Marathon training – week 7

Monday – no running

Tuesday – after the disaster that was my last try with a running club, my friend suggested that I come along to his running group. He runs with Run Dem Crew, a fairly high-profile group that I’ve always thought wasn’t really for me (too enthusiastic, maybe, for my misanthropic self, or just too cool). I turned up in Shoreditch feeling a bit apprehensive, especially when I found out that there was going to be lots of cheering and clapping beforehand. But actually, this bit was great, we cheered all the people who’d raced at the weekend, and there were some lovely race stories. Then we went out for a run. I joined the Greyhound group and we ran along at a very chilled pace, made even more chilled by having to stop at lights every 100 metres. We ran down to St Paul’s, then over the Millennium Bridge (“sprint if you want to!” Came a shout, so I did, but I was one of only a few) and along the Southbank to Leake Street, just behind the London Eye. Then we ran back, again with a sprint over the Millennium Bridge, and more traffic lights as we wound our way back to Shoreditch. People were very friendly and I enjoyed chatting and it was nice running along with someone else leading the way. The downsides are the location (Shoreditch isn’t convenient for work or home), having to run on busy roads/stop for traffic and a lingering feeling that I’m not cool enough. They said I can come back next week. 10km.

Wednesday – ate some cake, ran to a brewery, felt the beginnings of heartburn, ate a pizza, ran back from the brewery, had to take heartburn tablets. 3.7km.

Thursday – no running

Friday – no running

Saturday – did parkrun for the first time in ages. I ran over to Brockwell Lido and hung around feeling cold, but spurred on by the promise of mini eggs at the finish line, we set off. I find it hard to pace myself at this parkrun, but when I got to 4km and was done with the hills I tried to do some maths and work out how long it might take to finish but couldn’t figure it out so just ran, and managed to beat my time on this course by 45 seconds. Yes, still slow, but it was a little confidence boost that I can actually do it. 8.1km

Sunday – we went for a cycle during the day and had been lucky to avoid the showers, and I knew that I wouldn’t be so lucky with my run. It was very windy when I set out, and when I got to the top of Crystal Palace it started raining. I ended up sheltering in the doorway of a church for a minute at the top of Lordship Lane, and cut the whole run short as it was dark (turns out the clocks changing does not mean magic light!), wet and cold. 13km.

Total: 34.8km

Hampton Court Palace Half Marathon

Mid-week, my friend Ciq asked if I’d like to do this race and as I had a long run planned for Sunday anyway, and Matt was going to be away, I said sure, why not.

There are actually two half marathons in Hampton, which made finding information about the race more challenging than it should have been. The website had a map of the course, but as a picture, so I had no idea of what it would actually be like. Oh, and there were no trains to Hampton Court station, meaning walking to/from Kingston.

Minor inconveniences aside, I arrived at Hampton Court Palace at about 8.30 in the cold, nursing a limp (my right hip had been sore all week, not helped by slamming the garden gate onto myself) and needing the loo. The finish line was on Hampton Court Green, with the start line outside the actual palace itself, so after chatting to my friend, then a trip to the portaloo and to the bag drop, I headed to the palace.

Ciq was waiting for me near the start and we decided to run together. He’s faster than me but hasn’t run much recently due to illness, and I wondered whether I’d like running with someone – the last time I ran with someone during a race was with my brother and neither of us had a good time. But this time it was great, we chatted the entire time and I really enjoyed it.

Mile 1 – 3: We started in the final wave and spent the first mile weaving around people who really should have started further back. The course turned onto the tow path almost immediately, which is not super wide and there were other people out and about. We followed the river to Kingston Bridge and crossed over, ducking past TK Maxx. Then we were back along the river – this bit was nice as it had thinned out and we were happily chatting. We saw a submerged boat and a woman out running with her whippet.

