Last week saw us head a little further afield on the outskirts of Cambridge to the Wimpole Estate for our first National Trust parkrun. The full tourist crew were together again and we even had a friend join us so spirits were high as we all set off on a chilly morning.
The Wimpole Estate, once owned by the daughter of Rudyard Kipling, offers a beautiful setting for a challenging run. Starting not far from the Grade I listed mansion house, the route passes through farmland and is predominantly on grass with some nice undulations along the way. There are plenty of views to keep you occupied and even some HUGE cows and sheep to say hello to. One giant, horned beast in particular decided to get a little too close for my comfort along the way which led to much squealing and arm holding with C as she protected me from the scary looking monster!
One thing I did notice with this parkrun was that there was an added loop for runners with dogs – I thought initially to avoid cattle but that was on part of the course where there was no cattle so not entirely sure what it was for…? If anyone knows the answer then please do let me know in the comments.
About halfway there is a bit of a killer hill – most of the people were walking it by the time I got there (myself included), however it is short and sharp rather than long so I was back to it once we hit the top. There is also a gravel drive towards the end in front of the house which is quite tough on the legs. Not surprisingly, I was slower than last week because of the hills and grass but all things considered, it was a lovely event, with a beautiful scenic route. A lovely course to do in autumn as I’m sure it would also be all year round.
Next week is our home parkrun’s 3rd Birthday so we are staying local but will be back for tourist fun the week after.
I continued in my quest to find my running mojo through parkrun tourism last weekend at Aylesbury. It’s pretty local to me and I’d heard it was a fast course so was feeling pretty good about it. Two of our little tourist crew were away so it was just me and P this week, he’d been training for a marathon the next day so offered to run with me. It was a very cold morning but the sun was shining down on us.
I hate that feeling of holding people back so wasn’t keen on the idea but he stuck with me for most of the first mile until I nagged him to ‘bugger off’ and he went and did his own thing. It was a pretty busy course, about 250 runners and the first section is on quite a narrow path so difficult to get spaced out until a few 100 meters in. The course is a lollipop, something I hadn’t done before so despite a few runner friends commenting that it was a boring one, I actually quite liked it! There were a couple of bridges along the route which broke it up nicely and some wonderful marshals including a young addition who’s made a sign to cheer us on. A very well organised parkrun and great team.
I didn’t pay too much attention to the watch this time and tried my best to run on feel. P had obviously set me off on a reasonably good pace and it all must have come together on the day because it’s the first run I’ve done in a very long time which hasn’t involved a walk break! I ran the whole thing, even had negative splits and ran the fastest 5k I’ve done for AGES – a sub 30!! Was very, very pleased with that!
The rest of my running week hasn’t quite gone as smoothly, a club run on Tuesday night in the 10 min mile group was a big fat fail as my legs felt like lead and I cut it short at 3 miles rather than carrying on for 5. I knew when I left the house I wasn’t feeling up to it so maybe it was psychological or maybe I should just listen to my body more.
Anyway, tomorrow brings another tourist run, something new that will hopefully make it exciting enough to kick that mojo into gear and a one lapper this time with the whole tourist crew and a special guest appearance from G! Hurrah!
Week two of our parkrun tourism continued at Gadebridge parkrun, a two lap course in Hemel Hempstead. The weather forecast was bright and sunny however when the five of us piled into the car, the drizzle wasn’t showing any signs of letting up. It was only around a 30 min journey which worked in our favour when half way there, I realised I’d committed the ultimate parkrun sin and left my barcode at home! A quick detour back to the house to grab it and a traffic free journey back meant that we pulled into the carpark at 8.57, a good job that it was very near to the start line!
In it’s autumn setting, Gadebridge park looked particularly beautiful despite the now pouring rain! The course is two laps, each made up of a lap around two grass areas split by the main road. The trees were full of colour and on a dry day, I’m sure it would be a beautiful place to run. However, for me, it brought back memories of those winter school PE lessons when evil teachers made you run laps of the school field in the pouring rain! I hate running on grass at the best of times so it was not my best run by far. I also learnt a very valuable lesson about hairspray and pouring rain – you will spend the whole time drinking hairspray flavoured rain water, the taste of which was not pleasant!
I’m still struggling with my running comeback and no where near that sub-30 pace I once was. Gadebridge offered a few inclines and slippery wet downhills so wasn’t the fastest course and that combined with the weather ended up a disappointing 34:52.
So my overall thoughts of Gadebridge, a lovely course amongst the trees and wonderful marshals, however I hope to return in better weather soon.
One of the things I love more than anything is travelling. Whether that’s to a remote location on the other side of the world or exploring towns and villages in the UK, I love discovering new places and experiencing all the different things our world has to offer.
