Category Archives: marathon

Returning to Rock’n’Roll round Liverpool

Clockwise from left: Crowds arriving for the start; celebrating the big medal with an even bigger cocktail; my collection of Rock’n’Roll Liverpool finisher t-shirts

It’s been a while (nearly two years!), I know, and what, why and where I’ve been up to is for another time… I wanted to restart my blog with a post about the fabulous Liverpool half marathon that I took part in on Sunday 28 May 2017.

I ran the marathon at this event in 2014 (still my PB for this distance) and again in 2015, so I was looking forward to being back after missing out last year, although I was doing the half this time. The night before I stayed on Hope Street, which meant I had a great view of the city as I set out and a nice gentle downward amble to the start.

I could feel the old familiar sensations of excitement growing as I got closer to the Echo Arena and the crowds began to swell. The queue for the bag drop looked enormous, as was to be expected, but everyone was in a good mood and I had a lovely chat with a fellow runner (checked up on her later and looks like she got a PB, hurray!).

After a smooth bag drop and a trip (or two…) to the loo – one definite bonus of Liverpool is that you get to use proper flushing toilets and wash your hands with hot water and soap, no portaloo and hand sanitiser here – I headed to the starting corral where  the atmosphere was positive and buoyant. A moment of silence to remember all those affected by the atrocity in Manchester was perfectly and respectfully observed, as was the applause that followed. Knowing that the city was also holding a half marathon and 10k run seemed to make the connection stronger.

And then we were off. The starting waves work really well here and you are running in space from your very first step, no zig zagging around other runners required which means a fast, relaxing start to the race.

One of the things I loved about the marathon was how green it made the city look and the fabulous views across the city. Doing the half, the views weren’t quite as spectacular – but the upside of course meant there were fewer hills to climb – and less park as the distance was less, but the parks we did run through looked fantastic.

If I’m honest, I didn’t really pay much attention to the music, I never run with music and find it irritating in the gym when I’m forced to listen to whatever they’re playing. The only bit that stands out for me is The Beatles’ Penny Lane blasting out as we dipped in and very quickly out of the eponymous road. I still can’t decide whether or not that’s really cheesy, but it’s over so quickly, and it did make me smile.

Most of the final few miles are along the seafront at Otterspool, which I have mixed feelings about. I love the view of the river Mersey, but then the bits of cobbled path are cruel on tired feet and we weave around a sort of industrial looking area briefly, which isn’t great. But then, finally, you’re back for the last few hundred metres along the seafront, and suddenly, there’s a big crowd and the noise hits you.

Suddenly, you’ve crossed the finish line and received one of the biggest bits of race bling! I do like the Liverpool medals.

It was great to be back in a crowd, running a race again, and I’m really hoping I can keep on track for the next one. I’ll be back with a bit about the last couple of years soon, and then it won’t so long till the next one.

My mini 10k series

Over the past four weeks I have run three, really quite different, 10k races, and when I say races, I mean runs or more realistically, events. Running is so popular and so mainstream now (and that isn’t a criticism, just an observation) that the opportunity to race and achieve a PB at any big event seems to be limited.

As a sport science student and someone who cares passionately that people should participate in sport I am buoyed by the number of people who take part in these events. Unfortunately, I’m also quite competitive and when I enter, I would like to achieve the best that I can. I have learnt a lesson this summer about what I should realistically think I can achieve.

The first of my three was the Nike Women’s 10k in Victoria Park, London. I love that park, I run through, round and just in it a lot. The waves worked fairly well and when we were catching people on the second lap, runners did move to the side as the race rules suggested and the marshals reminded people. The worst bit was seeing a woman nearly fall as she tried to overtake someone right at the start. It was a heart in mouth moment as she went almost down, but recovered in time to save herself. With so many people crammed together at that point it could have been messy, my adrenaline levels were peaking!

Overall, it was really well organised – apart from the ridiculous warm up at the beginning and the notable shortage of toilets, we’re all girls, more cubicles please! – and a very positive atmosphere. I think I’d do it again, if runners continue to respect the letting people pass guidance and especially if they move it back to the night. Oh, and one of my favourite ever race T-shirts! It is so light and comfortable to wear, hmmm, is that because they want to encourage you to shop at Nike? (It worked, but it’s between me and my credit card!)

