Race Review: Edinburgh Half Marathon 2017!

I’ve visited Edinburgh 3 times, and the first 2 times were cold and grey and damp. So when my friend suggested we head up to Scotland for the Edinburgh half marathon, I was expecting perfect running weather.

Instead, it was hot and sunny for the whole long weekend we were there for! What happened, Scotland!?

Catching our breath on Arthur’s Seat.

This was great for the first few days, when we hiked up Arthur’s Seat for the gorgeous views, visited the castle, wandered along the Royal Mile and Princes Street, popped up to the Observatory for some more panoramic photo opportunities and even visited the botanical gardens. It was glorious!

We tucked in to brilliant Scottish food, racked up miles and miles of walking each day, and had a brilliant time. Not the best half marathon preparation, to be fair (I rocked up to the start line with sunburn, a big blister and pretty tired legs!) but SO worth it.

The half started at 8am, so we got up nice and early and wandered down to the start on Regent Road. It was cool and sunny and the atmosphere was brilliant! We were staying less than a mile away, and we were through the bag drop and into our corral in no time at all.

Heading to our corral!

I was a little bit nervous, as I knew my training hadn’t gone very well (I’m not even going to fess up to my mileage in the month before the race) but I knew it was going to be a scenic and fairly flat route, and decided to go out and just make the most of it.

Half way through…

My friend had trained much better than me, so by 5 miles I made her leave me behind (very un-politely, sorry Amanda!!), and carried on alone. My Dad has always reminded me to ‘run your own race’, and I wholeheartedly agree! Amanda went on to finish nearly 20 minutes faster than me, so it was definitely the right decision ūüėČ

I got to about 6 miles before the blister went (first time this has happened to me, and oh my days, I’m never going to forget my Compeed ever again!!) and the¬†day was really beginning to warm up. I was definitely jealous of the tourists enjoying their ice-creams on the beach, and I was starting to¬†struggle a bit.

The crowd support was a lot less than I’m used to, having been spoilt by big city marathons (looking at you, Brighton and Barcelona!), but there was some great camaraderie amongst the runners, which makes all the difference.

I usually hate out-and-backs in races, but in this one it worked brilliantly. I managed to spot Amanda for a high-five as I approached the turnaround point at 10.5 miles, whilst she was nearing the finish, and a mile or so later I watched the front marathon runners speed past on their way out Рalways SO COOL to watch, especially that close!

Such a great medal!

I’ll admit I took quite a few walking breaks in the second half, but I pushed myself for the last .1 and picked up the legs for a sprint finish. I felt a bit cheeky overtaking people in the last few metres, given that they’d probably worked a lot harder than me overall (I felt like a complete slacker), but I couldn’t help myself.

I absolutely loved this event, though it was a shame that the route left the city so quickly Рit would have been nice to run through Edinburgh itself. But it was brilliantly organised, had a great atmosphere, and was definitely a good course for a PB attempt (on a cooler day!).

The only downside was the shuttle bus back to the start. The advertised ’15 minute’ walk took 30¬†minutes, and we then had to queue in the blazing sunshine for another 10 or so. The bus didn’t actually drop us back at the start, but 2-3 blocks away from Princes Street, which meant an additional walk that I hadn’t expected. Not a huge deal, but¬†still a bit of a pain.

Regardless, I’ll definitely be back to run the half again!

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Have you ever run Edinburgh? What did you think?


Race Review: Surrey Half Marathon 2017!

Surrey Half is one of my favourite races, and luckily it’s right on my doorstep. I ran the first event back in 2012, and excluding last ear (when I was in Barcelona for the marathon), I’ve run it every year since. Rude not to, really! ūüėČ

Yesterday, I woke up to rain and grey skies, and for some reason I just wasn’t feeling it. It wasn’t the weather though. I was nervous, anxious, and worried that I couldn’t handle the distance. This sounds a bit stupid, as I’m most of the way through my marathon training and ran a half in Brighton just¬†the other week. But Brighton¬†was one of my slowest half marathon times, and I’ve really struggled to find motivation for my other marathon training runs recently. I’ve been running far slower than before, and have struggled with a niggly hip over the past month or so, to boot!

But I forced¬†myself out of bed, got my kit together and was on a train to Woking by 8am. Luckily it’s just 1 stop from Guildford, and then a nice downhill 10-minute walk to the start area in Woking park. As always, the event was brilliantly organised – I followed the crowds into the Liesure Centre, along sign-posted halls to the bag drop, and out the far side of the centre right into the corrals. I didn’t notice any portaloos, but I wasn’t really looking for them – and I did hear that there were plenty, with almost no queues. This was definitely the case in previous years.