So, I’ve decided to channel this love of travelling to see if I can rediscover my mojo! In 2017 I ran London Marathon and had the worst training experience I probably could have had. After a chest condition wrote me off running for almost 3 months, I was staring from scratch when I began training towards the end of January. I’d worked really hard the year before and really improved my running so it was a massive set back for me to be struggling to run 5k’s at anything more than 11 min mile pace. Rightly or wrongly I went on to run the marathon and loved every minute of the day, but the training experience put me off running completely. I continued to coach a beginners running course and did the odd parkrun here and there but I basically stopped running.
In the last year, I’ve had some big changes in my life. I recently took the decision after being unhappy in my job for some time to leave and pursue a new career (I’m still figuring out exactly what that is), I moved in with a boy for the first time, we got our little fur baby and emotionally, it’s been a pretty rough rollercoaster! I know I am happier when I’m exercising and working towards a goal so I’m going to be using parkrun to search out that spark that has been missing!
parkrun tourism isn’t anything new or different, there are lots of people doing it but my mission is to explore this beautiful world, one parkrun at a time. The hope being if I focus on the travel bit then the running will eventually come. An amazing friend of mine who I share the same inner geekness with introduced my to the google chrome running challenges plugin for parkrun which opens up a whole bunch of badges and awards you can work to – anyone who knows me will know this level of OCD excites me big time! I will have to achieve them all!
So first up, I’ll be tackling the tourism badge – 20 different parkruns. To date I have done 6 and the goal is to do 10 new ones by the end of the year, starting with Heartwood Forest which I completed last weekend (there are 12 opportunities to run left). I’ll share my experiences from each one for anyone keen to try out some different ones, this year they will mostly be within an hours drive of where I live but I hope next year to explore a bit more widely!
Fingers crossed this challenge will help me to get back on track and find my running self again!
First up, I’m sorry I’ve been pretty slack these passed few weeks. Training for the half kind of took over for a wee while there and I haven’t been updating on all of the huge events that have happened throughout April. So because I missed it, here is how I finished the month:
Total distance: 83.65 miles
Number of runs: 15
Average distance: 5.6 miles
Furthest distance: 12 miles
April was such a significant month for me, I continued to run further than I’ve ever run before, I had my first experience of the London Marathon (more to come on that), I smashed my target for the year and ran a 10k in 58:19, and I may have booked a little 26.2 mile run in Paris next year! Who knows what I was thinking when I woke up bleary eyed and entered what I thought was a ballot at 7am from my bed, only to receive a confirmation email with my race number. The good news though was that booking a marathon certainly took the pressure of running a half!
I couldn’t possibly wrap up April without talking a bit more about the amazing time I had at the London Marathon. I volunteered along with 20 other club members to marshall at the race so at 6am we headed off on the coach to London town. We were stationed between mile 21/22 and I spent the whole day clapping, cheering and willing people on to the point where my palms tingled for two days after and my voice was almost completely gone by the end of the day. The atmosphere was so great and being able to give that little boost to someone who’d momentarily given up by cheering their name and getting them running again was hugely rewarding! It was a long day but if you ever get the chance to take part in the organisation of the event then do! We even got a marshall’s medal too! (Oh and I may have entered the 2016 ballot….)
Moving on, after 12 weeks of training, lots of great runs, painful runs and runs that ended in tears, the big day finally came, 4th May, bank holiday, the day I would run the Milton Keynes Half Marathon. (*gulp*)
I’d already had my race pack through the post but I arrived nice and early just to make sure I could get settled in plenty of time before the race start. The marathon ended inside MK Dons football stadium so spectators were able to watch from there. A few of my family had come down to see me on the day so all in all I was pretty relaxed and ready to get going. It was a pretty big event, certainly in the thousands of runners and was extremely well organised. I think the size of the task in hand finally hit me when I queued up at the start line and realised this was what I had been working so hard for, for the last three months. I had studied the course quite a bit before hand so knew that the first 5 miles were a slight incline so took the strategy of holding back a bit for the first few miles in the hope I’d then make up plenty of time on the downhills. About a mile into the race I found one of my fellow club members who was also running her first half and was so thankful to see her face! We stuck together for pretty much the whole distance after that and without her I’m not sure I would have done it! We kept a pretty steady pace throughout but by mile 10, my legs had had it. The last three miles were stop start and the hardest three miles I have ever run. Some how I made it through and even managed a little sprint round the stadium after hearing the cheers of my friends and family.
I did it. I ran a half marathon!
The people who came down to support me on the day were amazing and their cheers definitely made the whole experience a little more enjoyable so I honestly can’t thank them enough! I can’t say I’m in a rush to run a half again but I better soon get over that as the next one is in September!
Coming up this month I’ll be torturing myself at the Dunstable Downs 10k (think hills, big hills) and the BUPA London 10k – one I’m really excited about!
