The Big Half race recap

I signed up for this race around the middle of 2017 and had been looking forward to it for some time. Due to the weather conditions we weren’t actually told it was going ahead until 1:58pm the day before. I really hoped it wasn’t cancelled as I would have still had to do a long run on my own but when I discovered it would involve 2-3 hrs of travelling given engineering works I felt conflicted. Unfortunately, the idea of tearing myself out of bed is I’m sure what lead to a disrupted nights sleep / my concern my alarm wouldn’t go off. 6:45 am on Sunday I was still debating the idea of rolling over and staying all cosy in bed.

Needless to say I ended up dashing round like a mad woman, despite having laid everything out the night before and ran out of time to have breakfast. It wasn’t a good start. I grabbed a Cliff Bar at London Bridge station and shoved it in my face as I made my way to the start line.

Baggage drop went smoothly on the south side of Tower Bridge and I then crossed the bridge and made it to my starting pen, on the north side of the river. I brought a very old jumper to keep me warm at the start which I was very grateful for. For some reason at 8:58 they announced 2 minutes to the gun and told everyone to take their layers off, it was at least another 15 minutes until my wave actually got started, I’ll know for next time to Ignore them until I actually see the start line.

I had said that I was going to use this as a training run, run at my intended marathon pace – 11.24 and practise my fuelling and hydration strategy. I had a plan and I didn’t stick to it.

I got swept up in the excitement of the start and my first mile was 9:47. I saw Mo Farah whizzing past on the other side of the road as he approached the 5 mile mark and got a real buzz. Then we entered what I can only describe as the tunnel of doom. It was dark and stuffy and went on forever. I was sweating and struggling to breathe properly. It wasn’t at all pleasant. I kept reminding myself that it was good mental training for the tunnels on the Paris marathon course…..

Round Canary Wharf, my least favourite part of the London marathon course, but I was just grateful to be out of that tunnel! We then headed back on ourselves along what I can only describe as a hazardous selection of cobbled streets. My feet must have been gripping the bottoms of my trainers for some stability at this point because I came away with a sore inner foot.

It was a relief when the Shard came into sight and crossing Tower Bridge was one of the best bits of the course, unfortunately I couldn’t stop comparing the race to the actual marathon and that rather put a dampener on things. But what did I expect, it was the first time this race had been organised and very little can compare to the buzz of London marathon.

Tower Bridge behind us we heading into Rotherhithe and more cobbled streets…. an unwelcome return. I just kept telling myself, run to Greenwich and you are done. I thought about markers along the way to break it down, knowing where certain people are going to be cheering was a great one, I got a huge boost from two of the best cheerleaders you could want at a race, Laura Murray and the LDN Brunch Club around mile 9 and then Becca about a mile later.

I hit 10 miles and thought it’s just a 5km to go. In truth things were starting to hurt by this point and I felt frustrated that this felt a lot harder than the previous week’s 16 miles. I bumped into the super star Carly who I managed to keep up with for about half a mile. She has two young children and is absolutely smashing her marathon training for Paris. When we first met in 2016 she was chasing down her pre baby fitness and is now smashing her PBs with every race! It was another real boost to run alongside some one very inspirational.

Those three miles seemed to go on forever. I just wanted to be done. I had toyed with the idea of carrying on for another five miles after the finish to make it a 18 mile training run but I just didn’t have it in me. Sometimes a finish line can signal feelings of euphoria and pride. All I thought was, thank f**k that’s over I want to go home. Managed a smile for the post race pic!

I wasn’t pleased about how far it seemed like we had to walk to get our baggage or getting trapped in a one way system that forced you to go into the ‘festival’ in the park before you could exit and go to public transport. It probably wasn’t any worse than usual but I was just grumpy and wanted to back home already. 2hrs on a rail replacement bus was not what I needed. It was greatly appreciated that we were given foils blankets to do the walk in though.

I didn’t particularly enjoy the course, it felt like all the worse bits of London Marathon with a horrid tunnel thrown in. Again this is largely down to the direct comparisons I was drawing. I’ve heard mixed reviews from other runners.