However this year, for the first time EVER there was a huuuge queue to get into the bag drop. I think it was just the volume of runners! Despite the rain, runners in the queue were in high spirits. Once inside they got us sorted out pretty quickly, and luckily I still made it into my corral 10 minutes before the start.

As we crossed the start line, the heavens opened and the drizzle turned into pouring rain. But there were so many spectators along the course cheering us on, and the first 6 miles seemed to fly by, especially as the first half is mostly flat.

The second half was just as lively¬†as the first – there were a few quieter stretches along some of the country roads, but so many locals were out and there was such a good atmosphere among the runners that I don’t really remember a lack of support at any point. This has been the case every year I’ve run this one, and it’s one of the reasons I love it so much!

Soaking up the crowd support (and the rain!) and digging in for the last .1

It also really helped that the route covered the same roads as¬†my regular training runs – and my old run/cycle commute. It meant that I could break the run up a bit, and I knew which hills were coming, and could pace myself for them. I’d started¬†in between the 2:20 and 2:30 pacer, and my only goal was to break 2:30 (as none of my road half marathons had been slower than that). But by about 8 or 9 miles my hip had started to really hurt, and I had begun to take regular walking breaks.

It was around 9 miles that a little boy shouted out ‘You’re in the race! Yay, you’re in the race!’ and it reminded me that my time wasn’t important. I just had to take in the atmosphere, push on and try to enjoy myself! Still, when I saw my pace creeping into the 12s, I made a deal with myself to only walk up the hills from then on. It seemed to work, and by the time we hit the big downhill towards Mayford at about 11 miles, I was starting to feel quite good – and had brought my pace up a bit!

There was one last short, sharp hill at about 12 miles, and after that the crowd support (having our names on our race numbers made this even better!) meant that any chances of walking in the last mile went out the window. It was still drizzling, I was soaked and could feel blisters and some chafing, but managed to block it out and pushed on past the 13m marker,¬†over the last main road and back into the park. The finishing straight was on a slight downhill, which was brilliant for a sprint finish (8:20 – not as fast as Brighton, but still pretty speedy for me, and much faster than I expected – no tailwind for me this time!). I got a lot of cheers heading towards the finish line, and managed to overtake a few runners, which felt great ūüėÄ

The organisation at the finish is just as good. Carrying on past the finish line you collect your medal, a bottle of water and a snack, and then go back into the Leisure Centre to pick up your bags. No queuing, no getting lost, and we were in and out within 5 minutes (as opposed to the 15 minute queue before the race). The lady at the bag drop had mine waiting for me with a big smile before I’d even reached the desk!

The bling makes it all worth it ūüėČ

I got changed in the Leisure Centre toilets, which took a while (everything was wet, and my hands were numb – lethal combo!) and then James and I went into Woking for a massive burger. All in all, despite the nerves that morning, I’m SO glad I went along. The minute I was in the corral, I was reminded just why I love these events so much – the camaraderie, the support, the celebration at the finish. Regardless of the pace, the weather, or the distance, days like yesterday remind me that running can be bloody awesome.

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Did you race this weekend? How did it go?

Bluebells in the Chantries Woods

I’ve been itching to go and see the bluebells for a couple of weeks now (I live an exciting life, clearly!).¬†Our neighbour recommended that we go and visit the¬†Chantries Woods, and after looking it up we realised that it’s only a mile or so from our front door – handy! (Also, how have we not been there before now!?)

So this weekend we laced up our walking shoes, and set off for a wander.

Walking in the Chantries Woods

There are miles of footpaths to explore through the Chantries, and the North Downs Way actually goes through some of it, too – so it’s easy to pick up dozens of different routes. I can’t wait to get out there in my trail shoes for some long training runs ūüėÄ

Chantries North Downs Way

… Though¬†we discovered at times that some¬†of the footpaths we used¬†weren’t actually on Google maps, so there’s a high chance I’ll get lost… But that’s part of the fun, right? ūüėČ

Chantries Woods Bluebells

I even managed to get James to pose for a photo¬†or two.¬†He caught on pretty quickly, and stopped slowing down to wait for me after a while! And I learned to stop asking him to take my photo unless I wanted to hear him sniggering about how dumb it was ūüėČ Instagram Husband, he is not!

P.S. LOOOL, you have to watch that video. Absolute genius!

Chantries Bluebells

Isn’t this place stunning though!?

Chantries Woods

As well as the gorgeous woodland, if you fancy a bit of a climb there are some stunning views across the Surrey Hills.

