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!

– – –

Have you ever run Edinburgh? What did you think?

 

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Race Review: Richmond Park 10k!

When you try to pose for a nice family photo but your mum has other ideas, your dad’s used to it and your brother isn’t sure whether to laugh or disown her…¬†Love you really, mum!

Last weekend¬†I hopped on a train to Richmond Park, where I met my mum, dad and brother (and uncle!) for one of The Fix Events¬†10k races. I’d only ever done the Bushy Park series before now, but Richmond was worth the extra travel time – how gorgeous is that park!? It was also really well organised – race number pick-up was at the registration tent right next to the car park, loos, and start/finish.

Logistics aside, this was a really special race for us, as it was the first one my dad had done since his heart surgery the year before last. It would also be his first 10k since the accident Рthe perfect way to draw a firm line under it all and move forwards.

We¬†Robinsons seem to enjoy egging each other on where running is concerned; my (other) uncle was the first to run a marathon, which made my parents want to do one, then my brother had a go, and then I obviously had to sign up… The rest is history! And it was equally special because my dad was the one to support me around my first ever race, a 10k in Bushy park back in 2012:

My first ever running medal!

Supporting him in return was a real pleasure, and in some ways it felt like we’d come full circle. I don’t usually get emotional over my races, but oh boy, Saturday was an exception.

All ready to go!

After pinning on our numbers, we all made our way over to the start (with my uncle stepping in as our personal race photographer and support crew!). Me, mum and dad decided to¬†start at the back, to make sure that we didn’t get swept up at a faster pace than planned. My brother set off further ahead,¬†as he’s naturally quite a bit faster – and he was waiting with a big smile to cheer us over the line.

We kept it steady, pacing ourselves up¬†the inclines and enjoying the sunshine. Whilst our main goal was to reach the finish line and nab a medal, dad was determined to average sub-12:00/mile. Looking at the splits, we were pretty much bang on for the first half, whilst the second half was a bit more up and down. But even though we¬†stopped for water at 5k, and walked the longer steeper hills, we¬†used the downhills to make up some time – dad even pushed us to a sub-10:00 pace around mile 5! (Steady on…)

Heading for the finish line!

There was a photographer at the 5k mark, and as it was a 2-lap course he managed to snap us on the final straight as well. I think the smiles say it all.

Team Robinson does it again!

The 10k was conquered, with big smiles and a solid¬†11:54 average. Both goals ticked off, and well deserved medals all round! We were already planning our next races by the time we sat down for lunch ūüėÄ

This has to be my favourite moment of the entire YEAR: a Robinson family group hug to celebrate dad’s big milestone. (Thanks for capturing this, Chris!)

No, YOU’VE got something in your eye. Ehem…

– – –

Who else has been racing recently? Anyone tapering for/recovering from a spring marathon? I’m so excited for you all!

Race Review: Rome Marathon 2016!

Rome Marathon 2016 Race Review

Sooo I ran¬†another marathon – SURPRISE! ūüėĬ†I managed to accidentally book it for¬†the weekend of our¬†7th anniversary, too. (Ooopsie).

Rome Marathon Start Area

Happy anniversary to us!

Romantic, me? Always! ūüėČ

Luckily, the whole trip was eeepic, and we both loved Rome. So I think James will forgive me ūüėČ

We seriously lucked out with our hotel location. A 15-minute walk brought us right to the Colosseum, where we followed the sea of blue backpacks around the side to the start area. (The mandatory drop bag rucksack was SUCH a brilliant idea!)

I dropped my rucksack at the luggage lorry, gave James a hug and headed off to the start area. Despite my estimated 5-hour finish, the organisers had put me in Wave 1 (with the super speedy 3:00, 3:15 and 3:30 pace groups). In my dreams, mate! Luckily, faster runners are allowed to move back to the later waves, so I snuck into the slowest corral as planned.

The first few miles were pretty crowded,¬†and there were quite a few faster runners passing on both sides (often with a warning pat on the shoulder, which was a new experience for me!) The route took us past loads of Rome’s monuments, and it was hard to absorb everything – the cheering crowds, the sea of runners, the gorgeous views… It all became a bit of a blur at times! And it definitely felt like there were a lot more than 13k runners.

