Milton Keynes Half Marathon

The decision to do a marathon wasn’t difficult for me. Once I started running, it seemed like a natural progression.

The evening after my first 5km race, I entered a 10km. The evening of my first 10km I entered a half marathon. I looked at various race calendars and thought that I should run a marathon. I decided that it should be before the end of May 2016, mainly because my first ever run was on June 1st 2015 and I’d be able to say that is done it all in less than 12 months. Beginner to marathon runner in a year.

But, alas, that is not to be.  Curse you, left knee.  So I’ve been training away ready for the Half Marathon at Milton Keynes.

For my last long, slow run I decided to do something different.  It was a fabulously sunny day so I thought I’d get my husband to drop me off in Northampton, about 10 miles away and I’d run home.  He dropped me at The Racecourse which is the home of Northampton Parkrun.

It’s a nice straight run, a few hills and paved all the way.  I ran all of it, walking only a very steep hill near Earls Barton which was about 6 miles in to the run.  It took me 1:55 which I was really pleased with.  I wasn’t tired, aching or in any pain.  I was so happy.   After weeks of injury I thought I’d finally got to where I needed to be.

On Monday I got my kit already and headed to MK Dons Stadium.  It’s not too far away so my husband came over to support me.  It’s the first race he’s been to and his pre race motivational chat leaves a lot to be desired.  “Is your knee definitely ok?” “Yes” “what time will you finish?”  “By 12:30 hopefully” “Is it too hot today?” “Yes.” etc.

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I started at the back, just behind the 5 hour marathon pacer.  The marathon and half marathon ran together for the first seven miles.  My plan was to stay with the 4:45 or 5 hour pacer until that point, as I was aiming for a somewhere between 2:15 and 2:30 half marathon.  I knew it was mostly flat or downhill on the second half so was aiming to make up some time there.

The pacers were wearing orange balloons with the times written on in marker pen.  I thought this was very amateurish.  From a distance you could see the balloon but not the time.  It made it very hard, especially at the start to know who to follow.

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You can see one of the balloon at the start.  I couldn’t get close enough to see the time without getting really close.

I was in the green starting area, the slowest obviously.  I started well and didn’t mind the gradual incline of the first two miles.   I passed Mary and Laura who were chatting away, looking totally relaxed. We said a brief hello and carried on to the horrid incline around the city centre.

I have driven these roads hundreds of times and would honestly have sworn they were flat.  Apparently not.  As soon as I hit the steep uphill my knee objected.  It was really painful and the movement felt quite restricted.  New plan required.  It was either stop, or walk the inclines.  My body chose the latter, but my spirit chose the former.

I ran most of it until about halfway.  I just couldn’t be bothered by then.  I was really hot and unprepared for the weather.  I knew it was hot but I’m really inexperienced in warmer weather running.  The most distance I’d ever done in warm weather was 5km.  I didn’t take any fluids with me and was relying on the water stations which was a big mistake.  My knee was ridiculously painful by then too.

From the half way to 9 miles I adopted a walk/run technique which meant that is basically failed.  I wasn’t going on get 2:15 and 2:30 was probably out of the question too.  Then I got chatting to a lady who was suffering we her knee too.  She was really upset and crying and couldn’t just run past her.  We walk/ran together for a bit longer until she couldn’t run anymore.  She wanted to complete in under 2:30 as well.  We realised at 10 miles that we’d need to do 10 minute miles for the 2:30 and we only had one decent pair of knees between us.  We said we’d stay together until the end walking and running.  We walked the whole of mile 12 but ran for most of the last mile, it was downhill and into the MK Dons stadium.   It really hurt my knee but it had to be done.

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My husband took these photos just before the finish line.

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I was really pleased that we both made it over together.  Runners have such a nice little community and I feel proud to think that I’d helped someone.  I may have sacrificed a few minutes from my time but in the grand scheme of things, it didn’t matter.

Despite my injury my chip time was 2:45:09.   Hopefully by my next half marathon (Great North Run) I will be injury free and will get the sub 2:30!

I saw Laura and Mary enter the stadium just as I was leaving, and we had another quick hello!

