Jersey parkrun

I’m so chuffed I can finally say I’ve done the Jersey parkrun! Since I found out the parkrun Alphabet Challenge was a ‘thing’ I’ve been trying to do different parkruns hitting all the letters (apart from X – there isn’t one yet). It’s silly but I find it really good fun.

There are so many parkruns all over the UK (and the world) so it gets you to different places, meeting new people and just having a laugh really. Over this year I’ve managed to tick off quite a few letters. I’m strangely very proud of myself.

Anyway this weekend saw my friend Mike and I getting a flight from Southampton to Jersey so I could tick off ‘J’. Mike loves parkrun too but isn’t quite as mad as me with the Alphabet Challenge – though he’s now becoming more persuaded!I took a half day Friday so we could fly Friday afternoon. The flight was super easy and fast. We also both only packed hand luggage which made things even cheaper and easier. The plane was tiny and barely half full. We quickly arrived in Jersey and found a huge T-rex which was amusing!It even moved and roared! I love dinosaurs (weird I know) so this made my day straight away. We got out of the tiny airport and walked straight onto the number 15 bus. The buses in jersey are fantastic.It’s £2 for wherever you’re going. Handily one was going literally just then to St. Helier where we were staying. Twenty minutes later we arrived at Liberation Station, the main bus station. Super easy even for me! To be fair, neither Mike or I are the most savvy of people so it was highly likely something was going to go wrong on our little holiday… fingers crossed eh.We got two rooms at the Avoca Guest House, which was about a ten minute walk from the station. It was tiny and old school British quaint but it did the job and the owners were lovely and friendly. It was also cheap! It included breakfast but as we would be parkrunning Saturday and then half marathoning Sunday we wouldn’t be partaking.Bless Mike, he offered to take the smaller of the two rooms where the bathroom was shared with one of the other rooms (how weird) and I got the bigger room with an en suite. I was very grateful. Especially as I do always need a wee during the night.We ditched our bags and then headed for a walk to see the local area and to find some dinner. Unfortunately it seemed like the rest of Jersey also had this idea and most places were rammed. We tried a great looking little Mexican, La Hacienda, but it was fully booked. St. Helier is a small seaside town – very British but also felt a little bit French, which would make sense considering it’s proximity to the country. And the weather was beautiful. Sunny and warm!Eventually we found a place called the Canteen and Bar which looked reasonable enough. It wouldn’t have been our first choice but by this point we were super hungry and tired. We shared some falafels and chicken “cakes” and I had chilli beef and cheese on nachos (not my usual but after seeing someone with nachos in the Mexican I was now craving them) and it was very tasty.For pudding we decided to drop into a crêperie that we’d spotted on our meanderings. Mike had salted caramel and I had Belgium milk and white chocolate with honeycomb toffee crunch ice cream. Absolutely heavenly! Every bite was like an explosion of ‘to die for’ taste. I’m not usually a pancake or crêpe fan but this was just divine.Then we parted to our little rooms ready for parkrun in the morning. Through the night I was intermittently woken up by thunder and lightning. It went on pretty much the entire night and we woke up to it still carrying on and heavily raining. Uh oh. I’d only packed summer clothes and no coat! This had not been forecasted at all.Luckily I’d brought my umbrella and Mike was able to borrow one of the guest house’s umbrellas and we walked to the bus stop. We’d have gotten absolutely soaked had we not had umbrellas but it was still rather grim. I’d packed two options for that morning’s run (a strappy tank and my parkrun apricot t-shirt) and in the end wore both as I was cold. The bus journey took about 20 minutes and we picked up more parkrunners as we went. One of them told us that it might be cancelled due to the thunder and lightning and they were making a decision whether to go through with it or not. WHAT!!! Noooooo! Imagine coming all this way and not being able to get my ‘J’! Thankfully when we arrived I saw a Tweet that said it was to go ahead as long as the thunderstorm held off. Thank goodness.The parkrun was located next to the Les Quennevais sports centre. [Side note: check out Paul Jeffrey’s blog for some more good info on this parkrun]. We had a quick mosey about before heading back into the shelter of the sports centre. I had a quick wee and then eventually headed out for a mile warm-up. Absolutely necessary as I was quite chilly. The cycle track near the sports centre was exactly a mile which was perfect and gave us a good idea of what a section of the course would be like.We met lots of other lovely parkrunners as we waited about. There were a lot of tourists like us who had pretty much just come to do the parkrun (for the Alphabet Challenge like us) and some also doing the half the next day. There was one couple that had only flown in that morning and would be flying back out that afternoon. I mean that is mental! More mental that us…One woman, Marie, just had Jersey left to do for the challenge – which was super exciting. She also gave me lots of solid information about how to get ‘Z’ (Zary in Poland) and some tips on how to travel there and where to stay. Super helpful. She had a t-shirt made with all the letters she’d done. Very dedicated. Annoyingly I’d made the mistake of not bringing my cow cowl… everyone was wearing theirs!The first timer’s brief was hilarious because it was pretty much 80% of the field who moved over to hear the briefing. The marshal had to grab the megaphone so everyone could hear. And then we lined up ready to go. Though I’d checked the results for last week and seen over 300 people had done it, this week there was definitely less than 200. The run director did an introduction and then said “three, two, parkrun!” and apparently we were off! It was mental. I started running and realised there weren’t too many females ahead of me and decided to be stupid and throw caution to the wind and try and get first female. Stupid because of the the half the next day but ehhh.

