An Excuse of Seagulls

20121125-175238.jpgI knew today’s run was going to be a struggle.

I awoke raring to go but somehow managed to squander 90 mins with pre-run faff, I wasted another 20 mins in the car trying to program the sat nav to take me to my “usual” run destination and when I eventually arrived at Putney Bridge, no thanks to the sat nav, I was so flustered that I seriously considered turning around and going home.

I had to push, prod and cajole myself around much of the course. For no apparent reason I would grind to a halt every 500 metres and require a motivational pep talk. I’m not really good at motivational speak so after I exhausted my repertoire of supportive chants I had to adopt a more bullying tone.

This was a run of excuses but fortunately many were photogenic.

The first involved a short break to hide from a swarm of hungry seagulls, lured by sandwich discarding toddler.


I then moved on to panoramic photo after panoramic photo. I won’t bore you with them all…


No matter how slowly I trundled around the 13k Putney Bridge – Barnes Bridge – Putney Bridge Loop I gave myself a resounding pat on the back for ignoring my inner slacker, and of course I finished full of the joys associated with a cold breezy autumnal morning spent by the river.

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.

Sticks and Stones

I picked up a pair of hiking sticks yesterday. I had got it into my head that Nordic running – i.e. running with Nordic Walking poles, would be just the ticket for my decrepit knee.

They might have helped the knee but they weren’t great for marital harmony. Lynn point blank refused to go out for a run with me if I persisted with the idea.

I have a stubborn streak.

I did try using them out of the public eye but the treadmill was just a little too narrow and I would either jam the sticks in the stationary part of the contraption or hold them so close to my body that I’d wrap them round my ankles at 8km/hr. Either way was fairly unpleasant and I had to venture outside with them.

We were in Mortlake for the afternoon so headed out on one of my favourite old routes around the Thames. Lynn brought up the rear, approximately 6 feet behind the lumbering embarrassment.

I did look a bit of a state.

It’s normally a quiet route but of course, today, every man, his dog and his entire extended family decided to go for a stroll by the river.

I was struggling a bit.

I started at a fair old pace and knocked a minute of my usual kilometre time but my lungs couldn’t keep up with the bounding and the sticks kept slipping on the concrete paths and skittered in all directions. I’d lollop up to the first group, puffing and clattering my tinny poles and then couldn’t muster the energy to make it past the next clan of walkers.

It turned into one of those dastardly run walk things but in the end we were pleased with the time and we’ve added another 3.5km to the Janathon tally.

Juneathon 2/30 – Southbank Coronary

It has to be said that the inaccurately named Non-runner is proving to be quite a good runner. Over the course of the last 5 runs she seems to have developed some lung capacity and the new Audiofuel playlist has played havoc with her pace.

Today I loaded her up with my rucksac which must have weighed at least a stone and refused to let her listen to music. She still set a blistering pace apparently counting the 1,2,3,4 rhythm like the man from Audiofuel.

I struggled and in fact failed to keep up but still managed to knock a whole minute off my current km pace. This is no good thing. In order to achieve this feat I had to push my heart rate up to a max of 212 bpm which is quite an unsavory thing to do in the middle of a tourist laden mecca. It’s a miracle I didn’t collapse over the Thames.

Here’s a chart of our heart rates overlaid (courtesy of runsaturday), I’m the dramatic brown one vs the rather stable blue from the Non Runner.

I need to pack a bigger rucksac for next time.

Study Avoidance Run

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.

Runabout the Capital Ring

I was so excited by today’s proposition that I forgot completely that I always procrastinate for at least 3 hours before leaving the front door with my running shoes. By 8am I had crammed two mini cheese and cucumber pittas, 1 half bag of American jelly beans (I’d raided the other half the day before), a mini tracker bar, an emergency tenner, an emergency switch card and an oyster travel card into my tiny bum bag/water carrier.

I was gone by 9am, jostling my weeks groceries along the Thames path.