In terms of hydration and fuelling however I think I came pretty close to spot on. The hydration vest, which I was going to include a review of in this post, was so great it deserves a post of its own, which I will do early next week. For fuel I used Berry flavoured Shot Bloks, I had my first at Mile 3, then took one every two miles until Mile 10, when I started shovelling and nearly choking on Haribo Tangytastics!

Am I ready to run a marathon in four weeks (and then again in six?) I’m not too sure. Will I finish both Paris and London regardless, and do my best to enjoy them, absolutely.

Up next Surrey Half marathon on Sunday 11 March. Hoping to knock eight minutes off my time from this race and finish in under 2hrs 30.

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Paris Marathon Training – Weeks 3 & 4

Major life changes have been happening in the last seven days! We bought and moved into our first home, so I’m now a home owner (it was a life goal before turning thirty) and I moved jobs. Both of which I’m very excited about and are progressing my life in the right direction, but are equally exhausting to do at the same time.

So Week 4 of marathon training can best be described as, not a sausage. Other than the packing, lifting, more lifting and unpacking of lots of boxes and furniture, I didn’t run or go to the gym the entire week. Honestly, I didn’t even have the headspace to panic about this, what with everything else I had to co-ordinate and think about. I had planned to get a run in over the weekend but I also managed to roll my ankle on the stairs on Thursday evening so was nursing a minor sprain with some almighty bruising and I was just plain tired.

Week 3 had however been a relatively strong week. Three runs, a gym session and a snow walk in the bag!

On Monday and Wednesday I had two very different run commutes. One was extremely strong, with an average pace of 9:42 pace over 3.23 miles. I felt ridiculously good on the run and it was like a culmination of all the training since October. The second was distinctly average at best, my legs felt like lead and my watch died. It felt a lot slower. Saturday’s long run was 7 miles which took me 1hr 20 mins at 11:26 average pace. Distinctly slower. So it took me 11 minutes to run 0.6 miles further than the week before. Luckily with all the packing I had to do it didn’t give me time to dwell too much. If anything Week 3 reinforced for me that not every run or week in marathon training are you going to see improvement. It’s about being able to process that and not mentally let it hold you back moving into the following week. So Week 5 is underway. One run down. First week in a new job, I’m likely to be tired and need to prioritise rest to be able to take on all new information. Equally I haven’t currently rearranged my gym membership to a branch closer to the new flat and so the gym sessions are mostly likely to be postponed this week. Very glad I decided to opt for a twenty week training plan to allow for weeks where it’s not possible to stick to the plan! I am also really excited for everyone doing 18/16 week programmes to start their marathon training, I love the community spirit and marathon hype!

Paris Marathon training – Week 2

‘Baby it’s cold outside’ – wow the temperatures have really dropped over the past week making for three very chilly runs. On Saturday’s long run I finally nailed the layering combo, for now at least, until it decides to get even colder!

My short runs this week involved two partial run commutes, I forgot how hellish it can be to battle the crowds of central London. I was forced off the pavement at one point when a group of people decided it was acceptable to walk four abreast towards me on a pavement. Don’t even get me started on people walking eye down glued to their phones. Other people will look at you from a distance and it’s like a game of chicken as to who is going to dodge. I fully accept I’m the one going above walking speed and will weave in and out as much as necessary but come on, could we just co-exist nicely, festive goodwill and all…. share the damn pavement!

So Monday the calves were cripplingly tight. For all the stretching etc I was rather frustrated. On Wednesdays run, for the first mile I was trying to pin point when the tightness had started. Had a bit of a light bulb moment, it was when I started wearing my extra firm compression socks to run in, they did wonders for my shins. Stopped the watch, sat at a bus stop with some bemused onlookers, whilst I yanked my socks down from under my running tights, with some difficulty! For the next two and a half miles my legs felt glorious. Problem sorted. Except then my shins weren’t as happy….. are compression gaiters are thing?

Saturday I had 6 miles on the plan. I planned and out and back route from home, but by the time I ran 0.2 miles in the wrong direction, I decided to see where I was in terms of a 10k time and went for 6.4 miles. My last time for a 10k, that I remember, was 1 hour 14 minutes. So I was pretty happy Saturday’s run was done in 1:09:14 and I wasn’t going at maximum effort for the entire run. This run left me feeling really strong and positive.