My next race is the Great Newham 10km in July.  I was hoping to do the Vitality London 10km, but I got the entry cut off confused with the VLM 2017 deadline and missed my chance to enter.

With no long training runs to do for a while I will be focussing on  speed work, once my knee is sorted.

 

 

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At What Cost?

I was listening to the Jeremy Vine Show on Radio 2 earlier this week when they were debating whether running was dangerous. If you didn’t hear it then I think it’s available on iplayer.  To be honest though, I wouldn’t bother.  All the usual cliches were  trotted out.    What really riled me was the usual comment that running is free.

Yes, running is free.  However every runner knows that being a runner is not free.  I thought I’d add up what I’ve spent in under a year of running.

Shoes – I own four pairs of shoes, possibly excessive?  One pair of trail shoes and three pairs of Asics GT2000.  In reality I don’t need three pairs but I rotate them so I never have to go from old to new shoes.  I’ll retire one pair before I buy new ones now though.   I did buy a pair of Saucony Iso Hurricanes but I hated them, fortunately I sold them on eBay.  Cost so far – £350+.

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Technical clothing – I run most days and if I’m not running I’m leading a group or at the gym so I need lots of clothing.  Initially I went to Sports Direct and kitted myself out in Karrimor.  It was not expensive but it’s all black or hi vis.  My normal wardrobe is mostly black but I like something more colourful when I’m running.  I love H&M fitness clothes.  I recently bought a few tops.

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They’re reasonably priced and great quality but some times you can see something that you HAVE  to buy just because you love it.  Like this pair of Under Armour tights.

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But being top heavy I had to invest in some decent sports bras, my favourite being the Shock Absorber D+.  I now have three of these and a Panache bra. Cost so far – £400.

Equipment – Garmin Forerunner 220, waist belts (one with bottle holder and one without) and all the other little bits – cost so far – £200.

Race entries – from local 5km races to the Great North Run, there’s a few races which soon add up, especially if you add in travel. I haven’t needed hotel for any except the GNR.  That was eye watering! I was super excited to receive my training top this week though.  Cost so far – £400.

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Another cost was my LiRF course but as that has allowed me earn money from running, I shouldn’t really include it.  It does mean that my total expenditure for the past year is over £1500!

Have you ever calculated what you’ve spent?  Do you see it as an investment into your health or is it just a necessary evil as a runner?

Autism Awareness Day

Today is Autism Awareness Day so it seems appropriate that I write about my fundraising.

I am well aware of how annoying fundraising can be, chuggers on the street, the early evening over enthusiastic student knocking on your front door as you sit down to dinner, billionaires telling me to donate to charity because we all have a responsibility etc.  But charities need their fundraisers so I have become one of those people who posts on social media and asks their friends to donate a little bit to charity.

I chose Ambitious about Autism for a number of reasons.  I have a few friends who have children with autism.  I know how complicated their lives can be through the lack of help and understanding.  My running group leader also fundraises for Ambitious about Autism, so part of me feels like I am thanking her for her support with my running, as well as helping a great charity.

Ambitious about Autism’s aim is to make the work a better place for young people with autism by providing education and support for children and young people. Along with the National Autistic Society, they are leading a campaign to ensure that all teachers have mandatory training about autism.

You can read all about Ambitious about Autism here  and if you are feeling generous or inspired by their work you can donate via my donation page here.

Anyway, it’s been a non running week for me AGAIN.  Frustrated doesn’t even cover it.  My knee and ankle have finally been ok but I got a very chesty cold so I had to abandon a run after 12 minutes on Monday.  I was running a good pace too but a had a coughing fit and didn’t recover.  I have been out with the beginners group a few times for a cheeky little run.

I consoled myself over Easter with a visit to see Batman vs Superman and a trip to Jungle Park climbing and zip wire type thing.  Unable to take photographs at either of those days out.  I also went shopping in Birmingham and my new Converse gave me blisters.  This halted my running during the later half of the week and I bled all over my new shoes.  Disaster!

Moving along, it’s a month until Milton Keynes half marathon.  How did that get here so quickly!  I’m spending the rest of today sorting out my training and meal plans for the next month.  Tonight I’m going to bed early and I’m going to read my new book.