I’d had a fairly rubbish week of running, with every run feeling hard and lethargic, so I was pretty sure the half wouldn’t go to plan, which is why I decided to capitalise on feeling good then and getting something out of the parkrun in terms of placing.

The first mile ran round the sports centre area on tarmac and had a slight, brief incline but otherwise was flat. Then we headed off along the railway line path which was compacted sand/trail and easy to run on. It was also nice and flat but you did have to do some puddle dodging. I managed to overtake the females in front of me and was now first girl. I felt the run was comfortably tough and the gentle rain helped cool me down – wearing two tops had not been the right decision!

After the first turnaround I realised the wind had been behind us and now it was against us… ehhh. Eventually though we ran down a small slope and got to another turnaround. It made me think, what’s better running downhill against the wind or running uphill with the wind behind? It didn’t matter hugely as we were soon heading out from this path and back to the tarmac where the finish was on the grass. I was surprised to get my token and see I’d gotten 7th place! I don’t think I’ve ever gotten such a high placing before. My time was 20:55. Happy days!But yeah, probably not the wisest decision. And my calf, which had been feeling super tight all week, was niggling a little. Of course. I signed the guest book and chatted to the others while I waited for Mike who wasn’t too far behind me (24:09). He too was supposed to be taking it easy but had run a bit harder than planned.We then headed upstairs of the sports centre to have a hot drink with a few of the other tourists. We enjoyed a lovely cup of tea with them, swapping running and parkrun stories. It’s so nice to meet people as crazy as yourself 😉 One of them, Richard, had got a hire car and offered to drop us back at our guest house which was very nice of him.

At this point Mike and I were ready to eat our own arms as we hadn’t had breakfast yet. It was about 1pm by the time we’d showered and found ourselves a cafe to eat in! It was a lovely place called Nude Food Cafe, which was kind of a health food cafe I guess. Lots of Buddha bowls, raw desserts and smoothies. We went for a rather healthified fry-up… poached eggs, pancetta, spinach, mushrooms, sweet potato and sourdough toast. It was delicious but I hoovered it up very quickly.Afterwards we shared a raw caramel shortbread. It was made out of coconut sugar, almost butter and things like that. It wasn’t overly sweet but it was nice.Thankfully it had stopped raining and was starting to brighten up. From the cafe we decided to randomly head north on the bus to go to do a bit of exploring. To be honest, our decision was down to what sounded good on the map and what bus was available within the next twenty minutes. So we headed to Greve de Lecq. It was to be an adventure!It was definitely a good choice though. The sun was out and we were at a beautiful bay.The beach had barely a handful of people on it and yet the sun was beating down. It was so beautiful. We obviously had to dip our feet into the sea as well. Stupidly I did manage to put my hoodie in the only puddle of water on the rocks…what an idiot. But as the sun was out I thankfully didn’t need it anymore.From the beach we then did a two mile hike along a clifftop path. It was a very windy and narrow path and at times very steep – not exactly ideal the day before a half but it was so beautiful and peaceful we didn’t care.This was such a random little excursion. We were so proud of ourselves to have found such a gem of a location and something fun to do that afternoon. I mean we were really just there for parkrun and the race, so everything extra was a bonus. And this was a definite bonus!Eventually we caught the bus back and headed straight to the Mexican from the previous night, determined to get ourselves seated. We literally rocked up as soon as it opened. Amazingly they had one tiny table available (apparently the restaurant is always booked up for two week’s in advance!).

