The Happy Magazine

London Marathon Mag

My London Marathon acceptance mag dropped through the front door on Friday. It wasn’t unexpected as I’d had to defer from last years event due to a frustrating struggle with plantar fasciitis but it has come around frighteningly quickly.

I’m still supposedly trying to rest my way out of heel pain but now the mag has arrived I feel it’s time to man up and try regain some of the lost fitness.

I’ve been resting, stretching and overdosing on ibuprofen and although I still have pain, I have been able to cope with two 20 minute trial runs without exacerbating the problem further.

I have my fingers crossed for some injury respite. I don’t think you can defer for a second time and more importantly, 2012 would be such a good year to take part in the London marathon, with it being the Olympic year and the year OGB finally gets accepted in the ballot.

Kingston Breakfast Run morphs into Richmond Lunchtime Run

Running with Music

Last night saw two less than eager runners imbibing carefully measured doses of liquid carbs. It was the night before the much anticipated Kingston Breakfast run and we were supposed to be having a nightcap but ended up winding each other up.

For some reason the Kingston race had been declared a music free zone – the organisers had specified a no personal stereo rule and I was pissed off. Then Dan cast the killer blow when he announced that the race was also t-shirtless.

I only run for t-shirts and Stella and I always have my headphones plugged in!

One more pint of the carb load and we had hatched a plan. We were to sleep through the 5am alarm, rise just as the Kingston race was finishing and head across to Richmond Park for our own 8 mile race, followed by booze and pies by the river. Far more civilised.

It was a glorious day for running round Richmond Park, full sunshine and a tiny chill. I opted to run clockwise and sent Dan in the opposite direction so that we could meet mid run and swap notes.

I’d been running for 1km when I spotted a couple of walkers up ahead. Walkers always trouble me as I feel the need to compare my speed to theirs and it never feels flattering. I came up alongside them and felt a firm punch in the side of my arm. Turns out one of the walkers was my boss. We swapped our pleasantries and then I had to carry on and face the tricky task of running ahead of someone you know is going to check your arse out for wobbles.

I had to pick up my speed to get out of the wobble zone but then of course I started to heat up and was threatening to explode. I had to push on and on until I felt I’d gone far enough to be out of sight. It shattered me and I had another 8k to go.

I finished with 12k on the clock and staggered to the nearby ice cream van for a teeny 99 while I awaited the return of Dan who was pushing on for an 18k target.

Study Avoidance Run

OGB and Pint

OGB and Pint

After any major event, of Great North proportions, me and OGB have a tendency to gather around a pint and discuss our potential prowess for next year.

So this year, as with last year incidentally, we planned to maintain our new found half marathon fitness by running at least 10 miles every week, thereby avoiding that tiresome fitness building phase before the next one. I also remember him suggesting we lose some weight, and while he couldn’t lose a stone without panicking his mother, I could easily afford to shed 5 of em, nevertheless I just nodded at him and ordered the next couple of pints.

Two weeks on from the beery bravado, I haven’t heard any hint of OGB sticking to the long distance running plan, he has however sent me begging requests to run another half in a foreign land. And he calls me expensive!

Although I’d planned a day of sheer indulgence, pouring over one of my accountancy text books, I was eventually shamed into heading out for my promised 10-miler. In fairness, I had also run out of other study avoidance techniques, there were literally no more clothes left to wash and iron and there really is a limit to the number of times you can scrub a bathroom sink.

I received a bit of stick from SHS1 in my last post, regarding my choice of running playlists. I think she may have hit the nail on the head really.

In retrospect, I feel some what betrayed by my body and the internal slob for last weeks failure to complete. Despite allowing both of them to convince me that I was facing imminent internal melt down, the predicted muscle damage failed to rear it’s head last week at all. I didn’t wince even slightly as I bounded down the stairs the next morning. That strikes me as a major cop out and I feel like the pair of them (body and slob) ganged up on me in a fairly outrageous fashion. Had they had a little private conflab, then come back to me with the view that the legs couldn’t be arsed to carry me any further and the slob was no longer having fun and just wanted to go home and play with the new computer, then I think I would have been quite reasonable about it.

In the absence of anyone else to blame then I have no alternative but to pick on the playlist. I started the Royal Parks Half with some fairly upbeat tunes but despite sticking somewhere near 60 songs on my list, they had run out by 10 miles. Then I had to scavenge through my iPod in desperation. There were no unplayed episodes of the Archers so I had to head to the audiobook section and the only unheard remnant in there was “Pontoon” by Garrison Keillor. I rest my case. That guy can induce a coma within 3 minutes, it’s a miracle I managed to push another mile out of those mutinous legs.