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I won the book in a Twitter competition last week.  It’s written by Christina Macdonald, who previously edited Women’s Fitness and Women’s Running magazines so I’m expecting it to be a good read.  I haven’t read a book about running before, I tend to stick to the Internet and the occasional magazine.

Do you run for charity? Why did you choose your charity?

Post Race Fallout and Passing the Love On

My last post was fairly miserable.  I was tired and disappointed. It’s now a week since I ran Silverstone half marathon and I have put it into perspective.  I bloody love running and cannot wait to get going again.

For this race, 2:42 was a decent time.  The first 10km was the fastest I’d ever run and then I got injured.  Professional athletes get injured Caroline!  I’ve also raised over £220 for Ambitious About Autism so far so I cannot complain. Please visit my fundraising page if you would like to donate too.

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I took myself off to a sports therapist on Tuesday and she was great.  She identified that I have weak ankles and has given me lots of exercises to strengthen them.  I have been doing these religiously.  I even went swimming on her advice and I hate swimming.

Obviously my knee was the main area of concern but apparently there is no serious damage   Just some inflammation to the meniscus.  I’ve been regularly applying ice (frozen peas) to it, even on the school run.

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Don’t worry, I was parked up.

I’ve rested but I have needed to lead 3 beginners groups this week! Fortunately it’s Week 1 so we are only running for 1 minute at a time.  The knee has been much better behaved though.

I’ve managed to go to the gym a few times too but it’s all been upper body work.  No deadlifts or squats this week.  Such a shame because they’re my favourite.

It does mean that Milton Keynes marathon is out though.  I won’t be able to rest, train properly and taper.   I don’t want to make my first marathon as disappointing as my first half marathon so I have changed my entry to run the half at MK.  I feel much better about resting and letting myself heal up properly now.   It’s almost a relief.

On Thursday I took my competitive mum status to the extreme because it was a running event!

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Northamptonshire Sport’s School Sport Partnerships organised the local cross country race.  150 boys ran in Sam’s Year 5 race.  It was two laps of a 600m course.  Fairly flat but a bit soggy!  It was really well organised and lovely weather. Just what I needed to remind me about how much I love everything running!

Sam likes a run but he takes after me and isn’t the fastest!  He’s run Parkrun before and will sometimes come on a short run with me but he isn’t too good at pacing himself.

He told me he had a plan to go steady on the first lap and faster on the second, overtaking one person at a time.  His plan obviously worked.  He was definitely near the back of the field on the first lap but I could see him push on the second.   Overtaking was easier on the second lap because so many boys had not paced themselves and were walking the second lap.

He’d also save a bit for a final sprint and came through in 44th place.  Much better than I did a few days before.

He wasn’t disappointed by his placing but felt that he could have done better.  He looked at the photographs I’d taken, and analysed his technique as there was a Sport Relief obstacle course at his school on Friday.   He came second in his year group for that.   Incidentally, the bottom right photo is the first lap and the other three are the second lap.   High knees and driving arms!  I really could learn a lot from this boy!

It’s a shame Sam doesn’t get to do any distance running at school because they lack outside space.   They make up for this by trying out lots of different sports and fitness activities.  He was doing Zumba and street dance last month!

It was great to see all the children running and cheering, not just for their own schools but for the final finishers.  Great sportsmanship!

Do you share your love of running with anyone close?  What do you think of children’s sports in schools?  Should it be competitive or just about participation?

Silverstone Half Marathon

Race day arrived and I felt horrendous.  A complete bag of nerves.  My ankle injury had worked it’s way up my leg and my left knee, despite no running for ten days, was still painful.  I’d probably been running slightly abnormally and had overcompensated.

So really I should be writing that I decided not to race.  Obviously that isn’t the case.  Because I am a stubborn, obstinate fool.

Pre-race preparation had included a supply of post race snacks and fluids, and Clif Shot Blocks for during the race,

 

 

 

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Kinesiology tape,

 

 

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Trusty Asics complete with running chip,

 

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a suitable outfit, including my Ambitious About Autism vest, complete with running club clips,

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and matching nails.

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I’d done the training and I didn’t care about how long it would take but my running group leader, Susan, was going to pace me.   She suggested 2:15 based on my training times but that sounded very fast!    Obviously we needed to see what the knee would do.