We were told to expect 7km of cobbles, which I was initially a bit concerned about – but it turns out that the cobbles in Rome are fairly smooth and flat, and once the crowds thinned out a little it was easy enough to avoid the bumpy bits. I imagine things could get quite slippery in the rain, but we were lucky enough to have glorious sunshine for the whole day!

Rome Marathon Smile

You can’t help but smile during Rome Marathon!

Within a few miles it had started¬†to get quite warm, but there was¬†plenty of shade under the trees along the course (who knew Rome was so green!?) and sponge stations had been set up¬†at¬†5km intervals from about 7.5km. This was the first race where I actually used the sponges, and oh my days, I’ve been missing a trick – they were heaven! (It was also quite surreal to see a sea of multi-coloured sponges¬†lying on the road afterwards)!

James Spectating Rome Marathon

When in Rome… on your anniversary… and your girlfriend has abandoned you to run a marathon… ūüėČ

I started to flag quite early on. To¬†be fair, having run a PB at Barcelona just 4 weeks before, and slacking on my training in between the 2, it wasn’t hugely surprising. I had started to take walking breaks from about 9/10 miles (a few miles earlier than Barcelona) and by about 16 miles the arch of my foot had started to hurt quite badly.

Luckily, the route was fairly flat and the crowds and the sights took my mind off it for the most part. And to make it even better, I got chatting to a lovely lady called Karen just after the 20m mark, who stuck with me to the finish! This made SUCH a difference psychologically, and really kept me going. She’s going to be running 10 marathons in 10 days next month for her local charity – what an inspiration!

Rome Marathon Finishing Straight

Eyes firmly on the finish line!

We walked quite a bit over the last 10km, but when we hit 25 miles we got ourselves properly running again – and pushed all the way to the finish!

I think that’s the first time that I’ve ever run the whole of mile 26 in a marathon. If you’re reading, THANK YOU Karen, you lovely¬†lady! ¬†And good luck for next month!

Rome Marathon Finish Line

SURPRISE ROMAN GLADIATOR AMBUSH!

Rome Marathon is also the first time I’ve ever walked through the finish line arch and into a barricade for a photo! All the LOLs. It was a brilliant touch, though – and the best marathon finish photo I’ve had so far! ūüėÄ Yay, Rome!

I also got interviewed by the commentator (another first), so there’s that. Having a microphone pointed at you seconds after finishing a 26.2 mile run is… an experience!? I don’t remember quite how I responded to their¬†‘Oooh, English! Did you just travel to Rome for the marathon!? Where are you from!?’ But I think I probably spoke in full sentences? Maybe?… ūüėČ

Grazie, Roma!

– – –

Have you ever run Rome, or is it on your bucket list? I think this is the first race I’ve been tempted to enter again!¬†One day… ūüėČ

Barcelona Marathon and City Guide Part 2: Marathon Day!

Barcelona Marathon and City Guide Part 2

Welcome to part 2 of my Barcelona Marathon and City Guide! If you missed part 1, go and check it out here for tips and tricks on getting around the city, navigating the expo, and a few fun things to do the day before (without nackering your legs!).

– Pre-Race Breakfast

Barcelona Marathon Expo Goodies

I tend to have toast and a banana before a marathon, so it was lucky that one of the stands at the Expo was handing out free loaves! ūüėČ

If you don’t manage to score a free loaf of bread (LOL), Barcelona has lots of¬†little ‘markets’ or ‘mercados’ dotted about (i.e., newsagent-like shops that have fruit and veg outside and tons of random odds and ends inside!) where you can stock up on things like bottled water, bananas, bread, Nutella (a European staple which can be found in most EU countries and doesn’t need any translating!), crackers, honey, etc. for breakfast.

One thing I couldn’t find was peanut butter – so you might want to bring some along if this is your sort of thing!¬†Also, if you like porridge before a big race I would recommend bringing the little ‘just add water’ pots in your suitcase, and filling them up with your hotel kettle. For some reason, porridge oats can prove elusive in Europe!

