Boxing Day Wash Out

Boxing Day started so bright and promising.

We had been planning the Boxing Day 10k for months. It was to be Lynn’s first “event” and we were taking it sufficiently seriously that we joined the local gym and started a program. Nothing really went to plan though, Lynn’s knees crocked up and she spent way more time on the abdominal incline board than she did the treadmill and I developed a cold so severe that I couldn’t even think about running for more than 20 days.

I woke us early with the now customary cough and we whiled away the rest of the sunny morning in bed. We whiled for at least 6 hours, pondering the merits of an ill prepared 10k and finally assembled our running clobber as the clouds of hades gathered.

Boxing Day madnessWith the lung capacity of a asthmatic canary, I wasn’t desperately keen to race my way around Richmond Park but I had only the day before unwrapped a new gadget of delight, and the Forerunner 910XT was just begging to be played with. It has a run/walk feature which was just the job for two decrepit joggers. I set it for 90 sec run, 180 secs walk just like the old days when I was starting out.

Richmond park was quite frankly, wet.

Folk handled the challenge of the elements in different ways. Lynn started her run with a hat, hood and quilted overcoat but one runner dispensed with all such folderol and ran with just a chest strap and an exceedingly baggy pair of jogging bottoms. I like to think I towed the middle line of near normality.

Although I can see that running 10k in the pouring rain across flooded fields may not seem as appealing as the alternative coal fire, chocolates and beer, it did in fact turn out to be marvellously good fun. Once you’ve given up trying to keep your feet dry, I defy anyone to run through a massive puddle without squealing with delight.

Despite a few navigational issues we managed to tick off the 10k. We had a little struggle to get changed out of our wet clothing in the back of the car but fortunately we were so damp the car steamed up in an instant and gave us the required level of privacy.

Richmond Park - Boxing Day Run

Thames Meander Half Marathon

I’ve discovered the relative anonymity of mixed distance races and intend to exploit them.

20120827-133230.jpgThe fear of entering official races as a routine, back of the pack runner, is that you stagger towards the finish line to find all the volunteers packing up and waiting impatiently for you to pick up the last remaining medal so they can go home. If you enter a half with a full marathon tagged on, you can be fairly certain that although you may be the last placed in your race, you won’t be holding up the entire show.

That’s why I chose the Great North Trail Run and why I then sought out the Thames Meander.

The Thames Meander was a fairly low key event organised by a couple who set up events under the banner of Hermes Running. It started and finished at a posh school in the Kingston environs and took in the sights of Richmond Park and the Thames.

Towing the line with a load of uber fit marathon runners carries with it it’s own level of anxiety though and as ever with races, I shot out of the gates with an adrenaline fueled pace more suited to escaping a charging bull rather than dragging one around a 13 mile loop.

Within the first few hundred yards I’d overtaken 3 runners. This is not supposed to happen and should have been an alarm call. Instead I continued increasing my speed, terrified of the chasing pack. It was like a continuous Zombies, Run! interval.

At 5k my watch beeped to inform me that I’d recorded my best 5k time in about 3 years. Again, not great in a 13 mile event.

At 8k I followed a duff lead and went about 200 yards off track before realising and turning to face the chasing 3 – now 200 yards ahead.

I focused on reeling them back in and in the process managed to achieve my best 10k time in about 4 years.

Alarm bells and klaxons now sounded in a deafening manner and at the half way turnaround point my legs obviously cottoned on to the situation and stopped performing.

Almost immediately I was overtaken and then the brain kicked in with it’s negative speak. I had to drag my body and a nagging, whining, excuse of a brain around for another 90 minutes.

At the half way point I was on track for a finish time close to 2:40, 20 mins faster than my target. Over the last 10k I lost more than 30 mins, a staggering 3 minutes per km!

With only 3 weeks to go to The Bupa Great North Run, this half marathon has proved to be a great training session. Alerting me to the dangers of overly eager starts and inadequate fitness levels. My GNR target has always been to break 3hrs so now I need to work out what the best approach is to refine my performance over the last 3 weeks of training.

Of course I have more questions than answers.

  • How long will I be able to maintain my pace for if I set off slower?
  • Is it possible to increase endurance within 3 weeks of an event?
  • How much faster can I go in those last painful miles, with the whole of South Shields out in support?