I’m so glad we got this table because honestly this is one of the best tasting meals I’ve had in ages. Like literally every mouthful was an explosion of taste. It was incredible. I had chicken wings to start (I know, I know, always the same) and then ‘deconstructed’ lamb tacos for main. GOD it was good.Mike had a burger with slow cooked pork on it. Honestly the food was incredible. I never wanted it to end! I had churros for pudding which were delicious as well but really the tacos were the main event. Maybe not ideal food for the next day’s half but it was worth it!

I’ll save the half for another post…Have you ever been to Jersey before?

What is your Mexican dish of choice? Normally I love fajitas.

What’s the furthest you’ve ever travelled for a race or run?

The Romsey Beer Race 2018

The Romsey 5 Mile Beer Race is probably one of my favourite races of the year. I’ve done it three times before and it’s hands down always a good day.

It’s helped I’ve done well each time I’ve run it – and it hugely helps that at the end you get a slice (or three) of cake. Each time I’ve somehow managed to get a podium place each time. Actually this isn’t that much of a mystery as the three times I’ve previously run it there was another league race happening on the same day (the D Day 10k) and this attracts a lot of the local club runners, many of whom are super speedy and would almost certainly have beaten me had they been running at the Beer Race.

But anyway, after a couple of years not running, this year I’d entered and the league race was on a different day. My friend Sarah, who is also a second claim Southampton runner and runs at the track with me, was doing it and she’s super fast and won it last year. I knew straight away I wouldn’t be able to beat her (I’m not sandbagging here, she is literally minutes fast than me over all distances). But that was OK. I just wanted to give it a good crack and see where I was at fitness-wise and time-wise. I hate 10ks, but a quaint five mile race with cake at the end is far more my thing.

Happily I didn’t have to get up early for the race either. I got up at 8am, and herded my parents, like cats, to the car to leave for 8.40am…only ten minutes later than planned. My dad, who was driving, apparently knew how to get there, having driven there three times before. Hmmm. Despite this I found myself immensely stressed when he started getting confused and lost. He won’t admit he was lost, but we were lost. It’s times like this when observe how my parents do things and it gives me a great understanding of how I end up in a pickle in so many areas of my life. We are not an organised bunch. We have no contingencies. We do not think before we leap ahead. We’re fairly happy-go-lucky people. And this has been my downfall many times in life. It’s a fun but chaotic way to live, I can tell you.

[Side note:  I spotted that Romsey was twinned with the German town of Battenberg…ironic really considering this race is all about the cake to me.]Thankfully we were only ten minutes later than planned and actually I had plenty of time to pick up my bib and queue for a wee. I spotted a number of Hedgies and did a nice one(ish) mile warm up with my Hedgie friend, Jim. I have to say, he did crack the pace a bit on the warm-up though. I was surprised to find us running 7.30 pace! This is neither of our easy paces! I had a second wee as the portable loo toilet queues were fast moving, it being a small race, and the run director even came over to say he wouldn’t start without us. Very nice of him.It was hot though. No cloud in the sky, sun beaming down, sticky hot. After my warm-up I was sweating already and a little thirsty. I looked enviously at other people’s water bottles but convinced myself I’d be alright. I was also heavily suffering from hay fever. I’d taken tablets, had eye drops and my nose thing but I was still sneezing and struggling. Not a great omen!

My parents wandered off to where they were going to stand (my dad a pro, having supported three times before, had a few different positions he’d be moving around to during the race. My mum, after seeing me once, would then wander off to a café. The difference between my parent’s support levels is stark I tell you). I headed to the start.Since the last time I ran this race it’s upgraded significantly. Now we had a proper blow-up start arch thing. The race was also chip-timed. Things were very fancy. I found myself lining up fairly near the front. This concerned me greatly and I attempted to inch back a bit. I should not be near these people! I saw my friend Sarah and decided to put myself a couple of line behind her.