They’re almost as good as the views you get on the Bacchus Half, which I still need to sign up for! (And so do you, if you haven’t already. It’s the most fun you’ll ever have on a run! Here’s last year’s review, if you need any convincing…)

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How was your weekend? Did you get out and enjoy the sunshine? ūüôā

10 tips to help you stick to your marathon training plan

Marathon Training Plan

If you’ve signed up for a 2016 spring marathon, you’ll either have started training already, or very soon will do.

I’m a bit of a geek, so I¬†love this bit. I love spreadsheets, and bright colours, and sparkly star stickers (gotta motivate yourself somehow, right!?) and calculating training paces and mileage and different running routes.

But  marathon training is nothing if not a learning experience (read: 16+ weeks of trial and error), and over the past 2 years there are a lot of things that have changed the way I structure my training and plan my race goals.

Hopefully you’ll find some of them¬†useful – and if there are any other tips and tricks that you know of, I’d love to hear them ūüėÄ

 1) Prepare everything the night before

If there’s one thing that is guaranteed to make me hit the snooze button, it’s waking up at 6am and realising that I forgot to sort out my running gear in advance. Stumbling around in the dark, half asleep, trying to find¬†your socks/jacket/gloves?¬†Ain’t nobody got time for that¬†ūüėČ Instead, make sure your Garmin is charged, organise your kit, fuel, hydration and gadgets the night before – and even better,¬†put your gym kit on the radiator before you go to bed. Toasty running gear is THE BEST.

2)¬†Don’t just plan the time – plan the whole workout.

It’s all well and good telling yourself you’ll go to the gym at 6am, or you’ll run for an hour. But if there’s no specific goal/purpose for a training session, it’s all too easy to hit snooze and sleep right through it (or binge-watch Netflix, instead…) What do you want to achieve? Intervals, tempo run, strength session, marathon pace run? How far, how long, what pace, how many reps? Plan it out beforehand, so you don’t have to figure it out on the go.

3) Have breakfast ready.

Runger is real, people. And there’s nothing better than having a seriously tasty breakfast to reward yourself with after an early-morning workout (or an epic dinner, if you’re more of an evening person!) Whether that’s a smoothie, a big bowl of porridge, or eggs and bacon (NOM), you’d be surprised how much it can motivate you to keep going. Or maybe that’s just me – I do like my food ūüėÄ

4) Make yourself accountable.

Go with a friend, book a PT session or a class, stick that training plan up where your other half can see it, or tell your coworkers or family to nag you if you don’t go. If you’re going to get some slack for, well, slacking, you’re far less likely to do it! And we all know that whilst you might grumble a bit at the time, once you’re out there you’ll be glad for the hassle.

The only workout you’ll regret is the one you didn’t do.¬†

We all know¬†there’s some truth to¬†that little clich√©…

5) Get into a routine!

Studies show that it takes 21 days to form a habit. That means that whilst it might feel like a great idea at the time,¬†hitting the snooze button will just make it harder to get up for that next early workout. If you’re not a morning person, plan your workouts for the evening; but try and keep things consistent. If you always run at 7pm on a Tuesday, for example, eventually it’ll become a no-brainer – and you’ll be laced up and out the door before you know what’s hit you!

6) Be flexible.

It’s a given that there will be good days and bad days. Don’t be surprised or disheartened if you smash your PB one week, only to struggle at a slower pace the next. Marathon training is tough on your body, and¬†the fatigue caused by building your mileage over the weeks and months can have an effect on your pace. Above all else,¬†listen to your body.¬†If you need to shorten a run, switch one for cross-training, or take a day off, do it. Trust me, tweaking the plan is much better than pushing through a niggle to hit your mileage goals. Life happens – roll with it ūüėČ

7) Make the most of your rest days.

During my first round of marathon training, I assumed¬†cross-training was the same as recovery, and continued to cycle commute almost every day. I soon learned the hard way that as far as my body is concerned, it’s definitely not! Regardless of your fitness levels, give yourself at least one day a week to rest and recover – and leave cross training for another day. Rest is¬†just as important as every other session on your schedule, and you should treat it that way. It’s the time when your muscles repair and get stronger!¬†Plan it into your schedule like any other session, and enjoy putting those¬†feet up ūüėČ You earned it!

8) Set a realistic goal

I didn’t set a target time for my first marathon because, simply put, I didn’t even know if I’d be able to finish. But regardless of¬†whether your goal is to get round comfortably, or nab that BQ,¬†it’s important to be realistic.¬†Because let’s face it, if you decide you want to run a sub-4 marathon¬†but are really more comfortable running at 11:00/mile, you’re just going to feel down and demotivated (and probably injure yourself!) when you try and fail to¬†hit the pace¬†in training. If you’re not sure where to start, Runners World offers a great race time predictor, which gives you a target finishing time based on a recent race. (There’s also a training pace calculator, which you can use to tailor each of your sessions). Much better than picking an arbitrary time goal just because the entry form told you to!