The Thames Meander Half was a lovely route, well supported and attracted its fair share of supportive runners who were happy to offer a nod of encouragement on the loop back.

20120828-200941.jpgThe finishers medal was a thing of wonder and although I usually only run for t-shirts I was prepared to swap that reward for a rather substantial plate of spaghetti bolognaise laid on in the school canteen. An excellent addition to any run!

At only £18 I think Hermes Running laid on an excellent event including aid stations, medal, food, and hot showers.

I read a few complaints in the marathon runners forum that suggested some of the aid stations on their extended section had run out of water, which is a fairly terrible state to find yourself in over that distance but I understand that the organisers are heeding the lessons and next years event will be improved.

GNR Anxiety

The Great North Run race pack arrived yesterday.

A high level of anxiety followed its opening. Enclosed was a Team Bupa technical t-shirt which was so tight it finished a good few inches above my belly button. It might have super wicking properties but I don’t think the good folk of South Shields deserve the full exposure of my midriff.

I was spurred into action by the reminder that it’s only 6 weeks til the big day.

I’ve been following an unorthodox approach of weekly 10 mile runs interspersed with about 4 high intensity but short (20 min) spurts on the treadmill.

I always come away from half marathon events determined to maintain my physical peak by rattling out weekly 10-milers. I reckon that if I can manage that, I ought to be able step up to 13.1 on adrenaline alone.

The trouble is, the weekly 10’s often turn into 8’s and then holidays happen and 6 weeks before race day I discover I’m no longer a perfectly honed running machine.

I discovered that today while the full cycling family entourage were called upon to push me around the 8 mile circuit of Richmond Park. It was hot, I moaned a lot and I crossed my imaginary finish line in an irritable, damp and salty heap. And, I was still 2 miles too short.

Richmond Park deer

When I got back home I headed for the treadmill to rattle off the last two. Inspired by the Australian version of The Biggest Loser, I set myself up for a 2 mile hill climb at maximum incline (12). I let myself down by gradually dropping the distance target until I decided that a 1km hill sprint had a lovely ring about it. I was less irritable but equally damp and heap-like at the end.

Perhaps I’m not too late to take some training advice from the Bupa Running team.

A Common Error

I spent the morning in bed, plotting long distance scenic routes on mapmyrun. By the time I’d settled on one it had just tipped over to the afternoon and I felt suitably shamed into getting up and assembling the running gear and oyster card.

An hour later I was spinning round in circles at Clapham Junction station, wondering what had happened to platforms 5&6 – the ones that would deposit me on the banks of the Thames in the Mortlake region.

Whole swathes of the London hinterland had been isolated by weekend rail works and my morning’s plans had been wasted. I faced a departure board stacking up with choice destinations but shied away from adventure and jumped on the one heading back towards Wimbledon.

I was looking to squeeze 10 miles out of today’s run which was entirely possible with a chunk of Wimbledon common tagged onto a full loop of Richmond Park. I struggle with Wimbledon Common though. I think it has a fluctuating magnetic field. I get horribly, panicky lost in it. Regularly.

Today was no exception.

I was aiming for a short trog in Wimbledon Common, taking me direct to Robin Hood Gate where I could commence the full loop of RP. I started well, with my mental map and compass telling me to skirt the edge of the common and then head left directly into Richmond Park.

20120506-221453.jpgI found a hitherto unexplored region of Wimbledon Common. That should have been warning enough but it was a beautiful board-walked nature reserve with bluebells so I continued with my skirt and head left instructions.

When I popped out into suburbia, I was in the middle of unknown territory. Fairly posh but still unknown territory.

I started crossing roads, huge fast roads without proper crossings. I felt a bit tense and got into a battle with a 4×4 who clipped my heel.

I wasn’t hurt but I took an emotional beating. I found myself on the A3, a depressing dual carriageway carving a line between the two parks. I had to run along it for 2 miles before I reached the pedestrian crossing.

I finally made it into Richmond Park but I was sagging. I made it as far as Kingston gate before my body quit on me.

I was now at the furthest point from my planned pick up point back at Wimbledon Common and I was broken. The final 6k were sloooow and I may have weeped a bit.

I wasn’t the only one.