The race runs around the lovely quintessentially British village of Braishfield. It’s undulating, but there are some nice downhills to help compensate. You start with a lap around the cricket field, then onto the country roads. It’s a lovely scenic route, but it is not flat. As we got going I tried desperately not to get carried away trying to keep up with people I most certainly should not.Having refreshed my memory that morning of the course elevation and my previous paces from the last time I ran it, I knew the first mile would be the steepest and where my pace (if all went to plan) would be the most slow. I was prepared, but it was still tough going. I knew my pace for the first mile last time was 7 minutes. I kept pushing up the hill and my watch beeped 6:50 and I was off on a lovely downhill. Amazing. I was on track to doing better than last time.It was hot but surprisingly I felt OK. I knew Sarah was far ahead and I could see another girl just ahead. I was pretty sure she was second. My pace was good. The second mile is very deceptive though because it’s basically all downhill, so you should feel pretty good.Then the next hill hit and it was a fairly sharp one, though thankfully not as long. At this point I’d managed to catch up to the second female and as I overtook her she said “I thought you’d get me as some point, Anna”. She was actually a girl from my club but as she wasn’t wearing a Hedgie vest I hadn’t recognised her. For the rest of the race I imagined she was right behind me. Whether this is accurate or not, it was a good motivator to keep me going.I saw my dad as I came back round past the finish area (not time to finish yet though) and lots of people cheered me on which was nice. I smiled but inside I was starting to fade. I told my dad, as I ran past, I wasn’t having a good race. I like to keep him updated so he knows not to expect anything magical at the end. I had some water (paper cups, excellent) and then was told by a marshal there was a sprinkler round the corner if I wanted to run through it. I replied, “hell yes!”. It was blissful.I was now hot, tired and struggling. The way the course goes, looping onto one section twice, means that you get to see the 4 mile marker when you’re around 3ish miles in. I remember this being demoralising the other times I’ve run it and it was equally so this time. To think I’ll eventually be back here and then I’ll have a mile to go shouldn’t be as disheartening as it was to me.

The marshals, as always, were super supportive and cheered us on. I was told I was second female and I started passing people on their first lap of that loop as I came back round to the four mile marker. I tried to cheer people on as I passed but it got harder and harder as I began struggling more and more. I found I was getting a stitch on and off and my breathing was becoming harder. My chest felt like it was restricted and my sports bra felt far too tight weirdly.A lovely Lordshill runner, Ben, started running next me and he helped push me along. I told him I wasn’t aiming to speed up or a sprint finish, I was now just aiming to maintain my second place position. I was on the pain train and I was not happy. I was so hot and my breathing so laboured. As we came back round to the finish area I couldn’t even raise a smile to anyone cheering me on. I hate ignoring people but I honestly couldn’t. I was just desperate to finish and desperate to breathe properly again. I don’t think I’ve ever felt anything like that before. I was literally gasping and grunting to breathe. It wasn’t like I was running super duper fast, I just couldn’t seem to get oxygen inside my lunges quick enough.The final stretch is a lap round (another) cricket pitch. At this point I honestly thought I was going to have to walk.
I had a sneaky look back to see if the third female was about but she wasn’t but decided to save face I couldn’t walk the final stretch. I kept going. I saw my mum and dad and they cheered me on and then FINALLY I finished. My mum said later she’d never seen me so laboured during a race and was genuinely worried.I literally had to sit down straight away after I finished. I was not in a good way immediately after the race. A lovely lady rushed over and made sure I was OK and handed me some water. I just needed to sit and breathe in the shade for a few minutes.
Blimey that was tough. I checked my watch… 33:47.Great, four seconds off my PB. But, on the plus side, second female. Another podium finish for the Beer Race! A happy streak to maintain. And then, of course, I took my cake and beer tokens straight to the cake and beer tents and got myself a happy reward.
The memory of the hard race quickly disappeared as I surveyed the selection. I imagine this is what child birth is like…Again, it was clear that things had upgraded with proper branded plastic glasses.I gave my beer to my dad (he deserved it with his stellar support as always) and then perused the cake selection. I had a MINT millionaire shortbread which was delicious.The beer was provided by the cool guys at a local brewery called Flack Manor.I also managed to find another cake token on the floor! Can you even believe that?? Only me eh! Ha! I got myself a beetroot brownie (gluten free apparently), which was very tasty. I also went back and donated some money to get a cookie as well… in for a penny, eh!

We also cheered the lovely Rebecca in, who was running this for the first time and the furthest she’s ever run! She smashed it. I’m so proud of her. She really is a legend.I then got to collect my second place prize. I’m very pleased to add another tankers to the collection. I’ve given them to my dad so he now has four – a lovely even number!It was a lovely day. Hard and hot but always a good atmosphere and a lovely set up. I even got a free sports massage at the end. Happy days! Definitely be doing this race again next year 🙂

Are there races you like to do every year?

Do you suffer from hay fever?

Do you like a race without a medal but something quirky like this?

Good runs and bad runs

So Friday was another one of my work’s “Run and Ride Outs” at Wiggle. I love these days because it just means everyone in the office is buzzing about what activity they’re going to do.

There are usually a couple of cycles planned (a long one and a short one) and a few runs (beginner, short run and longer run). There’s also a scavenger hunt and a swim. So it’s very inclusive. Of course you don’t have to do it, but realistically most people get involved because the alternative is carrying on working… Originally I was going to do the longer run, which was 9k. But I wanted an easier run and I knew some of the people in the 9k group were quite speedy. I didn’t want my ego to take over and for me to try and keep up at the front.