Next up was the British 10k, a loopy, u-turny route through central London. I did this event last year, so should have been slightly more realistic and not considered it a PB event. You start in waves, but it’s all mixed up, so if you get to the front of your wave, you get to run at your chosen pace and in space for about two minutes. Then you catch up the back runners from the wave before, then it’s a constant, catch up thing. There’s a lot of weaving in and out. I know that I could have avoided a lot of this if I’d got to the start line really early, but I’m in this awful habit of going to the loo at the the last possible minute! So I accept that it’s my fault that I’m not closer to the start. I enjoyed the route, but didn’t really enjoy waiting for my bag for almost as long as it took me to run! This run is on the top end of expense for what it is so I might not do it again, if I did I’d definitely try to think more about where I am and what is around me and not think about time.

The last of the three was the Newham 10k, billed as #BackToTheStadium as you ran the final 300m on the Olympic track inside the Olympic Park. Having watched that Super Saturday with Mo, Jess, Greg and everyone, the chance to run on that track and experience the Stadium was one not to miss.

It was really hot, there were slightly more inclines than I’d remembered, but it was amazing. There was surprisingly little crowd support along the route but it was fantastic. We started in waves according to our predicted times and it was one lap so the PB potential was high too. It was so exciting to enter the Olympic Stadium, but slightly confusing to discover we had to run round the bowels of the place before finally emerging onto the track. At that point, everything was forgotten.

It was the most amazing feeling to run on that Holy Grail of running tracks. Crossing the finish line was such an incredible high. Follow that up by seeing my family in the crowd and a real roar as you entered the stadium it is definitely on my do again list for next year – I think you can sign up now, must do it today….

Liverpool Rocked (‘n’ Rolled)

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On Saturday I wrote about my fears as I prepared to run the Rock ’n’ Roll Liverpool Marathon, after coming back from an injury a few months ago. I started running, in 30 second bursts, on February 28th, building up to 10k by the end of March. (I’d already been working on building my fitness by cycling and swimming.) Once I’d hit that distance I was fairly sure I could be marathon ready by the time Liverpool came around, and it pretty much worked.

I’d been lucky enough to stay in a hotel right next to the Echo Arena, which was home to the baggage drop, toilets and next to the start line. I set off just after nine and dropped my bag then headed to the toilets – the men’s had a queue outside, the women’s didn’t! Maybe it’s me getting older, but this is a great plus of the Liverpool Marathon, you don’t need to queue, you get to use proper flushing toilets and then wash your hands with soap in hot running water afterwards!

I made my way to the back of the 3:30 corral and began to feel quite emotional, a bit teary even. Then, the countdown began and the first wave went off. Just a couple of minutes later and it was our turn. I like the staggered start here, it means you have space to run from the very beginning and can quickly settle into your pace, without dodging other runners.

The first couple of miles were mostly spent pulling my running shorts up as the weight of the gels in the back pocket was pulling them down. I did consider chucking them, but after a bit my sweat seemed to act as a glue to hold them up!

I tried not to look at my Garmin too much and got on with enjoying the race. There are some great views across the city to be had on the way round and I enjoyed revisiting some familiar places, although I couldn’t help myself going past Goodison Park and booed (in my head) the giant posters of the Everton players hanging up outside.

After covering about 10 miles on the north side of the city, we headed back down to the seafront and out to the south side. It was around the 10 mile mark that I saw my family. It never ceases to surprise me just how much of a lift seeing your supporters is. It definitely put an extra spring in my step.

There are a few decent climbs on the route, but it is mostly flat, especially when you hit the last four miles along the promenade. At that point I was willing the clouds to keep hiding the sun as while it’s great to be running alongside the Mersey, there is no shade and in the heat it can be brutal.

You turn off the promenade briefly just before you hit mile 26, then turn a corner and the finish line is ahead of you. At this point, I was so happy that I’d done it, I kicked on and sped towards the finish line, ending with a big smile on my face. I looked up to see my family just after the line and went over to celebrate with them. My time was 3:31:05, which I was happy with!

I’ve really enjoyed the Liverpool Marathon both times I’ve done it, the live music, the course, the incredibly heavy medal and the T-shirt. It’s well organised and well supported. Thank you to everyone who helped, shouted my name and high fived on the way round. I’ll definitely be back for another encore next year (in fact I’ve already booked).

Terrified or terribly excited?