Lynn was driving the getaway car, and should technically have been waiting for me at the Windmill Caff, cursing because I was still limping my way across the wrong park but she’d been stuck in the traffic jam from hell, crawling along the Broadway at a pace of around 10 metres per hour. That made her marginally slower than me and I actually beat her to the cafe and was able to hide the remains of an apple shortbread slice before she arrived.

Weather Girls

The Weather Girls appeared out of nowhere to kick off my playlist and of course the rain soon followed.

I’m rather grateful for this months drought declaration. I bought a runner’s raincoat at the end of March, which would in isolation, have been sufficient to bring on a heat wave. Fortunately the hosepipe ban gave the rain gods a larger scale irony to play with and the resultant monsoon has provided me with ample opportunity to test out the OMM Kamleika Smock.

20120429-120440.jpgI was in Richmond Park, enjoying first the drizzle and then the downpour with the other hardcore – which turned out to be mostly deer, ducks and a few rather aggressive geese.

I had a marvelous time of it actually. It may have been wet, cold and muddy but I was geared up well. In the worst of the deluge I pulled up the peaked hood, zipped myself up to the chin and ran on with a spring in my step and breathless lyrics on the tip of my tongue. The cyclists caught out in the same downpour looked as miserable as sin, which added to my sense of well being within my own micro-climate.

I was trying out a number of new items on the run, there was the Kamleika smock, the Workplay waist pack from last week, some nuun electrolyte tabs and a new pair of running shoes.

The smock despite being horrendously expensive was all I hoped it would be – cool, waterproof and lightweight. The waist pack was as comfortable as last week but got additional action as I kept squeezing the waterproof smock into the expandable pouch as the rain came and went. I ruined the pristine Asics in the squelchy conditions but running through muddy puddles has got to be one of the top bonuses of being a runner.

I have to say, I rather like the rain.

Park Running Joy

I got up early enough to hit traffic jams in the Royal Parks – hordes of runners and dog walkers trying to enjoy the beautiful winter sun on the frosty ground.

My original plan was for a short loop of Wimbledon Common followed by a full lap of Richmond Park but I was at the back of a very long queue of Range Rovers so decided to start at RP instead and mix up the route.

20120115-170347.jpgMy 15k plan required a lap and a bit. I was well aware that the “bit” would require monumental mental strength to complete when my very sole would be pleading with the body to veer off and take the car back home, so I opted to complete this first. I started with the 5k Richmond Park Run route and then repeated last weeks 10k bridle way loop.

It felt so much better than last week, although I’ve just checked the average pace and it was exactly the same pitiful result as last Saturday. Still, I went 5k further and it doesn’t detract from the joy I felt to be out there in the cold, sunny park, surrounded by runners and walkers -athletes every one.

Habit Forming

I’m in search of habits – little habits.

I’ve signed up to something called 3 Tiny Habits. I don’t know much about yet as it hasn’t started but I’m guessing that it requires me to develop 3 small habits.

But what to choose?

Daily running aka Janathon, sounds like a major habit. Nail biting sounds simple enough but really what is the point?

I’ve plumped for one sun salutation per morning and then Jogblog came to the rescue by introducing to me to a perfect option: #plankaday. The hash indicating that this is a twitter incarnation, the plank bit suggests there will be pain, but not for very long and the aday part makes it perfect habit material.


Sorted, only one more to find.

I’ve also inadvertently entered into a competition with the said Jogblog and possibly FitArtist if she doesn’t eat too much pizza.

This isn’t my entire Janathon offering though as I actually ran today. I took a trip out to my favourite running haunt and followed the bridle way around Richmond Park to complete a very sedate but satisfactory 10k. I was actually scheduled for a ten-miler but this marathon plan is progressing way faster than my ability to keep up with it.

I also read about running today, which has got to count for something. I’ve started a new book called, rather aptly Run Fat Bitch Run. I shall quote liberally from the second chapter as I believe it rather succinctly explains my current frustration with running.

You will reach a stage in some runs when everything feels so right that you almost forget you are running. You are running ‘in the zone’ and that is a real pleasure. You will hate some runs from start to finish. What you ENJOY is less the run itself and more what the practice of running is enabling you to do with the rest of your life. The pleasure you really get from running is FROM THE FACT THAT YOU HAVE RUN; that you put your trainers on, braved the outdoors and actually did it, in spite of all the excuses you could think of not to.