The shorter run was 5k and the group was a good mix of abilities and loads of people I get on with well. A fun group of people up for a laugh, which is exactly what I wanted from the run. Nothing serious, nice and chilled. Happily we also had Garmin and High 5 in to show off some of their new products and for us to try out. I didn’t get involved with the Garmin products because I’m more than happy with my Fenix 3 and don’t want to be tempted by anything else. I actually don’t think I could be tempted though because I really love my Fenix. I did get a cheeky photo with the Garmin car though…I did pick up some cool High 5 freebies though. I love their electrolyte tablets and gels so I made sure to grab some of those to keep stocked up. They’ve rebranded so the designs are all different which is cool. They had a tent set up with all their products set up and water dispenser thing with cups so we could try the electrolyte flavours. Also very handy for after the run and ride!

Photo stolen from friend, Kyle

So the run got started and it was very relaxed and chilled, heading towards the nearby Hillsea Lines which is a pretty trail next to a river and off the road. It was lovely. We stopped a few times to wait for people – the leading girl, Chloe, and I would run back to collect people as well, which was nice because you’d hate people to feel forgotten or left behind.Kyle did a good job of taking lots of photos. A fellow fan of the on run selfie. He’s gotten quite good at it. So basically all the photos are from Kyle.

It’s so nice on these runs as you get to chat to people you wouldn’t ordinarily get to chat to on a daily basis. And let’s be honest, anything that includes running is always going to be a winner for me. It was very warm though! As we got into our stride a few of us stretched out ahead a bit which was nice and meant I got more of a negative split on my run. I got a bit further than 5k as I would run back for the last guys as well, so I was happy!Actually towards the end it was Kyle, Gavin and me seeming to run off quite fast. I think it was a case that none of us wanted to be the slow one and that just caused us to get faster and faster. It was a nice leg stretcher at the end but it did poop me out considering I was just after an easy run! I ran back to run with the others and Kyle caught some cool end photos.Ah such good fun with a nice group of people 🙂It was a great Friday because I was also off to Nando’s and the cinema with my friend Mike that evening as well. So I got to leave work early and meet up with him without rushing. I did have a quick shower at work though! Mike is a running friend so he’s seen me sweaty and a mess before but still 😉We had a nice catch up and chicken (obviously) and then headed to watch Han Solo. Asides from Mike accidentally (though hilariously) throwing popcorn all over me, it was a brilliant movie. Quite funny and good characters. I like a film where a female character’s strengths aren’t her boobs. I think that’s why I love the new Star Wars films so much (and the old ones I guess), strong female characters. We need more of them!The next morning I headed to Lee-On-Solent parkrun. I did my usual 1.5 mile warm-up jog and decided the legs weren’t up for a speedy run. I felt sluggish and tired. I got to parkrun just in time for a quick chat with the lovely Rebecca. She was having a rather stressful morning as run director with lots of different things going wrong. But from the outside, it all seemed like a normal and well-run parkrun! I had originally geared myself up to try going for it again as Lee is such a flat course, but in reality it wasn’t meant to be. Obviously though my brain forgot this realisation as we set off… I started running, getting carried away. It felt tough though. I hit the first mile in 6.36 and as we turned around and felt the wind against me (not massively, but enough) I knew I was on a downward decline to a rather miserable parkrun.

Photo Credit: Peter Stoddard (for the next two too)

I mean, I should have just given up and gone straight to a nice 8 mini/mile and enjoyed the other two miles but I didn’t do that. I just attempted to hold on to any semblance of speed that I could while the whole time just not enjoying it and feeling like it was the hardest thing in the world.As I clawed back to the finish, all the time wondering how I managed to get 19:40 the last time I was there. Mental.I finished with a time of 21:15 which really felt like such hard work. I sat on the wall after finishing and chatted to some other parkrunners. I mean, it does make sense that my body is feeling tired. Getting used to speedwork, running five times a week rather than my previously usual four. It all adds up. I’m happy where I’m at though. Uninjured and running consistently. I can’t argue with that! I don’t want to focus on times and try and beat my parkrun time every parkrun as that would suck the fun out for me. I think I lost sight of that a bit on Saturday. It’s easy to get a bit carried away with getting fast times and wanting to see them more. But that won’t happen every week. That would probably get me injured! It’s just such a contrast to how good my Wiggle run felt compared to this run. Like the Wiggle run was so chilled and relaxed, whereas this parkrun wasn’t. I should have just chilled and Lee and enjoyed the run at a gentler pace. The brain is funny thing though, eh!