Silverstone Race Circuit was easy to find and it’s only just over half an hour from me.  The traffic was quite heavy and it actually took nearer to an hour. We ended up being directed into one of the closest car parks to the race track but it was still 15 minutes walk to the track.  Half way on this walk my knee completely seized up.  I limped on for a bit, stretched a bit and it eventually loosened up again.

We had a ‘safety wee’, drank a bit more and ate the obligatory pre race banana.  After dropping of bags to the luggage drop we headed into the race track with another member of the running group, Colin.  We stood between the 2:14 and 2:29 pacers.  Colin only joined our group as a beginner in September but had run as a teenager.   He’s much faster than me but he wanted to run with us.

The race started of really well and I was enjoying the pace.  My first six miles were between 10:08 and 10:39.  I managed to knock 1:04 minutes off my 10km PB too.

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We’d lost Colin at 2 miles.  He was going too fast for the crowds around us so off he went.  I felt relieved as I was worried about holding him back.

I had a little walk after 6.2 miles.  I’d just put on a spurt for the 10km PB and then there was a little incline so Susan and fast walked it, so mile 7 was a bit slower at 11:39 though we sped up again for mile 8.  Again I felt like I was winning.  Maybe not the 2:15 but definitely ahead of my 2:26 training half marathon.

Then it went wrong.  There were two bridges to cross and my knee couldn’t cope with the altered gradient.   Despite walking them my knee seized again.  I’d taken anti inflammatories before the race but perhaps they’d worn off.  From then on it was stop start. I’d walk a bit and then run a bit.   Somewhere around mile 10 I stopped for a loo break.  I probably wouldn’t have done this if I’d been running but by then I was fairly disheartened.   As I left the loo I saw the 2:29 pacer just ahead and I felt that I could perhaps get sub 2:30 after all.  We got ahead and continued for on for a bit.

I was really pleased to see the people from Ambitious About Autism head office at mile 10.  They gave a great cheer and fortunately I was able to run a bit at that point.  My fundraising is up to around £200 now so I’m really hopeful of smashing my £500 target before the Royal Parks Half.

Eventually I had to give in and we dropped back behind the pacer.  Mile 13 was all walking, I couldn’t run at all.

Finally, with the finish line I sight, I ran the final 200 metres.   There was no way I was walking across the line.

My Garmin gave me a finish time of 2:40:16 and a distance of 13.35 miles.  Official time was 2:42:11 and 6155th place! My chip time was a bit longer to account for my loo break.  Colin managed just over 2 hours.  He was really pleased as it was his first half marathon in 30 years.

I’m frustrated that it took me longer than I’d wanted, and I am cross that I am frustrated. I am sad that I didn’t feel happiness at a good run or relief at crossing the line.  I am also worried about my next race, Milton Keynes Marathon in 7 weeks.  I have a physio appointment on Tuesday.  Hopefully she can help me to recover!

I had a complete self indulged sulk on Twitter on Sunday evening obviously tired and emotional.  Everyone was lovely and supportive.    My brother, who was training for London Marathon and was due  to run Silverstone, but is injured said,

“Everyone will say you were fantastic but it doesn’t stop you being disappointed.”

Did you race this weekend?  Were you at Silverstone?  What’s been your worst race?

 

 

 

 

 

Ready to Race

It’s a week until Silverstone HM and I’m nervous! I need all you seasoned runners to tell me that it will be fine!

Having had the ankle injury my training has been pretty inadequate, I’m nowhere near where I want to be.  I have lost about four weeks since January, and with less than two months to my full marathon, I am feeling very unprepared.  On Thursday I took myself off to Stanwick Lakes (again) for my long slow run.  The weather was perfect, sunny with a gentle breeze.  I needed this to be a good run, both physically and mentally.

I had run 13.1 miles in training in early February and then I damaged my ankle after 6 miles on my last LSR a week later.  Despite two pleasing 5km runs last weekend I needed a good long run.  I decided to aim for 13.1 again, anything else would be a bonus.

My run started off nicely, and headed down the path towards Thrapston.  I ran about three miles there and three miles back to my car, all at a nice steady 11 minute mile pace.