So today I refreshed my running inspiration and trogged up to Richmond Bridge and back.

    Hip’s Don’t Lie – Shakira
    Pon De replay – Rihanna
    Jesus, Take the Wheel – Carrie Underwood
    Jump – Madonna
    Push the Button – Sugababes
    Never Give Up – Melissa Ferrick
    Ready to Run – Dixie Chicks
    I Run For life – Melissa Etheridge
    I’m not Dead – Pink
    Run – Amy MacDonald
    Breathe – Melissa Etheridge
    Runaway – Pink
    Get This Party Started – Pink

Of course 13 songs didn’t keep me going for 10 miles – I had to listen to that lot at least 4 times, so if I try that for another long run I’ll probably be chucking my iPod in the Thames.

Great North Run 2008

I love this event, it is a complete pain to get to, it costs a fortune, it’s almost impossible to get out of South Shields before night fall, but it still remains the highlight of my year. Grubby street urchins high fiving you, toddlers squirting bottled puddle water at your feet, spectators cheering and offering out ice pops, pizza and vodka. The folk from South Tyneside really get into the spirit of this event and you can’t help but feel privilidged to be part of it. At times through the race the emotion gets the better of me and I have to fight to stop myself blubbing.

I couldn’t fathom a way of setting myself a target for the 13.1 mile distance on the forerunner 405 so instead I had to set the pace of the virtual trainer and just watch my progress against my shadow. Being a “tad” heavier and not having shown an immense amount of commitment to my training this year I thought the best I could hope for was to aim for a 3:05 hr finish and so set the training buddy to 14min/miles. With the watch stuck on this screen I couldn’t tell what pace I was running at and so effectively ran the race blind. At each mile mark though I seemed to be gaining minutes on my buddy – I was kicking virtual sand in his face.

At mile 7 as was hosed down by a teenager in full firemans garb, it coincided with the end of the first episode the Archers and its replacement by P!nk’s “I’m Not Dead”. The combined effect was so refreshing that I experienced the best 20 seconds running of my life. I overtook walkers and everything!

Unfortunately in a half marathon, there is no escaping mile 10, it arrives like a soggy duvet and throws itself around your legs. At this point I was 9 minutes ahead of my target but with the duvet around my ankles I was losing minutes every few hundred yards. I was cracking up but at this time last year I had to step of the sideline to perform first aid on my thighs, something must have improved despite my preparations.

At 11 miles I had slipped back to only 6 minutes above the 3:05 target but I was smelling the sea air and getting all emotional again. My folks had driven down to catch me cross the finish line and started to feel a pb in my bones. I upped the pace at the 12 mile marker and kept looking down at my watch to see if I could get that the distance between me and my shadow to increase. It started to happen and I felt strength in my legs.

That final mile was exciting for me. It was just like the final leg of the Bushy park run, giving it all for a chance at some glory. At 7 minutes ahead of target I was struggling with my maths again to see how much I had to do to beat last year. The finish was coming upon me so quickly I didn’t think I had enough distance left to make the time but I was willing myself on anyway.


I crossed the line in 2:57:00 about 50 seconds slower than last year. Not a pb but I was so chuffed that I’d come anywhere near it. Here’s my thank god it’s over shot, I don’t think I look quite as happy as last year but then OGB had gone AWOL. His training had been a bit lacklustre as well but at the start line he’d decided he was going to push it anyway. When he wasn’t sitting at the agreed meeting point with my pint in his hand I assumed he must have been carried off in a helicopter. I was probably wondering what I was going to tell his mum as the photo was taken.

We found him eventually in an emotional heap after spending about 45 mins battling in the baggage bus for our clobber. Shoes and bags and shirts had been strewn all over and it sounded a bit like a blood fest. Luckily I got to avoid all that – that’s the benefit of running with fast friends, thay get to collect the bags while all you have to do is struggle over the finish and stumble into the nearest fish and chip restaurant.


Great Capital Run

As is usual for race day, I wake up grumpy as hell and immediately text OGB to remind him that he is entirely responsible for all that is wrong with the world – he replies with something outrageously abusive.