Mile 4 – 6: At the 4 mile mark we moved off the river path and ran along a busy road, crossing the border into Surrey. We ran along this road, with a detour around a green, for the next few miles, discussing portable pizza ovens and megalomaniac bosses. We went under a long bridge and in the dark, dank underground some bright spark decided to walk, almost causing a pileup. At the 6 mile mark we both had a gel, and unlike loads of other people around we didn’t throw our wrappers on the ground but waited to find a bin (spoiler alert: there aren’t many bins in Surrey, though there are a surprising number of benches).

Mile 7 – 9: As we crossed the 7 mile mark we started a gloomy conversation about how close any of us are to losing everything and becoming homeless. Ciq also got confused and thought we were running a full marathon and totally freaked me out as I definitely was not in the mood for running any more than a half. My right hip was really hurting, and the tightness in my calf had crept upwards so my whole leg was sore. We got back to Hampton Court Palace and turned onto the tow path again, where a man dressed as Henry VIII was handing out high fives. This time past the palace we were able to admire it better, as we hadn’t been able to see it at all with all the people on the first lap. I was getting grumpier as my leg hurt but Ciq was taking my grump in his stride.
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Mile 10 – 13.1: At the 10 mile mark I stopped to walk to see if it helped my leg, and it did make a bit of a difference. We walked for a minute and then ran again, picking up water at the aid station at the end of the tow path, where someone ran across my path and I barrelled into them (sorrynotsorry). The course got a bit silly after this as we turned onto Hampton Court Road and had marshals stopping the traffic to let people cross. There’s another crossing at the entrance to Bushy Park that’s also busy, and there were lots of annoyed drivers (I don’t think the race/potential disruption was widely advertised). The pavement is really narrow here too thanks to cars on the pavement and this meant having to run at other people’s speeds and having to give way to people coming the other way. At both the 11 and 12 mile markers we walked for a minute, downing our water at mile 11 and I was just feeling grumpy at mile 12. We could see the finish line but knew we had a mile to go (the course doubles back), and it felt like a very long final mile! Finally the turnaround, and onto the green, and then onto the grass, and watching our step, and the 13 mile marker and a final “sprint” and over the line.

Total time: 2:15:10

My third half in four weeks, run entirely at conversational pace with three walk breaks thanks to hip pain. I don’t know whether to be pleased or not as I think this would indicate that I can run faster. I think it’s a combination of inexperience (not knowing how or when to run faster), fear (of falling apart) and misfortune (waking up with hip pain on the day of a race). I have a lot to work on with mental fortitude – could I have just run through the hip pain? After all, then the race would have been over sooner…
Afterwards we got our medals and goodie bag (tshirt, flapjack and squashed banana) and tried to find some water (not readily available at the finish). We walked all the way back to Kingston and cheered the people still out on the course, then I spent loads of money in Uniqlo and ate Hula Hoops on the bus back home.
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Marathon training – week 6

Monday – thought about trying out the recovery run thing again but settled for cycling and then half an hour of yoga.

Tuesday – spent some time with the foam roller before running to work (5.1km). My big toe is bruised and my legs felt pretty tired from Sunday.

Wednesday – thought about running in the evening but didn’t.

Thursday – planned to run home from an all-day meeting over in Hackney but had laptop and papers with me so decided not to as my back is already really sore.

Friday – ran home from Peckham Rye, via Canonbie Road. Canonbie is the silliest, steepest road I know. At first it’s about 7% – then it turns a corner and it’s something stupid like 14%. Not a chance. The other side is even steeper, around 20%. It’s like a wall. Afterwards I went through Dulwich Park (where I stopped to use the loo) and Brockwell Park at dusk. It’s so nice when it’s light enough to go through the parks (they’re locked after dark). 9.2km.

Saturday – I planned to do Parkrun with a friend but it got cancelled and I was too lazy to go on my own so had a lie in instead. Later on I went for a little jaunt to double check on my shoes. It was just dark enough that I felt anxious about the crappy condition of the pavements, but eventually I got into it and ran up one of the “hills” near me, and it was way easier than I thought it would be. Needed a wee so had to cut it short. 3.7km.

Sunday – a friend of a friend had to drop out of the Hampton Palace Half Marathon and I was asked if I wanted the place. Sure, I said. Three half marathons in four weeks, why not. I woke up with hip pain and it didn’t get any better during the race. 21.1km.