I made good use of the free bread and a big dollop of Nutella, and took a banana along to the start area. Job done!

– The Start Area (Loos and Bag Drop)

Barcelona Marathon was one of the most straight-forward events I’ve been to. The best thing about it was that the Expo, start and finish were all in the same place:¬†Pla√ßa d‚ÄôEspanya. This means that you can familiarise yourself with the area before race day, which takes some of the stress away.

Barcelona Marathon Bag Drop

The whole process – from stepping off the metro, to the bag drop, to the loos, to the corrals, was well sign posted and easy to follow – and took almost no time at all!

The slowest bit was the bag drop, as they wouldn’t let runners in until they were ready to race; so lots of people were stripping off layers and sorting themselves out right outside the tent, resulting in a slight bottle neck. Whilst this didn’t add more than a couple of minutes to the whole process, I would recommend sorting your kit out and¬†zipping up¬†your drop bag before you get to the tent – just out of courtesy if nothing else!

– The Corrals

Once through the bag drop, the corrals were clearly signed as part of a simple one-way system round the side of the tent (left or right, depending on which corral you’re in).

Barcelona Marathon Start and Finish Area Maps

There were a few lines of portaloos, which are all cearly indicated on the start/finish area maps (photo above – you’ll see these at the expo) and I didn’t have to queue for more than a few minutes. After that, it was just a 2-minute stroll over to the corral!

The corrals themselves were nice and wide and not too crowded, and thanks to the colour-coded race tops (which plenty of people chose to wear), you can just follow the sea of runners in your group colour. Easy peasy! However, there are NO loos in the corrals, so make sure you go beforehand!

– The Marathon Course

The marathon itself was one of my favourite races, ever.

As far as the start goes, I was in the last corral and it took about 15-20 minutes to get over the start line. Each corral was showered in a cloud of confetti, and sent off with a huge cheer, which was EPIC!

Barcelona Marathon Arc de Triomf

There are a few things to consider with regards to the marathon course:

    • The course is extremely flat, but there are a few very gradual inclines and downhills, especially in the first few miles. Pace yourself, and don’t shoot off with the masses.
    • Aid stations are every 5k, and as with most European marathons they offered bottles of water, fruit slices (orange and banana) and nuts. Later in the race they also provided bottles of Powerade – however I would check the race info ahead of time to confirm the exact sponsor and therefore the exact drinks/gels on offer. This year, it was Gu gels.
    • This race was extremely spectator-friendly, and the course map lists the best metro stops for various points along the route. The best spots are where the course doubles back on itself – this year, it was at km 4/10, km 18/22, and km 26/31. My boyfriend managed to spot me about 5 or 6 times, which is a new record! There were also minimal barriers on the course, and spectators could cross the road at lots of points, which made things easier.
    • The roads in Barcelona are wide, straight, and long. This means that you need to zig-zag a bit to reach the aid stations, so I would inch towards the side of the road shortly before you reach them to avoid hindering runners around you. As with other races, they’re located slightly after the 5k markers, so don’t expect to see them straight away. Having said that, they were well stocked and not too crowded! ūüôā
    • As the roads are quite wide and straight, there isn’t a whole lot of shade on the course – almost none in the second half, especially on the stretch along the coast. Make sure you wear plenty of suncream, and hydrate well if it’s warm. They did have a sprinkler set up around km 30/31, which was looovely!
    • Get ready for high fives! The crowds in Barcelona are magic, and will shout, whoop and cheer you round the entire way. There are also tons of drummers¬†and singers and dancers. Make the most of it, and have fun!
– The Finish

The finish area is the same as the start, so it’s nice and simple to find your way around. After the finish line they give you water/Powerade, your medal, and then you’re funnelled back into the bag drop tent. I had my bits and was off towards the meeting point in less than 10 minutes!

The designated meeting area is back on the¬†Pla√ßa d‚ÄôEspanya, which is a nice wide open space and right next to the metro! I wouldn’t meet your friends and family any closer to the finish area, as the space around the bag drop tent gets pretty crowded.