With 9 weeks until the London Winter Run 10km on 4 February, I’m aiming to shave ten minutes off and come in just under an hour. If you fancy joining me for a sub 60 minute attempt please let me know. This is definitely the sort of race best shared with others. You might want to think about signing up by 6th December as afterwards the entry fee increases. Little disclaimer, I’ve kindly been given a free bib for the race, in exchange for spreading the love, but I enjoyed it so much last year I would totally have paid the entry fee.

Other than my three runs, I got my two rest days, spent packing up our flat for moving next week and one out of two cross training sessions done. Tuesday evening 8:30pm I found my train coming from central London, terminating at my train station and 16 minutes until the next train to get to the gym…. I’d been up since 6:45am and wanted to be home and having eaten dinner before 10:30pm. Sometimes these things happen. I’m working on not feeling overly guilty if I miss one session.

Heading into Week 3 excited to work on the progress I’ve seen over the last few weeks.

Pokemon Go

I’ve never been one for electronic games, other than a little Candy Crush to kill time when there isn’t any signal and I’ve not got a book to hand. I did however feel somewhat nostalgic when I heard Pokemon was going to be available as a phone app. I had no plans to download it, I wasn’t ten years old again.

Then the hype began….. and I thought that perhaps it would be interesting to see what all the fuss was about and as research for a blog post to consider whether the game really could help make people more active as it claimed. 

With the app installed I wandered to Crystal Palace Park, somewhere I assumed lots of Pokemon would enjoy lurking. I was genuinely astounded about the number of young people in groups, hurrying between spots, frantically tapping at their phones before dashing to the next spot; there was a genuine buzz amongst groups of teenagers who I never seen do anything but lie on the grass looking un-phased by the world. 

  
 Next were groups of grown men. I do not mean to be offensive but I was genuinely pleased to see people who, granted I’m making assumptions,  were overweight and looked like they would normally spent a Saturday in the pub together. Instead they were doing laps of the park. 

Now I’m not a parent, so maybe I’ve judged too soon but I absolutely detest allowing children to be glued to various devices playing electronic games; as opposed to parents taking them to the park or swimming. So I’ve been pleased to see parents walking around the parks with their children, even if they are both staring at their phones, they are interacting and getting some fresh air. 

So thats three demographics that I’ve seen Pokemon has got out and about. Crucial to this is that you have to walk about to play the game. But what about people who are active on a daily basis?

I definitely don’t need a game to get me out and about. That said, on the way to work in the morning I’ve found myself leaving ten minutes earlier to walk the long way to the station and going out of my way up and down streets to visit “Poke Stops”.  I did notice a marginal increase on my daily steps but the count is hardly low to start with.

  
On Monday morning I went through the ordeal of a molar tooth extraction. Beforehand the dentist said no exercise for Monday/Tuesday and then only light exercise for the rest of the week. I told the dentist that I was training for a marathon but would stick to a  jog no speed work. He raised an eyebrow. Apparently jogging is not considered light exercise. But I had Pokemon go and surely walking was light exercise. Needless to say I’m now Level 9 and have nearly 100 Pokemon. I seriously need to delete the app, I’d rather just go for a stroll and take in the natural scenery. 

Today a senior colleague wanted to get ahead of his girlfriend by the time he got home and asked if I wanted to go for a quick Pokemon hunting walk at lunchtime; we usually don’t leave our desks unless it’s the 7 mins it takes me to make it to Tesco Express and back. Mid-walk I had a moment of clarity, I was a little addicted and I wasn’t the only one who had caught the bug. 

  
That said, I am extremely disturbed by the stories I’ve heard of people falling off cliffs, getting stuck in Mines, lurking on people’s front gardens and disrespecting venues such as the holocaust memorial. The warning as the game loads clearly states – “Remember to be alert at all times. Stay aware of your surroundings”. It’s a bit of fun and it’s great if it gets people outside walking but unfortunately there will always be people who take it to the extreme in the quest to “Catch them all”.