So with that accepted, I am happy with a plank and a 10k for today.

Kingston Breakfast Run morphs into Richmond Lunchtime Run

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.

Cut Short

My hairdresser doesn’t force me to partake in an hours worth of small talk and almost never asks me about my holiday plans for the year.¬† We talk a little bit about running and then he cuts my hair. Job done.

For this I am grateful. As a result, every 4 weeks or so, I am prepared  to travel 13 miles across SW London for a no nonsense trim.

Today I had plans to combine my coiffeur with a mammoth run home along the Capital Ring from Richmond Bridge to Streatham Common, about 15 miles worth of green trail running.

Not having run more than 10k for at least a year this was probably an unrealistic goal and the moment I walked away from the salons air conditioning and into the furnace of downtown Mortlake I decided there was no need to extend the challenge by heading to Richmond first – I could just pick up the Capital Ring trail around Pen Ponds.

By the time I crossed Richmond Common and arrived at the toilets by Robin Hood Gate I looked a sight. My face was beetroot and the sweat and hair gel had turned my eyes equally crimson. I scared a Japanese lady coming out of the cubicle and then shocked myself when I caught a glimpse in the mirror. I wasted about 15mins trying to cool off in the drinks fountain, re-filled my bottle and set off in search of the Capital Ring signs.

Sign posts are usually excellent for the Capital Ring and I had chosen to run without a map. I didn’t see any at all in Richmond Park and it wasn’t marked on their information points but they appeared again as I left the gate and continued regularly throughout Wimbledon Common.

Wimbledon Common has to be one of the best places to run if you’re foolish enough to head out under the mid-day sun. There is so much tree cover and the dappled shade provides such a relief.

It’s a shame my route took me straight across the park, 2k and the shade was gone, as were the capital ring signs.

Life got a little more tetchy from this point. Having missed my sign I ran 1k up the common and then 1k back, then I overshot the turn off point again and ran another 1k in the wrong direction. Knowing I still had Wimbledon Park, Wandsworth Common, Tooting Common and Streatham Common to find I began to lose heart.

I resorted to google maps which didn’t show the Capital Ring but did at least indicate that Wimbledon Park wasn’t too far away. I trogged down a nettle filled snicket that skirted Wimbledon Tennis courts and arrived at the corner of Wimbledon Park only to discover that at least half of the park was sealed off for a private golf course. I was losing the will to live and if I couldn’t get water soon I may well lose the ability to live. Another kilometre was wasted trying to find the entrance to the park.

I’m afraid I fished out my life line and rang the non-runner. I blurted out something rasping and desperate sounding “….no water…..can’t go on…”

Ten minutes later my knight in shining armour arrived with an air conditioned car and bottle of chilled water and a can of refreshing Stella. I drank the Stella and used the cold evian to reduce the inflammation of my throbbing plantar fascia.

I’ve got 4 weeks to build myself up before I get my haircut again.

Excess Offset


The non-runner dragged me out on another run this Saturday, and I mean literally dragged. I clung on to her belt for dear life as she tried to master pace setting on the bike. It’s obviously fairly tricky cycling at my running pace and more practice is clearly required. I’m pretty sure that we hit the giddy heights of 8 minute miles on some of the down hill sections. I couldn’t verify it on the garmin as any downward glances were destined to lead to messy “running shoe – in – bike spoke – acrobatics”.

It gave my lungs an unaccustomed workout though and my legs couldn’t believe what was happening to them.

By Monday the legs were moaning in that positively satisfying, muscle torn way. Every time I had to stand up I’d feel a rush of self-satisfaction and accept another Quality Street, safe in the knowledge that I jolly well deserved it.

That got me thinking today. How much better would Christmas feel if I dragged myself up on Chrimble morn to feel the achy thighs of a self-righteous, long distance, runner? I could hobble down stairs and start on the nuts from the crack of dawn and not even feel a hint of guilt at my festive excesses. Excellent plan. So I headed out this morning for quickish pootle along the river to M&S to buy nuts. At 2 miles it perhaps doesn’t count as a long distance run but I’m hoping I did it fast enough for my legs to ache and provide the necessary sacrifice for bone-fide excess offsetting.