Total: 39.1km

Week 5 – marathon training

Monday – I wore my new shoes again for a double commute (to and from work). There’s nothing worse than putting on sweaty clothes to run home and I dragged my heels leaving the office at the end of the day. 9.3km.

Tuesday – no running, went to the theatre to see Caitlin Moran for International Women’s Day.

Wednesday – went along to a local club for a training session, and was shown a map of routes and asked which I’d like to do. I pointed to the shortest (6km) as I didn’t want to do a long run with people I don’t know and the awkwardness it could entail. Someone was assigned to me and she said “oh for fuck’s sake, this is my worst nightmare” and during the run proceeded to tell me how they all hate having beginners come along as they have to take it in turns to run with them. She was a bit snooty about how many London Marathon’s she’d run, and although she did apologise for being rude at the end, I didn’t feel super welcome. We ended up doing another mini-loop of the run to make a total of 7.7km but I don’t think I’ll go back (edit: emailed the club to explain and they apologised, which was nice – but I still don’t think it’s for me).

Thursday – no running.

Friday – no running

Saturday – woke up in time for parkrun but went back to bed instead and didn’t run at all.

Sunday – did the Wimbledon Common Half Marathon.
Total: 38.1km

Wimbledon Common Half Marathon 2016

I’m sure you’re thinking, hang on, didn’t I read a report of the Wimbledon Common Half Marathon last year? The answer’s yes, you did, because I ran this race in March 2015 and also in October 2014. I really like the races that the organiser (Run Through) put on and Wimbledon Common is a nice part of the world, so I signed up yet again.

It was foggy on the way over to Wimbledon, and quite chilly too. 20160313_074855

I cycled from Putney to the rugby grounds where the race starts, and locked my bike up by the pavilion. Normally the toilets at the pavilion are open but they were padlocked shut, and I could see a line of people stretching across an entire rugby pitch queuing for portaloos, so was pleased I’d arrived in good time. I then noticed that there was a disabled portaloo right next to the bike stands and tried the door – it was open. I went in. It was pristine – spotless floor, plenty of loo roll, hand sanitiser dispenser full. What a treat!

As I now didn’t have to queue, I had loads of time to get really cold at the start line and faff around pinning my number on. Music was blaring from the loudspeakers and I tried to surreptitiously position myself near the family with a Dalmatian puppy.

There was a staggered start and I joined the 2hr+ group. We were sent on our way by a womble and then we were off!

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The ground was slippery right from the start, with the first few hundred metres on grass. I’m so unused to running on grass, particularly wet, muddy grass. We soon headed onto the trail and some real mud! The back of Putney Vale Cemetery heads steadily upwards but isn’t that bad and there’s then a steeper hill on the other side of the cemetery, but it wasn’t as hard as I remembered. Much muddier than I’d done before though!

There weren’t that many runners (579 total) but it was definitely hard to do my own thing when there was often only a narrow route through the mud. I was wearing my brand new trail shoes (£8.99 from Decathlon, bargain!) but I had no idea how much grip they really had and I’m a naturally cautious person so find it hard to pelt through ground that I’m unsure of. Plus sometimes people in front stopped completely to pick through the muddiest bits, so I had to respond to that and not go running into them.

I didn’t look at my watch very much and just ran along steadily. My calves were hurting a bit, presumably from my shoes – I normally run in stability shoes and these are fairly minimalist with a 6mm drop (my adidas have about 10mm drop), so it felt quite different underfoot.

At the end of the first lap there’s a long downhill section and a right turn along the river. This was the muddiest bit of the course and I got stuck behind a load of people tiptoeing through the mud very gingerly. Every time I tried to get past there was a tree or something in my way – and there was no womble waiting at the normal spot 😦 I headed out onto the second lap, my calves on fire and a definite blister forming on one of my toes.