A quick look back over previous race reports ought to be enough to remind me why I keep entering these torments, I start off moaning like Victor Meldrew and by the end I’m beaming from ear to ear as if I’m in love with the world. Of course it’s easy to be philosophical and upbeat while the endorphins are still coursing through the bloodstream.

I’m still a little grouchy in the starting pen so I fumble around with my garmin to take my mind off things and then have a last minute panic with my playlist. Last night I acquired 18 Joan Armatrading cd’s which I felt would be sufficient to see me to the finish regardless of how slowly I ran, but after the first couple of tracks I decided I’d made a big, depressing mistake so switched to the backup of “The Talented Mr Ripley” – an audiobook.

When the starter claxon goes off for my wave the garmin has flitted from the training screen and so ignores my start button pressing, approximately 400m later I get the thing ticking. This isn’t the last of my problems with the garmin though, at the first water station some guy dive bombs from a diagonal trajectory, swipes the bottle that I’m just about to close my palm around and presses the stop button on my watch. I would have liked to lob a few bottles in his direction but by the time I’d set the watch recording again he’d disappeared.


I think the route was exactly the same as the very first Nike Run London event we ever did, a swirly number around the Serpentine in Hyde Park. There is plenty of doubling back on yourself so for quite a long time you can see runners from earlier waves coming towards you, it’s quite unsettling seeing the pros, my god do they push hard! I spent some time hugging the edge trying to spot OGB but he was obviously lagging a little bit behind the big boys.

Talking of big boys, I was belly barged by a trio of inflated sumo wrestlers. They were running three-abreast and built up quite an intimidating crescendo of flapping air blubber.

Great Capital Run - Race Bling

By the 7k marker I was starting to feel the lurve, the race photos are going to look awful with me smiling like a gormless loon and for the last 2k I ended up with a flag in my hand which I proceeded to twirl like a helicopter til the end.

I finished in something like 78 mins which is probably my slowest 10k time but I’m happy with it as I was doubtful of breaking 80 mins before I started.

Great race bling and a smashing buzz as ever from the great run series.

The afternoon was spent drinking and wandering around outdoor shops in an attempt to buy essential camping gear for our Great North Swim adventure.

World Rubber Crisis

Wiley Coyote

OGB may well have left London in search of science but he hasn’t stopped harassing me. The last email I got from him went along the lines of “how do you fancy doing a 10k race in Cardiff?”

Cardiff? That’s in a whole different country, why would you bother?

He obviously thinks I’ve gone soft and will sign up for any old event, I did afterall allow myself be bullied into the “Great North Swim“. Yup, I did say SWIM.
It’s apparently the first mass participation swim event ever, styled by the organisers of the Great North Run, and involves thousands of folk jumping into Lake Windermere and trying to swim over each other to reach the other side – a mere 1 mile away.

Sounds like great fun if you don’t drown.

Wiley Coyote

One minor problem with this event is that it requires a wetsuit. Not surprisingly there is a huge shortage of off the peg wetsuits in my size so I’ve had to go down the made-to-measure path. How scary is that?
I’ve just gone through the measuring process and sent the figures off to Snugg for verification, I can see them now with calculators in hand, trying to determine if they possess that much rubber.

I’m not looking forward to the receipt of this item, it will require me to come face to face with my excesses. This suit will presumably be the size of a rolled flat me, where the hell am I going to store it?

What’s more, I can’t spend 200 quid on an outfit for 1 event. This is going to be the start of numerous wetsuit donning activities, OGB is just going to have to invest in a bike, I see triathlons ahead.

Death by Garmin

Stella Artois

It’s true, my Garmin is trying to kill me. While the BBC are issuing warnings for the UK softies to stay indoors for fear of catching a chill in the forecast cold spell, my Garmin thinks it would be fun to give me hypothermia. It has me standing outside, scantily clad in running gear, hopping from foot to foot while it lethargically glances from one satellite to another. I wouldn’t mind so much but the N82 locked onto a signal from indoors, and I don’t mean indoors but dangling from out of a window either – I was in the basement changing room of the gym. How does it do that?

I’m sneezing now.

New Years Eve turned into a productive, if quite expensive, evening, I was stone cold sober as I’ve gone tee total-ish (6 out of 7 days) and I spent the evening scouring the net for interesting races. I’ve signed myself up for the next 6 months. The next biggy is the Wilmslow half marathon at the end of March, so just as I was feeling smug that Jogblog had to stick to a punishing 1/2 mara schedule, I find myself needing to get up close and personal to the weekly long slow run myself. Aargh!