It’s¬†also a good idea to book a half marathon part way through your¬†training, to test out your target marathon pace under race conditions.

9) Keep a training log

It’s easy to get into the habit of judging each session in isolation, but it’s important to remember that marathon training is a long process, and you won’t necessarily¬†see progress day to day (or even week to¬†week). Keeping a training log is a great way to get some perspective on the hard work you’re putting in. If you want a benchmark,¬†you could use¬†a session that you repeat on a regular basis (I do a weekly 5k, for example). Being able to look¬†back over your training when you get to the big miles will remind you how far you’ve come – and also give you the confidence of knowing that¬†you’re capable of much more than you’d expect!

10) Remember why you’re doing it.

When things get tough, there’s no better motivation than reminding yourself of¬†why you signed up in the first place. Are you running for charity? To lose weight? In memory of someone special? Whatever it is, write your mantra¬†down and stick it on the fridge, print it across the top of your plan, write it on your hand, and repeat it to yourself in those tough later stages. Trust me, running is 90% a mental effort, and having something positive and inspiring to repeat to yourself through the miles will give you just the boost you need.

Let’s do this marathon thing!

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Are you training for a spring race? Which one?

Bacchus Half Marathon: The one I did for fun

No, really. I know people often say they’ll do an event ‘just for fun’ – I’ve said it a lot in the past, myself. But then it gets closer to race day and we know how it can escalate. Firstly you think, ‘well I don’t want it to be the slowest one ever, so I need to at least do the same time I did in the last one’, and then it’s ‘if I’m going to do that then I can probably push it a bit at the end if I’ve got energy left’, and suddenly it’s ‘I wonder if I could hit that PB I’ve been secretly aiming for?’

… And then you’re secretly disappointed for not hitting a target time in a race you KNOW that you didn’t train hard enough for. Facepalm.

But after a week’s holiday, then a cold that wouldn’t give up, and then a crazy work schedule, my running fell straight off the radar… For about 4 weeks. I’d been cross training a little (spinning and body pump, mainly), but the only runs I managed after the 4-week break were a couple of 5k runches in race week – neither¬†of which went particularly well. (As you’d expect, really).

But this half marathon had the promise of neon face paint, and wine, and chocolate, and looked like it could be a bit of a giggle – ignoring the crazy hills in the course profile, of course.

And I’m SO glad I gave it a go. Because in summary, it went a bit like this:

Hills, wine, biscuits, wine, hills, sunshine, giggles, sing-offs between St Trinians and a bunch of nuns, wine, biscuits, more giggles, photobombs, new friends, more food, more wine, a big fat downhill (seriously, mile 13 was my quickest at 9:32 and the last .36 – I clearly weaved around a bit – was 8:45. This was compared to an average of about 13:30!!) and a big fat medal.

I’m pretty sure this was my favourite event, EVER.

And as words don’t do the atmosphere, the fun, the wine or the views justice, here’s the day in pictures! (Warning – there’s a heck of a lot!)

At the Start of Bacchus Half MarathonLooking composed and sober at the start!

Wine and Biscuits at Bacchus Half MarathonMany wine and biscuits. Might have gone back for seconds with the latter.

Running Solo

There was some running involved…

Cows at the Bacchus Half Marathon

… And cows!

View from the Bacchus Half Marathon 1

Stunning views made up for the hills.

Gorgeous Views at the Bacchus Half Marathon

Taking a well-earned break at the top!

Aid Stations at the Bacchus Half Marathon

The best aid stations I’ve ever seen. For real.

Getting Photobombed at the Bacchus Half

‘I totally photobombed that last one!’ Yes, yes you did. And very well, too!

Bubbles at the Bacchus Half Marathon

… And there were bubbles.

View from the Bacchus Half Marathon 2

And even more stunning views!

Having a Blast at the Bacchus Half Marathon

Then there was a bit more running…

More Biscuits at the Bacchus Half Marathon

… And more biscuits.

Rose at the Bacchus Half Marathon

The rose was pretty good!

Sunshine at the Bacchus Half Marathon

… So was the white.

White Wine at the Bacchus Half Marathon

… And the other white.

Cake at the Finish Line - Bacchus Half Marathon

And at the finish line, there was cake!

… And hog roast.

The end ūüôā