It’s the Liverpool Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon tomorrow and I’m heading towards it with a massive mixed bag of emotions. I ran it last year and loved it, at the peak of my running so far, achieving a PB of 3:22:39, which I was absolutely thrilled with and hugely proud of. Training continued to go well, I completed a duathlon in September then the Royal Parks Half marathon on October 12th, just seconds outside my half marathon PB.

Five days later on the 17th October, I slipped on the stairs at home, running down to get the Parmesan cheese to grate over our pasta for tea, and broke some bones in my foot, a grand total of five breaks.

I should be happy that I’m back to running a marathon at all, and don’t get me wrong, a big part of me is, but I’ve lost a lot of my speed, am carrying more weight as a consequence of not doing any training for months, which also impacts my speed. I’ve trained hard for this marathon, but have consciously focused on stamina and distance rather than speed, which is fine, but now that it’s here, I’m sad. There’s no chance of going for a PB, and I don’t want to just plod round the course.

So I go into tomorrow, excited to be running a marathon again, but knowing where I was last year, it feels like a shadow of that and that makes me sad. It’s a mix of being made up to be back and salt in the wound saying ‘this is where you were and you’re no where near back’.

I have a good idea of how I’ll run tomorrow, race plan, time and everything, as I’ve done the training and know what I should be able to achieve, and of course I’m grateful that I can run at all and to be running a marathon is fantastic, but of course I had planned it so differently. I’d hoped to improve on last year, pushing towards the next goal of sub 3-15, the rational bit of me knows that whatever I achieve tomorrow should be celebrated, but my emotions are all over the place. Part of me doesn’t want to run at all, rather than run slowly and be underwhelmed by my time.

I don’t know how I’m going to feel when I stand on the start line, I had been trying to look forward to it, but I think I was hiding the sadness. Right now, I’m fairly sure I’m going to cry, at the start, on the way round and at the finish, which is not a great look. That’s one marathon photo I definitely won’t be buying.

As to my #juneathon activity today, I’m resting ahead of tomorrow, so I’m counting my morning yoga routine, 3 minute plank and traipsing round the school summer fair. I will write a race report, no matter how it goes.

Taper nearly done

So we’re on day 11 and I’ve skipped a few blogs but I’ve been tweeting so that counts right? Finally, after months wondering whether I was going to make it, the Liverpool Marathon is only a couple of taper days away and I’m a mad mix of terrified and excited.

Today’s taper run was really enjoyable, I left about 7.30am so it was late enough to feel happy along the canals and early enough for it still to be reasonably quiet and nowhere near too hot. In fact I had a really enjoyable 10k run and felt really positive when I got back.

I’d normally top that off with half an hour on the bike, but wary of Sunday’s race – and short of time – cut it back to just 10 minutes, followed by a good amount of stretching. Might get the foam roller out tomorrow too.

I’m going to really try to keep up the blogging over the next couple of days and definitely aim to get the big one done – a race report from the marathon – haven’t done one of those for ages.

Can’t believe we’re nearly half way through already, I need to up my game!

#Janathon so far so, well, mixed

Ok, so January 1 and 2 were a bit of a write off exercise wise. In 2014 I’d got off to a great start with a New Year’s Day 10 mile run including parkrun, but not to be in 2015.

If you count dancing until 4am, I did a bit of exercise on 1st, then just a two mile walk on the 2nd, I neither blogged nor tweeted about either. Sorry.

On the 3rd I managed a tweet about my 15 minutes on the bike and a bit of yoga. Still this was progress.

Today, day four, was a bit more like it. After some early morning core strength / yoga work, I hopped on the exercise bike and pushed the time up to 20 minutes, right leg was really feeling it, but this is why I’m doing it. The sooner I can build up strength in that leg, the sooner, hopefully, I’ll be back running again. My short-term goal is to be back on an ordinary bike by next weekend.

Feeling inspired and raring to go, I headed off to the pool for half hour swim.

I finally feel like my #Janathon has kicked in and I really hope to keep it up, even though there’ll be no running at all involved (recovering from a broken foot) which seems a bit odd, as the rules say, you don’t have to run everyday, but slacking is not an option!

Ending the year as I mean to start the next

Oh dear, oh dear. I’ve been a bad blogger this year. I can’t believe I haven’t written anything since May 20th, which means I didn’t share my two most exciting running things this year. I smashed my marathon PB in Liverpool on May 25 finishing in 3 hr 22 mins 39 secs, the seventh woman to finish. I was made up when this got me my second highlight, a good for age place in the 2015 London marathon.