I ran back to my car and was happy with almost 7 miles for the day. And a cheeky bit of cake later on. I mean, who doesn’t love a hot sticky sunny day than a fat slice of chocolate cake, eh? 😉Yummy Crunchie chocolate cake from the ever lovely Penguin Cafe. Delicious.

Do you ever do any non-work activities with colleagues?

Do you use any High 5 products?

What did you get up to over the weekend?

Revenge of the Fifth Half Marathon

I won’t lie, I’m definitely more of a road runner than a trail runner. That said, I do really enjoy running on trails and doing beautiful scenic runs. I think my main preference for road is just that I like the predictability and control of road running compared to the often craziness of the trails.

Saying this, I was excited about doing this half marathon as it looked to be so different to what I’d been doing recently. It was in a beautiful part of the UK (Church Stretton in Shropshire) and I had absolutely zero goals. It was supposed to be ridiculously hilly (run by the guys at How Hard Can it Be… case and point) and I wasn’t after anything more than an enjoyable run round a pretty place. It was called Revenge of the Fifth as it was May 5th, and the day before they’d had a half and a marathon called May the Forth. I do like a theme!James and I arrived at 9am, an hour before the half would begin. It was beautifully sunny and clear. But yes, starting to get warm. We collected our bibs and headed to the loos in the tearoom a short walk away. To pass the time we did this twice. As runners before a race I think you just live in a cycle of waiting to pee and peeing.The medals were really funky, all Star Wars themed of course. Everyone was super friendly and it very much had the vibe of “trailer running” rather than “road racing”. Super chilled. Lots of sturdy legged bearded men and hydration belts all over the shop. I’m making sweeping generalisations of course but you get the idea.As well as the half marathon the marathon would be starting at the same time. It wasn’t a huge race (just over 100 for the half and 40 or so for the full). Probably good because the trail was quite narrow and windy at points and over-taking people had to be navigated carefully.We lined up and got ready to go. I wasn’t really sure what I was fancying running. I thought I’d just see how I felt (I mean, let’s be honest this is mostly how I approach all races…). I didn’t want to kill myself, I quite fancied an enjoyable “sight-seeing” run but at the same time not go completely easy. One of James’ friends had done the race the day before (it was the same course) and had gotten 2.5 hours and he was roughly around my speed so I thought that was a good gauge of pace. And to give you an idea of the elevation…The first part of the run was TOUGH. I set off at a run and within a few minutes we were uphill and it felt hard. I had the crushing thought of “only two and half hours left of this”. It was a bit soul destroying. As we got onto the start of the incline basically everyone ground to a halt and started walking. Of course, so did I. I spotted a few females ahead of me and decided to see if I could pick them off eventually. I passed one girl but then she very quickly ran ahead of me again up the hill – someone saying to her “you should probably save your energy” and she happily replied “where’s the fun in that!”. To be fair, she did well! She headed off in to the distance and finished first female.

As I plodded as quickly as I could walking up the steep hill (I want to say mountain because honestly that’s what it was like) I decided to snap a few pics. It was so pretty I just had to!It never looks that steep in a photo does it? But it was.There’s a the first female dashing off into the distance ahead. She looked so much like Chrissie Wellington it was bizarre. We wondered if she was somehow related!

So anyway we finally got to the top and it was a relief to start running again. There was a nice bit of flat and downhill and I made the most of it to speed up as much as I could to make up for the previous walking. I was flying downhill and couldn’t believe I was seeing 7 min/mile pace on my watch. I wondered if by having these downhill moments I could make up for the uphills and try and even out my pace to be 9min/miles overall. This was quite a faraway thought in my mind as I knew my target was 2.5 hours anyway and I didn’t want to be too ambitious.I did a bit of over-taking and being over-taken by the second female ahead of me and we joked that this might happen for a while. As we got onto some seriously fun downhill action (we’re talking jumping over little streams, craggy bits of rock and fun little trails) and I followed her closely. We gained another person to our crew and all three of us had a whale of a time. It really was such good fun and certainly made up for the slog of the uphill earlier.The three of us stuck together for a couple of miles before the guy, his name was Dexter I found out later, and I peeled off ahead. It was nice to run with someone and chat though I was worried I was holding him back. It definitely helped pass the miles to run alongside him.We ran through a caravan park and were helpfully directed the right way by some campers as we momentarily were puzzles where to go. There weren’t any marshals on the course but they’d used signs where they could or hung strips of ribbon on branches to help guide. It was mostly easy to navigate and it helped that I had the course on my watch. Though this suddenly made me a guru of directions to others around me, not a good position to be in for someone like me…Then we almost got taken out by some sheep dashing away from us… there were a lot of sheep on the course! But otherwise it was relatively event-less. My legs felt good, I felt good… I was enjoying myself. The constant variations of the trail, the elevation and the surroundings meant you never got board. I didn’t miss listening to music, I was having a great time.