There’s a definite nutritional “issue” going on here. Take me away from my fridge and the cortisol levels start red-lining. Imagine if I was ever unfortunate enough to get a place in the London marathon, with my predicted time of circa 7 hours, I would miss both lunch and afternoon tea, the temptation of a mid run burger and pint would be too strong to resist.

As it was, I reached 4.22 miles before I felt the need to bolster glycogen levels. As a note to self, I think jelly beans are best avoided at public events. They cram about 30 different flavours in each pack and one of them is vile, of course you never know which one. I started patiently popping them in my mouth, savouring each individual nuance and then got bored and shoved 6 in at once. Of course the nasty one snuck through and I started spitting.

I started again, reading the labels this time, pink and beige spots – bubble gum flavour, a bit odd but I can keep it in my mouth. Dark green – liquorice, again not too bad, but possibly an offender in combination. I sensed the need for a scientific experiment, paired flavour combinations, perhaps I should have bought more packs.

I was busily testing watermelon and chocolate pudding flavour when I tripped over a bike wheel. I don’t know whose idea it was to combine bikes and runners on towpaths but you’d think he might have shouted or tinkled on his bell, it was clear I was pre-occupied with jelly beans and my iPod was playing full blast. I wouldn’t have minded if I’d been running at the time but no, I was in the middle of a walk interval. I wanted to shout after him that I wasn’t a greedy ox – I was on runabout!

Anyhow, did I mention the plan? I was to leave the front door, heading in a north-westerly direction towards the capital ring, running 1 mile then walking for 1/2 a mile until I could go no further.

Osterley Lock

By 6 miles, still feeling in fine fettle, I had left the canal and my workplace behind and was heading into unknown territory. I’d picked up the little capital ring arrows but almost immediately faced my first hurdle as it tried to direct me through a flooded tunnel. What with the excess pitta baggage I hadn’t made room for my wetsuit and decided to divert over the Uxbridge Road.

Back on track again I meandered for ages along the Brent river, ducking under the viaduct and avoiding flying golfballs somewhere in the region of Greenford. It was 10 miles before I reached roads, and houses and general city stuff, Celeste’s fear of getting lost in bush could almost become a reality.

A couple of turns later I was back in the wilderness and starting to get a bit lost. I am a little mentally deficient when I run but it wasn’t all my fault, someone had twisted the arrow around and sent me a mile of course. I almost bailed at this point but fortunately I had taken the precaution of downloading the audio guides of the separate sections and was soon back on the trail, cursing only slightly.

Capital Ring Cows

I climbed Horsendon Hill (site of WWII anti-craft guns) past quality Capital Ring walking cows and reached the summit to find the historic site was now home to a group of semi naked coca cola drinking Armenians.

I didn’t take a photo, although I would have loved a sip of coke, I thought naked men cavorting on ancient woodland were best avoided.

Down hill and vale and past other stuff that I can’t remember because I’d turned into one of the shuffling undead.

Suddenly Harrow Hill appeared, a veritable oasis where I could buy bona fide revitalising lucozade and admire this fine flint constructed church, not exactly on the route but almost worth the diversion, after all what’s another mile when you’ve already done 15?


Lost yet again, I found myself in the unusual position of being able to ask a topless, chainsaw weilding log carver if he knew where my style was. He pointed back the way I had come and said it was just after the bridge and river I’d crossed. What bridge? What river? Obviously my mental faculties were on a go slow again, the jelly bean effect was wearing off. Never one to go back when I can plough on regardless, I tipped myself over a barbed wire fence and stumbled back on to the right path, giving myself a nice sore graze on my back.

The walking intervals shortened from here on in, as it became easier to propel myself forward in a quasimodo style lurch than the alternative upright semi-graceful walk.

The audio guide informed me that a tube station lay beckoning like an exotic belly dancer and I staggered happily from the track like a weary desert traveler. I was not quite so happy when I arrived at South Kenton station to find the Bakerloo line was closed for the weekend. Public transport mayhem ensued and as a sweaty, irritable, broken and cantankerous woman, I probably didn’t make the best of seat buddies. It took me 3 hours to get home.