This was also the year of yoga! I’d started doing a bit towards the end of 2013, then it all took off in a big way in 2014 when I discovered Hot Bikram Yoga! I’ve been doing a couple of classes a week and my regular Iyengar class too. Along with swimming, I think this definitely helped with my core strength and kept me injury free for (most of) the season. Hmm, more of that later.

Sport was becoming an ever bigger part of my life, I added badminton too, and reminded myself how competitive I could be. Running was still my first love.

After the high of Liverpool there were a couple of other great races to look forward to; the inaugural Hackney Half in June – my first half marathon – and my second half in October, the Royal Parks Half. I got another first in September with the London Duathlon. I’d done a triathlon back in 2003, but no cycling races since so this was a great new thing for me. I learnt that I’ve got a lot of work to do on the bike, but was pretty happy with both lots of running! I’ve signed up for next year, and another cycling event too.

Over the years, my interest in my sport, and sport in general, has increased, so as a step towards working in the area, I decided to apply for a degree in sport and exercise science, which I started in October, I’ve really enjoyed getting technical about sport, getting a deeper understanding about how the body uses energy, for example, has been fascinating, and pretty useful too.

This was all going really well, running or cycling to and from University, fitting in all other bits and pieces of exercise around study, when, running downstairs to get the parmesan cheese to go with tea (I know, ridiculous), I slipped on the stairs and bang, or rather, snap. I broke some bones in my foot. I knew straight away as I’d done the same thing, on the same step (different foot though) four years before.

After only two weeks of the course, there I was in a full non-weight bearing cast, hobbling about on crutches. Not even a sporting injury. After six weeks in that and another four weeks in one of those moon boots, I’m finally in proper shoes, walking unaided, but still a good couple of months away from running.

Not being able to run has been hard, but not being able to do anything has been horrible! I’m allowed on the exercise bike now and can head back to the pool too. The advice at the moment is running in March, I daren’t say how many races I’ve booked in for next year with my optimistic head on. Then I look down at my withered muscle and think how will I ever get back? But I will, it will take time, but I will get back and beat that marathon PB, and then some.

At least I’ll have missed the cold winter training and get going again in spring for my comeback in the Hackney Half in May.

And I promise to be a better blogger too.

Happy New Year everyone!

Missing training and the importance of a good plan

I’m not very good at having rest days, I get twitchy and start to feel guilty or that I’m missing out, especially if it’s a sunny, slightly cool, not too windy day – my perfect running conditions.

To fit in with family, I usually have my rest day on a Sunday, so we can do stuff and they’re not waiting for me to do my run / come back / stretch / shower / plug in my Garmin to check my stats / tweet about the run etc etc… which make an “Oh, don’t worry, I’ll just do a quick 10k,” into more like a couple of hours.

I try to make sure I get to parkrun on a Saturday, I’m back and ready for the rest of the weekend, sometimes even with a new PB to give me an extra lift for the weekend.

Every now and then, I have to miss a session on a Saturday, then I insist on going out on Sunday, but run early and try to reign in the other bits. I think it’s better for the family in the end than being niggly, and a bit grumpy all day.

When other things scupper my training plans, like waiting in for a delivery or having to attend a doctor’s appointment, I have to compensate by getting up extra early or squeezing another or doing a double session the next day.

Keeping a proper training diary with notes has really helped balance things for me. If something does come up I am more comfortable about changing things around as I have a much clearer picture of what needs to be done and what can be switched around easily.

This is the first year I’ve made detailed training plans, making sure that I fit all the training elements in and given me confidence if I need to move things around.

Keeping my mojo for marathon two

“Get out and do a recovery run on the day after marathon, about 20 minutes, don’t worry about pace.” That was the advice I was given to set me on my way to marathon number two, the Liverpool Run Rock’n’Roll, seven weeks after the Brighton Marathon.

Given that walking down the stairs was little, er, tricky, I wasn’t sure how this would go. Still, I stuck my running shoes back on and headed out into the rain which had finally arrived.

Once I got going, everything felt fine, I chose an easy, flat out and back and a comfortable pace. Whether this helped my legs to recover or not, I couldn’t honestly say, but it definitely helped my head get into the right place.