There’s a charity walk that takes place each year that goes through the Common, and the half marathon overlaps with it twice each lap. On the first lap it was fine as only the faster walkers had made it this far, but by the second lap there were loads of walkers out. A lot of them have balloons tied to them and some were walking four or five abreast, and it does make it quite tricky to get past.

At 15km I decided to put my headphones in and listen to music as my motivation was waning a little bit, and I didn’t really get my mojo back again. After walking for a minute at 15km, I then took a couple more walking breaks at 17.5km, 19km and (inexplicably) 20km.

The final bit of the course turns back onto the grass and I tried to sprint this but turns out I still can’t run on grass very well and my sprint was just a slightly faster jog. As I neared the finish line I heard one runner behind me encourage his friend to take me on the line. Not a chance, I thought, and I won that race. Ha. Shallow victory.

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I stumbled off to get a flapjack and a banana, having to walk a bit like a pony as my big toe hurt a lot. I also finally drank some water – during the Cambridge Half Marathon I drank quite a bit of water, probably three 250ml bottles, and I feel like this was too much. So I didn’t drink any at all during this one, and I definitely didn’t feel like I needed it, though it was nice to down some water at the end!

Got myself a nice medal:

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I got my bike and cycled towards Wimbledon town centre, probably the least scenic route (along a dual carriageway) but not muddy. When I was nearly there I spotted a Waitrose and before I knew it I was off the bike and in the cafe enjoying a cherry danish and a cappuccino. How does that happen?!

As I left Waitrose I saw more of the walkers, and heard a man cheering them – this was their halfway point. I had no idea how long the entire route was but assumed it was a very very long way as I could see a queue out the door of the nearby branch of Greggs. Turns out it was a 14 mile walk, so I feel somewhat cheered that I managed to run 13.1 miles without stopping for a steak bake.

  • Total time: 2:16:27
  • This is 90 seconds slower than Cambridge, despite having mud and hills
  • This is 3 mins faster than last year, in the dry, and 10 mins faster than the year before.

Marathon training – week 4

Monday – I never normally do a recovery run but thought I’d give it a go. Turns out running is so much easier than walking, and the run to work was the easiest bit of the day! I wore my new trail shoes (for my entirely road route to work) and they’re very comfy for less than a tenner. 4.8km.

Tuesday – felt pretty gloomy about the race at the weekend and investigated joining a running club. My legs were still sore but I ran home from work with no dramas. 4.7km.

Wednesday – I planned to do a longer run to work but slept badly and couldn’t get motivated to leave the house. Instead I decided to try out my new shoes on my normal commute. My feet cramped a little between 2-3km but were fine by the time I got to work and the shoes feel pretty comfy. I stopped off at Waitrose to get a coffee and the coffee machine gave me steamed milk instead, which I only noticed when I’d left. 4.8km.

Thursday – no running.

Friday – no running.

Saturday – for the first time in ages I went to parkrun. Since I moved back to London I’ve only been to the one that’s easy walking distance from my house, but there are loads of others nearby, including a new one at Tooting Common. In the end I went to Dulwich as I know the setup (bike parking, etc) well. It was so cold that my face hurt while running but I set a parkrun PB, which was nice – and then went home to eat pancakes, which was even nicer! 5k.

Sunday – two years ago I did a 10k in the park, organised by the local athletics club, and it rolled around again this year. Walking to a race start line is such a treat, and there were less than 100 runners (a big difference to the week before at Cambridge Half, with over 5,000 people finishing!). 10k in the park is three laps, and each lap includes the hill at the back of the park, and I felt a bit daunted. I set off steadily but lost time each lap. Amusingly, on the hill there were some men doing community service in orange jumpsuits, and they heckled us as we ran past. They’d gone on a break by the third lap when I could have done with some extra encouragement! It was less cold than Saturday and there were loads of great dogs out in the park, and at the finish line we each got a medal, tshirt, water and a banana, so it was all round a good little race. I finished over three minutes faster than when I did it two years ago, which felt rewarding. 12.4km in total (though about going for a run in the evening but didn’t – probably need to adjust my training plan).

Total: 31.7km

Total in training plan: 53km