Stella Artois

I signed up first and did my research later, which explains how I managed to enter a half marathon with a cut off time of 2:35:00. Flip! That also explains my rash decision to ditch the Stella, I don’t think I will knock 20 mins off my time through training alone, but surely life will be easier if I ditch a couple of stone by the wayside. I’m leaving 1 day of Stella in the mix to celebrate my weekly lsr, lets call it motivation.

Chrimble BPTT

Today was the annual showing of the Christmas Bushy Park Time Trial and I’ve been looking forward to this particular event for about 340 days, since my first introduction to the wonder of the time trial phenomonen back in February. It would have been easy to stay in bed this morning, it was dark and gloomy and of course presents awaited. Still, you can’t really resist that level of anticipation.

As I cycled through Richmond Park in the light drizzle, I puzzled a little over the knowing looks I received from the exhausted reindeer. They obviously knew what was in store for me – that’ll teach me not to leave any carrots out on Christmas Eve. When I mentioned yesterday that a downpour was required to wrap up a thorough test of the Salomon pack, it really wasn’t meant as a Dear Santa letter. I could have waited.

The rain held off for most of the run and I was able to “enjoy” the 5k amongst good company. I was adopted at the midway point by a first-timer and her motivational cousin and was able to experience a vicarious boost that carried me over the finish line relatively unscathed.

I even remembered the new phone this morning so I got to try out the Sports Tracker Beta application. It required a little bit of juggling to switch on both the garmin and the N82 without dropping the phone into the path of a couple of hundred runners but then it is a bit overkill to use two different devices. Sports Tracker has been around for a while and I remember Jogblog took it for a whirl a while ago, but the new version is quite impressive. The phone application links flawlessly to the website offering a live update of your progress, with your route appearing online as you run. Pretty nifty stuff.

sportstracker The website is particularly attractive and displays some respectable charts. You can view the page for the BPTT workout to get an idea of the detail available.

I can imagine this service being quite addictive and the stats will only get better as you add more workouts. I’m going to be using this again and have already downloaded the application to my N95, I’ll be interested to try it out on my next commute where I tend to have more trouble picking up a GPS signal. I’ll have the two phones going head to head against the garmin to see how reliable the reception is.

So, back to this morning, did I mention that it was raining? I finished up at the time trial and set off on the bike for 7 mile ride home. I was dreaming of roast potatoes and yorkshire puds when the sky starting lobbing buckets of gritty, grimey rain water at me. When I finally got home I was just staggered by the amount of water I’d managed to absorb and peeled the Salomon Raid Revo off directly over the bath expecting at least half a bucket of gulley water to come rushing out of the mini plug holes. As it happens the inside of the pack was still dry which is quite impressive given that no other part of me remained “dry” even my goretex jacket had failed under the onslaught.

It’s Grim Down South

Forgive me bloggers for I have sinned. It has been three weeks since I last got off my fat arse and moved faster than a shuffle. I was suffering from infectious slobitis and generalised exam anxiety, but that is over now and today I paid a big price for my excessive slothfulness. Sitting here shattered and barely able to string a coherent sentence together, I would say that penance has definitely been paid.

Three of us (OGB, Tanya and myself) found ourselves huddled round a pint of beer last night, escaping from the torrential rain and trying to determine whose crazy idea it was to enter an 8 mile mudfest in December.


We weren’t a great deal wiser this morning as we brushed sleep from our eyes and tried to follow the signs to a place called Grim.

We were damn lucky with the weather but by heck it was freezing. We all lined up at the portaloos and sat in adjacent cabins just to keep warm before the race – I’ve got over my earlier toilet phobia.

As Tanya was a complete race virgin we decided to run this event as a team, attempting to stick together through thick and thin.


This proved to be a bit of life-saver for me but was probably jolly tiresome for the other two. Poor ole OGB had to resort to a peculiar bouncing action with occasional stints of running on the spot so he could slow himself down to my pace.

At “The Ravine”, the competitors were forced into single file to enter the first area of flowing water and I was grateful for the 10 minute hold up so I could get a breather and try and stick with the clan for a bit longer when we set off again. Unfortunately I took a stumble at the bottom and ended up in freezing water up to my waist – wet pants kinda slow me down.

