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


Mum’s second Parkrun

This weekend my Mum was in town, and as we’d dragged her along to her first Parkrun back in December, I thought it was time for her to do another!

I normally do the Dulwich Parkrun, three laps of the entirely flat Dulwich Park. It’s a 10 minute cycle from my house, a nice warm up but one that involves the South Circular. Mum can ride a bike but hasn’t in a while and I didn’t think she’d fancy riding one of mine around one of south London’s busiest roads.

Brockwell Park is just a bus journey from my house, so trying to pretend it doesn’t have a whopping great hill in it, we went there. We were super organised and each had a flask of coffee, which we left propped against a tree as we listened to the safety briefing.

There were more than 300 runners, which felt very busy. We queued up on the path outside the lido, and soon we were off. Well, fairly soon – it took a while to get going. The path was very narrow for the number of people on it and I had started too far back and had a lot of slower runners to overtake, especially when it came to the first hill.

Feeling like a boss, I powered up the hill, glancing down at my garmin watch to check my pace – and noticed that the bloody thing had stopped! I’m slightly ashamed to admit it knocked my motivation (what’s the point of setting a new PB if you’re not recording it?) and I took it easier for the remaining 3.8km.

I managed a sprint finish – a bit lame as I’d really been jogging up until then – and joined the enormous queue to have my barcode scanned, chatting to another girl who was new to Brockwell Parkrun.

I kept checking the finish line to see when Mum was on her way in. I wasn’t sure when we’d set off or what time she was expecting to do it in but thought that the moment I saw her I’d jog over to her and run the final bit with her.

Suddenly I noticed the volunteers packing away the finishing chute. “Stop!” I shouted, trying to sprint across a patch of extremely boggy grass. “There’s still another runner to go!” Luckily they hadn’t stopped the timer, but they thought that the last lady in was the final runner, forgetting about Mum.

I left the coffee cups at the finish line and headed back along the course to track Mum down. Running in my down jacket is not much fun! I found her and we power walked to the end together. 54 minutes – more than a minute faster than her first Parkrun!

We went for coffee at the Blackbird Bakery (where we met a 12 week old pug, refusing to walk) and saw a painting of the park in the art shop window. I pointed out the route we’d taken: one big lap around the park and then turning left at the sports field on the second lap.

“Sports field?!” exclaimed Mum. “I didn’t turn left at the sports field!”

She’d done TWO big laps of the park. So not only had she beaten her previous time, she’d beaten it on an extra long (and hilly) course! Well done Mum!

Last of the Summer Series

Last night was the final race in the Summer Cyclocross Series. I was looking forward to the race (not in Croydon!) but also dreading it because it was at Herne Hill Velodrome (my nemesis!). When people think of HHV they think of the track, but that’s not all there is – there’s a cyclocross course behind the track. And it’s tough!!

The forecast was always for rain but in the afternoon it pelted it down, with flash flooding in southeast London. I decided I’d make my mind up on the way to the venue, not wanting to commit but not wanting to definitely pull out. Work conspired against me and I couldn’t leave on time to get to Herne Hill for 7pm – something I wasn’t sure I was entirely unhappy about, given the rain the whole way there.

I got called a chicken by Neil (who wasn’t racing either so had no leg to stand on) and leant on the railings to watch the race. The course started in the track centre with a long sweep over the grass, then up over the track and into the woods, out of the woods and over the mounds, back into the woods, then back down into the track centre for some wiggly grass action and back to the start. It had stopped raining but there was a lot of mud.

There was a mechanical on the first straight, and the race came to standstill on the entrance to the woods, presumably because of a crash.

Within 10 minutes, people could be seen with broken rear mechs. A count was started.

Broken rear mech at the Summer Series


By 20 minutes in, the race looked like the Somme. In every direction, I could see people walking, carrying the corpses of their bikes. 10, 12, 15 rear mechs.

Dave came off a few times and called it a day. He went to join the queue to hose down his bike – the number of people now in the queue seemed almost the same as the number left in the race.

Rich broke his rear mech and joined the hosepipe queue.

It all seemed a bit farcical. 16, 18, 20 rear mechs.

Another broken rear mech at the Summer Series

Howard was still racing and I spotted him at the top of the track, fiddling with his bike. He started running, with the bike, pushing the bike through the mud. He kept running, an entire half a lap pushing the bike. Eventually he stopped running and – he told me later – washed off some of the larger bits of claggy mud in a puddle. Then got back on and goddamn finished the race!

The bell went. We congratulated Howard when he found his way over to us and he said “photograph me, to prove I did this!”.

Howard Stredwick at the Summer Series

He went to find another puddle, the queue for the hosepipe being too long. I was surrounded by people trying to ghetto their bikes to get home. I was just getting ready to leave myself when Jason told me I should go into the track centre for the prize giving….

It turned out that I came third overall in the Women’s competition! It seems there’s something to be said for turning up every week.

I was super embarrassed but got a cheer and went up on the podium to collect my prize, and later, went back on the podium with all the other winners to spray champagne around!

Prizes at the Summer Series

I thanked Jason for everything – for the support, for the bike, for the prizes – and he suggested the league, which starts next month and runs over the winter. Crazy talk… isn’t it?

Six weeks ago I’d never ridden a cyclocross bike or ever ridden off road. Now… well, I still suck at cyclocross but I’m so pleased I gave it a go. I’ve met some lovely people, tested myself, improved (marginally!) my bike handling and am slowly, slowly, conquering the fear. If I don’t keep doing it, I think I might actually miss it.