all my race photos

60572_BHM14_JSR_003047

Did you do the Brighton half last week? What did you think?

sian