Wet but happy

The next obstacle was a scramble net leading directly into a gloopy expanse of potters clay. I seemed to take the gloopiest route and immediately fell to my knees as the clay grabbed me by the legs and refused to relinquish its grip as the rest of me attempted to move forwards. I dislodged one leg and slung it to the right where I felt I’d reach firmer ground. I ended up stuck again but this time in a semi-splits stance which proved rather uncomfortable and almost impossible to escape from. Thankfully Tanya and OGB were within yelling distance and they came back to assist. Tanya scrabbled around digging the clay from around my foot and OGB just yanked wildly. I managed to lever myself up by applying pressure to his shoulder. Just sufficient pressure to force him upto his knees in the same trap and yet still ensure my escape. I stormed off, trying to get another headstart while they strained to free each other.

I got my cummupence pretty quickly as a root shot out from nowhere and threw me into a commando roll. I landed on my feet eventually but they had already regained the lead.


The whole 8 miles was a relentless cycling of cold ponds, cold swamps and cold clay traps. Freezing, one could even say horrendous and yet it was all strangely invigorating. Who hasn’t wanted to don wellies and jump slap bang in the middle of the biggest puddle recently?

I did have rotten stomach cramps today though and I’m not sure that cold water immersion will ever take over the more usual hot water bottle and chocolate remedy.

We were still smiling at the end, chuffed to bits with our t-shirts and already planning our next mudfest – Hellrunner anybody?


Here’s the crazy route if you can make head or tail of it. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, I just felt like we’d been put in washing machine and spun around:

Grim 8 at EveryTrail

Map created by EveryTrail:Share GPS tracks

My time was 2:09, the other two came in a little before me as I released them for the last mile. Excellent first race Tanya, you’ll have a whopping pb here next year!

Cabbage Patch 10

Hadd Required

I haven’t done a lot of running since the GNR, in fact I haven’t done any, beyond the occassional jog in the direction of a bus stop. Illness, DOMS, work and idleness have kept me away from running this autumn but yesterday was the Cabbage Patch 10 so I had to get out and see if I could remember the action.

The Cabbage Patch 10 is an event that I have been looking forward to for almost a year after hearing the race t-shirt was a sight to behold, it’s held fairly locally (Twickenham – Kingston – Richmond) and organised by the Stragglers running club.

After examining my splits for the GNR I decided to approach this 10-miler with a strict pacing strategy. I was aiming for a 2 hour finishing time, which was realistic yet stretching and therefore needed to keep at a 7:27 min/km pace. Again perfectly reasonable but I have to admit to doing my most of my long slow training runs at a slightly slower pace.

The start of the race was a little cramped, 1500 runners assembled into a small pedestrianised zone prior to being released onto the high street. I ended up caught somewhere in the middle as I assembled with OGB. Clearly the wrong spot for me, I need to be at the back, tucked nicely out of the way.

Cabbage Patch Splits

I ended up setting off well above my desired pace as I was trying not to make too much of an obstacle of myself. I dropped back down to 7:27 after the first km but maybe that early start affected my longevity. I don’t know what happened at the 6 km mark either, I think I had a few people underfoot and it seemed easier to just pass them. After that move I faded fast and although I kept pushing to increase my speed there just didn’t seem to be anything left in my legs.

I finished in 2:03 something (watch time) and 2:04:39 (officially), somewhat under target but not too surprising.

The marshalls were excellent – loads of them and all very cheery and vocal – much appreciated!

I will eventually issue a snap of the coveted race t-shirt but at the moment I’m sulking too much, and anyway its on its second trip around my washing machine, where I hope it will stretch. By the time I finished they had run out of large (and medium) sized t-shirts, which meant I had to make do with small. Now I understand that I if I’m going to make a habit of being almost the last over the line then I can’t complain if I don’t have much choice but at the same time, if I speed up a great deal it seems likely that I will have shed enough lard in the process to negate the need for choice anyway. Hey ho.

Now I’ve got a little repertoire of race distances under my belt, I’ve drawn up a chart comparing my actual race times with race predictions based on my 5 km pb, utilising the Purdy formula. The calculator for this is found on the brilliant runningfofitness website under predict race from race.

Hadd Required

Not surprisingly it shows that I am underperforming as I increase my distance, an indication that I’m not fit enough for the higher distances. I’m interested in this as I read about it in a booklet on Hadd training, who advocates running at low heart rates as a means to increase aerobic efficiency. I’m going to give this a go in December, by then I will have switched work and will be able to run on an almost daily basis again – I can’t wait. Next year is going to be a good one for running.