Eventually Dexter’s calves began to feel the burn and I was running on my own again. It was now time for the final uphill. I was quite thirsty at this point. It was warm, not unbearably hot, but I hadn’t taken any water and thought I’d be OK with the two water stations on the course. I spotted a man ahead walking slower than me with a hydration bag on. I decided to make it my mission to get to him and ask him for some water.

It took some time but I made it and asked if he’d mind sharing a tiny bit. He was very friendly and offered the tube to drink from. What was somewhat awkward was how short the tube was. It meant I had to walk very close to him to him and try not to fall over while navigating over the bumpy trail. Happily he wasn’t too bothered and I was super grateful for the water!Eventually I made it to the last water station and stopped to chug down three cups of water. I was gently chastised by the marshal for not asking for a single cup to be refilled rather than just take three separate cups and create more waste. I literally hadn’t even thought! I apologised – they were very nice but I still feel a bit stupid.

Then I headed off. I managed to overtake a few more people and found myself with no one ahead of me. Always a huge concern for someone not gifted with a sense of direction or common sense. Thankfully I had my watch to help guide me but I did have to shout back to other runners to double check where to go – they were a bit confused too. The sheep apparently like to eat the ribbons (we had been pre-warned of this).

Mile 12 was a crazy and scary downhill section. It was actually my least favourite mile because it felt so mental. You wanted to continually stop yourself and the pounding on your feet wasn’t pleasant. It felt ridiculous scary and hard. Then there was one cheeky nasty uphill left and then finally to the finish. Whew.My time was 2:03:46, 2nd female and 6th overall. So pleased!I felt really strong during this race and at no point felt like I was flagging (asides from slogging the uphills but I think this is natural). The variation in the course and changing in pace definitely helped with this I think. I’m mostly really happy that I beat my target so significantly. I would have loved a sub two hour time and had the course been a bit shorter I guess I would have achieved that but I’m super happy regardless.James did really well too. He also came second place and his time was a super speedy 1:47:33. So an awesome result for us both. James’ friend Lee also smashed the marathon coming first with a ridiculous time of 4:18:19. He finished and literally walked straight past the medal table and straight into the river behind where he laid himself out flat in it. It was quite funny.

The event was really well organised and good fun. There was a good spread of cakes at the end as well. Always a winner!It was a really nice day. James and I chilled in the finish area, laying out on the grass chatting to the other runners who’d finished. It was such a friendly affair. I chatted to the first and third lady and they seemed super strong runners. The first lady had a half PB of 1:25 so I mean she is FAST.

We grabbed some food from the tearoom while we chilled and I got a cheese scone…And the most insanely tasty cheese and chutney toasty. It literally rocked my world. Such a good combo.Unfortunately neither of us had put on sun scream and went home with some very nasty tan lines (sports bra tan lines for the win eh).So a lovely but challenging trail half! Fully recommend.

Do you prefer road or trails?

How do you tackle downhills?

Do you walk hills or try and run them?

parkrun, afternoon tea and dogs – a few of my favourite things

For once, I was in Southampton this weekend.

I went to Netley Abbey parkrun on Saturday and was (semi) glad to see that we were doing the cricket pitch course rather than the winter course as there was an event setting up in the area on the summer course. The cricket pitch course (five laps around, you guessed it, a cricket pitch) is an exceptionally dull course. It’s flat and repetitive. However, I prefer it to the winter course has six hills and can be windy.

I helped set up, which was super quick because it’s a simple course, but all on grass so I gradually felt my feet getting more and more wet due to the previous day’s rain. Mike had sensibly brought a spare pair of shoes but unfortunately for him had not brought a spare pair of socks… haha. Wet feet all round.

The barcode sign in the distance in the middle of the field…

I did a quick warm-up (just over a kilometre) and found my legs to be quite heavy and tired. I had umm’ed and arr’ed as to whether I’d put some welly into this run but I could see it probably wouldn’t be that fast. We lined up and headed off. I had a long-sleeve on and even gloves as it was that chilly that morning! It was just a bit of a miserable morning – so different to last weekend (I’m sure all the London Marathoners and Southampton racers were feeling a little cheated).