All in all, that Capital ring is a damn fine route for running along, I managed almost a quarter of its length and would be tempted to try for a bit more. It’s a bit of an omission that there wasn’t a single pub enroute, although that probably worked out well as I was convincing myself that I deserved at least a shandy by the 13 mile point.

18 miles
5:35:00 (which includes an inordinately long time sat on a toilet seat resting)

Knit One, Pearl One

Richmond Hill

My running seems to be oscillating wildly between run one, love one, hate one. Today was time for another “love one”, thankfully.

I wish you could tell how you’re going to feel before you set off, when I get a duff run I feel like throwing in the towel and quitting, these are runs to avoid. Today I felt the starting of a cold so nearly didn’t bother going out but it turned out to be the sort of run that keeps me buzzing about the sport for ages. I’ve set myself up for a good weekend now I’m sure.

I drew up my half-marathon plan a few weeks ago and opted for a simple Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday plan. I hit problems the moment I transferred this to my pre-existing diary full of appointments (be-fitting my social butterfly status). Training plans clashed with life this weekend as I’m heading off to the coast to try out my wetsuit. This is a vital arrangement as I haven’t been in the pool since December and need to see if the 1 mile open water carnage otherwise known as the Great North Swim is a viable option.

So, running plans were randomly jiggled and resulted in me having to go out and pull off a 7-miler.

7 miles is an awkward distance for me. My commute is a perfect 6-miler and not much would persuade me to run half a mile beyond my final destination and back again. My other running routes tend to involve ever increasing loops of the Thames but the river fording points are limited and so throw up huge psychological tests or bridges that I seem too weak to resist.

I opted to run as far as I could away from my flat and then loop back round through Richmond Park. I loaded SteppenWolf onto the iPod and fortunately it kept me occupied for about 4 miles before I realised I hadn’t a flipping clue what was going on. By that time I’d reached the point of no return and had no choice but to push on forward.

I find it a little concerning that I have to actively mess with my own head in order to achieve simple training plans but I won’t lose sleep over it. At least I’ve found another good route with limited options for bailing out.

Right, I’m off to the seaside.

A bit of Circle Line


I woke with a stinking cold yesterday but as I was in central London for a meeting I could hardly evade a quick tube running session.

The plan was to tick off the yellow Circle Line, starting at Aldgate.

It seems to me that every photo I’ve taken on the tube map challenge has included either the telecom tower or the Gherkin, I feel like I’m doing a massive maypole dance around the two landmarks. Only its June so I can’t be.

I headed down the Minories of Jack the Ripper fame to The Tower of London and then promptly sat down for a rest.

Tower of London 2

Running this route along the north bank of the Thames is actually quite feasible. The tourists flock to the South bank so you have a relatively unhindered passage and the views are great all the way out along the Embankment.

Unfortunately I had to keep stopping to retrieve tissues from my rucksac and I gave up earlier than anticipated and jumped on the tube home at St James’s Park.

Salomon XT Wings Challenge
10 Tube Stations
7.25 km

81 Tube Stations
71.42 km
See the combined progress map here.

Juneathon Tally
Runs: 8/30
Total Distance: 31.1 m

Nike+ Sportband

I’ve taken my time to write this post because I’m not sure whether to come clean about my sins or to attempt a bluff.

Nike+ Sportband

I was sent the Nike+ Sportband to try out at the beginning of the week but as I don’t have holes in my running shoes I couldn’t possibly go running before I had some hi-tech means of carrying my speed sensor – you wouldn’t catch me putting gaffer tape on my Kayanos unlike Joggerblogger and Jogblog.

The little thingammy pouch that I ordered from ebay arrived just before I left for work on Wednesday though, so I pretty much had no choice but to pack my bags and prepare for an enforced running commute.

My first impressions of the strap weren’t great, I wondered why Nike would design the watch to have a ridiculous piece of plastic wedged underneath the usb face. It angled the watch and meant I kept catching it on my sleeve. Thankfully I spotted the photo of joggerbloggers sleak sportband before I went out in public, the plastic bit is meant to be thrown away! Moron. Now I’m wearing it as a watch although I have to ask the person sitting next to me to read it as I haven’t got used to deciphering the vertical numbers and the screen is too dark but I still think it looks cool.