It’s been a big couple of weeks in my training plan as I’ve now hit the big weekend runs that are further than I’ve ever run before. I’m always looking to push myself out of my comfort zone and I definitely did that!
I don’t think I was quite prepared for the jump to double digit mileage – it seemed like a gradual step up but it was certainly challenging. I’d run a 10.5 mile before but when I say run, it was with some of my fellow club ladies and the dogs and there was lots of chatter and a few stops along the way (I think we averaged about 15min miles) so didn’t really count that as a proper run. One of my running buddies, who is significantly more experienced than me and a regular half marathoner, volunteered to keep me company and we set off for a 10 mile out and back along the canal. We’d planned that route as it is pretty flat but one thing we couldn’t plan for was the weather. We battled gale force winds and rain and it made it a whole lot harder than it needed to be. Dan kept me going though despite my swearing (sorry mum) and complaining all the way round. It was all going as well as could be expected until about 8 miles in when my body just refused to run anymore – it was my first experience of hitting a wall. I think the extreme weather got the better of me and even though we’d only run 8 miles I think the effort against wind equated to running a lot more than that! After a little walk, I managed to carry on for the last two miles and finished the 10 in a reasonably respectable 1hr 49mins.
So this weekend, I was thinking, it couldn’t be any worse for my 12 mile run right? I’d arranged to meet a fellow club runner who was unfortunately unwell so I was actually really nervous about heading out for my longest ever run on my lonesome and to top it off, the sun decided to come out and make it the hottest day of the year so far. Last summer, I really struggled with the heat having just come back from injury and being very new to running so I was interested to see how I’d cope with the 20 degree heat. Instead of an out and back, I planned a loop around the town so I wasn’t too far from home just in case (!) and I also took along a gel that a fellow club member had very kindly given me to try.
The first 6 miles was great, I really enjoyed the run and the weather didn’t seem to be bothering me too much. I had broken the run down into four sections and at 6.5 I had completed the first two. I decided to try the gel at this point as I’d been running about an hour. The ones I used were the SiS GO Isotonic Gels – they are pretty thick and gloopy but being the first one I’d tried, I imagine they are probably all like that. I have heard that quite often, runners find that gels upset their stomach quite a lot so I was a bit hesitant but all was good. After completing section 3, I was left with the final 2 miles. Two miles – that’s easy, I could do that, couldn’t I?
They were a very hard two miles but I did it! I finished the 12 miles in 2hr 9mins, injury free and feeling pretty proud of myself! I was surprised by the time as I’d had a couple of little walks but averaged 10:48 pace and it’s left me feeling optimistic for the big day in just under 4 weeks time.
March has been a pretty great month training wise. I’m feeling really strong and love that each time I’m seeing little improvements. The big achievement in March was that I hit my first 100 mile month! Here’s how the rest of the stats stacked up:
Total distance: 100.38 miles
Number of runs: 19
Average distance: 5.3 miles
Furthest distance: 10 miles
Coming up this month, I’ll be running in the Chick’s Chase 10k this week and Flitwick 10k in a couple of weeks time. I’ve booked lots of races so am pretty sure I will easily smash my 12 race target for the year.
This week has been one of reflection. A year ago today I completed my first ever event, the Sports Relief 5k and graduated from the couch to 5k programme run by my local club, the Leighton Fun Runners. Tonight, I ran alongside the latest group of couch to 5kers, supporting them as they themselves tackled their first ever full 5k. It got me thinking how much I’ve changed since I completed it back then.
I never set out to be a ‘runner’. I was at a time in my life of change and trying new things and also wanted to get a bit fitter. I joined the couch to 5K programme after hearing about it from an old school friend via social media and thought it would be a great way to get a bit fitter and maybe meet some new people. From the start, I never found it easy. I always approached each weeks task with a ‘I’m never going to be able to do this’ attitude which whilst I always ended up surprising myself, often made it a lot harder than it needed to be. I managed to reach the end of the programme and even signed up for membership of the club, still not really thinking of myself as a runner, but someone who was giving it a go occasionally. Shortly after I suffered an ankle injury which meant I completely stopped running and lost all confidence in my bodies ability to do it.
It took me three months to gain the confidence to go back to club and I’m so glad I did. Last week I ran 5 consecutive miles under 10 mins and this weekend I completed a 10k race in my home town in 1:00:47, not quite a PB but given the ‘undulating’ nature of the course was an amazing achievement for me. The point is, my mind set has changed completely. I’m now craving challenges and I am constantly pushing myself to achieve more. The last 6 months of running have seen me almost starting from scratch to training for a half marathon and setting myself new targets and goals every week. I don’t think I’ve ever been this motivated about anything before!