Photo Credit: Ken Grist

The first mile was a slog and I quickly realised a quick time (for me) wasn’t really on the cards but decided to keep with the effort level and get a solid tempo effort in. I ambitiously wanted to stay around 7min/miles but on the second lap it just felt like a total graft to maintain any sort of speed. There were also tricky areas to navigate through as the grass got more and more muddy.

Photo Credit: Ken Grist

A man was running next to me who was using a metronome – basically it audibly gives off beats so he could work on his cadence (As he told me afterwards). At first I thought I’d find it annoying once I began hearing it but then it became very rhythmical and nice to zone out too. We stuck together for most of the run.On the final mile (and God knows what number lap – I had to keep count on my hand) I felt myself have a spurt of energy. Probably because at this point I just wanted to finish the monotony of running in circles on sodden grass. I finished in 21:19 and a surprisingly high finish of 24 (2nd female). I think a lot of people were resting their legs after London and Southampton half/marathon last weekend.I helped close down and had a drink in the cafe after. Two of my running friends, Kate and her husband Mark, are heading to Devon and it was fun discussing the parkrun challenges of them trying to get all the Devon ones – apparently there are quite a few! I think down South we do very well with parkruns, there always seem to be new ones cropping up all over the place. This is both good and frustrating because just when I thought I was almost done with Bristol and Brighton they start creating new ones!

Later that day I went for afternoon tea with my friends from home. I hadn’t seem them in a while so it was nice to catch up. It’s mental to me that so many have had babies or are pregnant. While also discussing about turning 30 and arranging a big joint birthday party and how we’ all getting “old” I had a moment of, “shit am I a failure here?”.

It’s so easy to find yourself falling down that silly comparison hole. I absolutely do not want a baby right now. I actually couldn’t think of anything worse. I have a lot of plans I’m excited about and I love my life. I love the freedom I have, my holidays and running… not that having a baby means that everything you once loved disappears but it certainly means change and a whole lot more responsibility and proper adulting. But I think it’s so easy to let society tell you you should be living your life in a certain way, especially when you’re surrounded by people who are living that way. I don’t regret the choices I made and the way things have gone – I’m very happy with my life 🙂 Random tangent over!Now onto the important stuff… 😉 Afternoon tea was good but it was a bit too “delicate” for my liking. I’m a big fan of the big slabs of cake and chunky scones and regular sandwiches. Teeny tiny “pretty” cakes aren’t really going to cut it with me. That said, I was the human dustbin for everyone else so I did get a good share of extra cakes and sandwiches!The scones were delicious and the sandwiches were nice but I didn’t massively enjoy the tart (which was like a bland egg custard tart) and I’m never really a fan of creamy desserts that are like posh yogurts (I think it was a lemon posset?). My friend Anna (good name) said to me, “Don’t look behind you Anna, it will really upset you”. Obviously I did… a whole table with so many scones and cakes left behind. NOT EATEN. What!?

Anyway it was lovely to catch up with my friends and eat cake. Good times.

The next morning I met my friend Martin (who I ran the Gosport Half with back in November). I haven’t seen him for a good while so it was nice to touch base with him again, especially while doing a very scenic (albeit hilly) 13 miles. We did an out and back route through Durley which was really very pretty and, for the most part, car free. The hills were pretty savage though!After finishing the run I dashed home to shower and eat breakfast quickly before heading back out to meet Mike for a dog walk. Mike has a 13 week year old Siberian Husky crossed with a Golden Retriever who is just adorable, called Luna. I brought Alfie so Luna had a new friend. We met up in Royal Victoria Country Park (where parkrun is held) and walked round the field before heading to the dog fair that was going on.Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many dogs in one day! There were just so many. All of different breeds and sizes. Alfie was a little bit more wary of the other dogs – he’s very much a lone wolf, whereas Luna wanted to play with EVERYONE and EVERYTHING. Ahh the excitement of a little puppy. I remember when Alfie was like that. He’s almost nine years old. That is MENTAL. I still remember how tiny he was when we picked him up and he sat in my lap. I also remember feeding him a slice of apple and then him promptly throwing it up on my lap five minutes later. Lovely.Anyway, we walked round the stalls, chatted to other dog owners and enjoyed watching the “dog recall” competition (how quickly your dog runs back to you – there was a leaderboard and everything). Then we sat and had a coffee in the cafe outside while Luna enjoyed chasing every napkin that flew past her while Alfie rolled his eyes and tried to avoid getting jumped on.They got on well though despite the age gap. It’s a shame the weather wasn’t a bit brighter but thankfully we dodged the rain on all accounts.

How was your weekend?

Do you like dogs?

How many courses does your parkrun have? Netley has several!