Anyway, back to the running.

When I left the house it was chucking it down so I packed the long sleeve top again, of course when I left work it was flippin scorching and just to ensure that I got heat stroke at the edge of a deserted canal I left the building with my empty water bottle in hand. With no means of re-entering the building I had to set off sans hydration system – bollox!

3 seconds later the Sportband is telling me to start walking but the garmin is persistently ignoring my request to locate my position. I can’t start walking now or the garmin will have a paddy fit. By the time the gps picks up the Nike system has gotten bored and gone back into clock mode, who can blame it?

I was feeling hot, sweaty and lethargic so I pretty much ignored both gadgets for the first 4k as thoughts vacillated between diving in the canal and diving in the canal. When I entered Brentford I headed straight for the nearest shop where I knocked back a bottle of water before I reached the till and handed over 90p for an empty bottle of plastic.

I set off again but now thoughts were of cool beers, enjoyed by the rivers edge. As I’ve never been known to resist the lure of beer and I was just about to reach the Thames river bank, I rather shockingly dived into the next shop and came out with a can of Stella. Now beer can’t be shaken so I paused both gadgets while I wandered down to the river. I thought I’d just enjoy my can and then carry on with the run.

Oh baaaaad runner! I thought it would be rather pleasant sitting with my legs dangling in the river enjoying a refreshing brew but the reality was rather seedy. I’m clearly a runner – running clobber and shoes, beetroot face and sweat, not one but two running watches and headphones in ear, only I’m walking and not just walking, this is no-good can swigging bum walking. About 300 hundred proper runners came past me in and in the end I realised I wasn’t enjoying this whole cool beer thing and tipped it all away.

Art is Not a Crime

Running was pretty tricky from here on in, 300m run, huge gasp, hands to temples and then walk for 1km – repeat. Nice treat at the end as there was a new piece of graffiti on my steps. Not quite Banksy but it isn’t bad.

Painful but the Sportband faired pretty well.
Total garmin distance (running only): 5.78km
Nike Sportband distance (running only): 5.65km

No way of telling which was the most accurate but they were close enough to ensure that I’ll never bother calibrating the Nike Sportband.
Post run, the usb face automatically uploads (after inserting into the usb port of course) to the Nike+ website and displays whizzy graphs.

The Nike+ website is pretty good if you like online motivation. You can join no end of challenges to push you out of the door and it looks like the next Nike organised run will be a worldwide Nike+ only event. The sportband is a great way of a gaining entry to the event, its also got to be one of the cheapest available speed and distance monitors on the market.

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Running Commute Torment

I’m in desperate need of a new running routine, and what better way to kick start a routine than re-starting the running commute torment?

I wanted to take the canal route but as I was preparing to leave work, a huge grey cloud was obliterating all the light of day. I spent so long trying to decide whether I was risking imminent murderising of the dark, isolated, canal kind that it got so dark I couldn’t find the opening to the waterway anyhoo. So instead I got to chalk up another grim run along the Uxbridge Rd for posterity.

I was really hoping to avoid people today, an isolated canal (minus the certain death) would have been perfect. As it was I had to put up with the look of panic on the faces of everyone I passed. People at bus stops would look quickly away and push past each other to put distance between them and me. They were clearly terrified that they were going to have to “do something” when the lolloping beetroot running towards them, collapsed and required CPR.


I was pretty hot today, it’s been so long since I last ran consistently that I haven’t noticed the seasons changing and I went out in a thermal long sleeved top. Very uncomfortable. It was so hot in fact that the Thames had dried out leaving an amazing array of litter and assorted boat wrecks. I was tempted to wade in and search for bullion.

As unappealing as this run was, I need to continue with this kind of torture. I have a plan of the crazy running kind and it needs a level of commitment and endurance that I seem to have discarded by the wayside. More details to follow.