It was the school holidays and it would have been really easy to have taken a couple of weeks off, using “I’ve just run a marathon”, as an excuse, but getting straight back out there kept my rhythm going. I made sure I got up for some early morning runs, and even though my longest run was only 10 miles and I’d done no swimming or yoga, I felt like I’d my fitness and energy levels up and my legs strong, ready for the last five weeks of full training when the kids went back to school.

First thing I did on that Tuesday was fill out my training plan for the five weeks to race day. I’d been holding off to see how the legs felt. Putting it all down on paper made it all seem doable – and real.

Friday was my last long run, a cheeky little 24 miler, and I’m now back into tapering again before the race on the 25th.

This time last year, if you’d told me I’d run a marathon in 3 hrs 30, then plan for another seven weeks later, I’d have thought you were talking about someone else. Well, I did and I am. I’ve no real target for this one, just planning to enjoy the music, atmosphere and a nostalgic trip around my home city. Oh, and picking up another nice bit of bling at the end.

Is it really four weeks since Brighton?

Does this still count as a race report nearly four weeks later? I think I was in shock after not only getting inside the time I had hoped for, but by a satisfying 20 minutes, that it didn’t seem quite real and writing about it felt weird.

Anyway, I’m over it now, I’ve checked, double and triple checked the results page and it’s definitely true. I finished the Brighton Marathon in 3 hours 30 minutes and 27 seconds which is well inside the London Marathon good for age qualifying time of 3hrs 50. Yippeee!!

To be honest, it couldn’t have gone any better. It was as though all the running gods had got together and decided that it was going to be the perfect day for racing.

All week we’d been promised rain, cold, and strong winds, but I woke up Sunday morning to see that the rain had been removed from the forecast, the temperature was up and the wind was down.

I joined the throng of people walking up to Preston Park for the start of the race, the atmosphere was buzzing, there were lots of marathon stories being swapped and last minute advice being offered. This continued during the traditional half hour wait in the queue to the toilet.

Still, it meant that I got to listen to an interview with Paula Radcliffe, who was there to start the race. It was interesting to hear her coping strategies for the distance, like counting to a 100 three times to pass a mile. I’ve been known to do something similar with times tables.

With 10 minutes to go, I headed down to the starting pens and joined my fellow reds, my Garmin successfully located the satellites, just needed to get going now.

The loop round Preston Park, with its bottle necks, means that you can’t go out to quickly, so avoid that early mistake that can mess up your race.

I settled into a comfortable pace and had to keep telling myself to slow down, I didn’t want to burn out.

I searched around in the crowd about mile three as the family were going to try to get there, didn’t see them, but I hadn’t been hopeful so wasn’t too disappointed, also, got distracted by the new loop to replace the post-Ovingdean hill.

Still, I saw them at 5 miles, was able to nip across to kiss the kids and hand my gloves over – yes, shockingly, I was warm enough to do that. (I’ve been known to still be wearing a jumper at 25C.)

On the way to Ovingdean, about mile 6-7, saw the first of the elites coming the other way, their speed definitely helps inspire you to get up that hill.

One of my big worries coming into the marathon was the number of ‘natural breaks’I might need, eating into my running time. I managed to stick it out till 11, at the bottom of the hill on the way back into Brighton, result!

Saw the family again just after halfway, a great psychological boost ahead of the 14 mile marker, which was where, two years ago, my Achilles had screamed at me to stop and I’d staggered round the last 12.2 miles. I passed the marker with a very loud internal “Whooop!”and started to really relax and enjoy the support around me.

There seemed to be so many more people out this year cheering and holding some inspiring and funny banners.

Checking my timings after another sneaky loo trip at mile 19 and I was pretty confident I was going to hit my target.

After the not-so-picturesque trip round the docks, coming out at mile 23, I felt strong, happy and a little excited.

My last three miles were the fastest of the race and I knew I had a big grin on my face as I passed the family just ahead of the finish line. The crowds were amazing on the last strip down towards the sea front and really spurred me on.

Crossing the finish line felt wonderful, especially as I’d knocked an hour off my last Brighton marathon.

The family where there at the meeting point when I got to it and we headed off for a pint and a slice of pizza.

All that’s left is to say a big thank you to all the organisers, marshals and supporters in Brighton. I hope to run in the London Marathon next year, but I’m sure I’ll be back one day.