Back at my car I chugged down half a bottle of Brazilian Guava Lucozade and a High 5 Energy Gel.  I didn’t need the gel but I’m trying various things for when I do need them.  Fuelling myself for a race isn’t something I’ve needed to worry about before. I chose High 5 because that’s what is being given out a MK Marathon, I was advised to try what’s given out at races, that makes perfect sense.  However I can state now that I am never having a gel again. I should perhaps declare my weird food quirk now, I don’t eat food without texture.  Soups, custard and yogurt are all out,  although I can eat yogurt if it is really thick and served with something like fruit or pancake.  I can’t stand the sensation of it sliding down my throat.  I’m going to stick with Clif Bar Shot Bloks in the future.  My car is shameful evidence of my pit stops.

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It’s even worse than this now!

 

I carried on running laps of the smaller lake after my pit stop.  It’s really easy to run and only 0.8 miles.  I could mentally break it down into 3 sections so I find it easy to run to point A, point B and then point C.   I did have to stop to change tops as I’d put on a vest and my bra had chafed my inner arms.  A longer sleep top soon sorted it but I have horrible grazes there now.  Another lesson learnt.

I stopped the laps after 12 miles and made myself run around the larger lake.   I knew I had 15 miles in me but I also knew I’d be tempted to stop after 13.1! The smaller lake is next to the car park and I’m very weak willed!

I finished my run in 2:50 and my Garmin beeped in celebration!

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Two new PBs 

 

The day’s half marathon time of 2:26:29 was 14 minutes quicker than my previous time.   However this run was a lot flatter and much nicer conditions so it’s not strictly comparable, I was really happy with my 11:20 min/miles though.  For a bit of fun, I used the Runner’s World calculator to work out my predicted run times based on my 5km PB.  It actually isn’t that inaccurate.

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Courtesy of Runner’s World

 

So with just a week to go, I’ve got to focus to eating well this week, getting my rest and just a few shorter runs.

Do you have chaos in your car from running?  Is it full of snacks , trainers and water bottles? Aside from running, how do you prepare before a race?  Any last minute tips are greatly received!

 

Running Firsts

I had a running first this week.   My first ever race pack arrived.  I am beyond excited, is that sad?  I’ve run in a few races before, but they’ve been register on the day events so I’ve picked my number and chips then.

 

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Silverstone Half Marathon race pack

 

I’m (hopefully, ankle injury permitting) running the Adidas Silverstone Half Marathon in two weeks time.   Look out for me if you’re there.  I’ll be near the back.

This will be my first half marathon.  I thought Siverstone would be a great introduction to half marathons,  I chose Silverstone because it’s a nice flat course and I can get there in just over half an hour.  I didn’t want to travel too far on my first one.

I’ve only run four ‘proper’ timed races before.  My first was a 5km last September, around Stanwick Lakes, near to where I live. It’s a flat route around a nature reserve.  I love the Lakes and often go there with my family, but it’s a brilliant place to run.  It’s a 5km loop around the lake but with lots of other paths to follow when I want to.  I often train there as I can run laps of the lake without worrying about where the nearest toilets are (I have a pathological fear of being too far from a loo!) and I can leave all my snacks and fluids in my car and grab them as I go around.  It’s like having my own drinks station.  I keep a secret stash of Haribo in my car for ‘running emergencies’.

That first race took me 33:26 minutes.  Faster than my Parkrun but I ran it badly.  I sprinted off with the crowd and had to stop and walk, from halfway around I had to walk run and I couldn’t get my pace right.  I was so disappointed with myself at the time.  However, every day is a school day, and I learned a good lesson.  I ignore everyone else these days. Well, most of the time.

I did go for a 5km lap this morning.  I had a man about 20 meters in front and another man 20 metres behind.  Instead of ignoring them, I used them as pacers and kept with both of them.  I managed to knock 32 seconds off my PB.  Down to 31:33.6 minutes.   I was very surprised, obviously the two weeks I’ve had off running has done me some good.  My ankle held up ok too.  Fingers crossed it’ll be good for Silverstone.

What was your first race?  Did it go well? What did you learn?