– Refuelling, Barcelona-Style

Barcelona Food Market on La Rambla

The food market on La Rambla was my happy place. Dozens of fresh fruit juices for a euro each, take-away fruit salads, sweets, meat, olives… The selection was endless!

For a post-marathon meal in Barcelona, it has to be paella, paella, paella! And Tapas. Most restaurants in Barcelona offer a fairly standard menu, at a reasonable cost. We headed down to Barceloneta, which is on the same line as¬†Pla√ßa d‚ÄôEspanya (so it’s easy to get to). There are tons of little food places towards the beach, which offer set menus of tapas, paella and sangria – all the good stuff!

Alternatively, there are plenty of places to eat near La Rambla. You’re pretty spoilt for choice!¬†But I highly recommend that you make¬†the most of the huge variety of tapas on offer, and try the seafood paella – it’s delish! Plus, sangria. No brainer, right? ūüėČ

– – –

Are you running Barcelona next year?¬†Is there anything else you‚Äôd like to know, that I might have missed? Add a comment below, come find me on Twitter, or ping me an email at envierose@gmail.com ūüôā

Barcelona Marathon and City Guide Part 1: The Day(s) Before!

Barcelona Marathon and City Guide Part 1

Welcome to part 1 of my Barcelona Marathon and City Guide! This installment will share a few tips and tricks for race weekend, including transport, the race expo, and things to see and do the day before (that won’t ruin your legs!).

Whilst planning my trip to Barcelona, I¬†stumbled across¬†the best, most informative website EVER: barcelona-tourist-guide.com. I hope you find it as useful as I did, and that my runner’s guide to Barcelona helps to fill in any marathon-specific gaps!

As always, if you think I’ve missed something, or have any questions, you know where to find me! ūüôā

Before the race
– Getting around

Barcelona was a super easy city to navigate. The airport transfer was straight forward, everything was extremely central, and the metro was easy to use.

There are a number of options for travelling between the airport and the city centre, depending on your preference:

  1. The Aerobus goes from outside T1 or T2 and will¬†take you to¬†Pla√ßa Espanya or Pla√ßa de Catalunya, where you can then join¬†the metro. Tickets cost¬†‚ā¨5.90 ¬†for a single and¬† ‚ā¨10.20 ¬†for a return (ticket valid for¬† 15 days). You can find timetable details here.
  2. The RENFE overground train, which stops at a few places including Passeig de Gràcia (a town centre station that joins the metro).
  3. The metro. A new line – L9 – has recently been introduced, which links the city centre to the airport (T1 and T2). A single ticket costs ‚ā¨4.50.

If you’re going for a long weekend, I would recommend the HolaBCN travel card. This card is valid for 2, 3, 4 or 5 days (we paid for 5, which was only¬†28.80‚ā¨ each) and includes the RENFE¬†airport train. The card can be used for UNLIMITED travel on the metro,¬†bus (TMB), urban railway (FGC), Montju√Įc funicular, tram (TRAM), and regional railway between the hours of ¬†5h00 and 23h00. We booked and paid for our cards online, and picked them up at the Tourist Information stand at the airport on arrival. The L9 metro ISN’T included in the HolaBCN card.

You can find out more about the HolaBCN card here. Information on other types of metro tickets can be found here. There are also information boards in the metro stations, which detail the types of tickets. The ticket machines are available in English and are really easy to use, too.

– The Expo

The great thing about Barcelona Marathon is that the expo, start and finish are all in exactly the same place: Pla√ßa d’Espanya. The expo building is directly outside the metro:

Barcelona Marathon Expo Building

And the start/finish line is directly next to it! (See below, between the 2 towers).

Barcelona Marathon Expo

You don’t need a medical certificate for Barcelona, which is a definite plus. You just present your passport and confirmation email, and you get your race packet! The pickup area is really simple – just one long table with the numbers displayed above (they split them into a few groups to spread people out).

Opposite this, before you head into the main expo hall, is a second table where you can pick up your technical race t-shirt.¬†This is split up based on size, which you would have selected when you registered. Just present your race packet (they’ll scribble on the packet so you can’t claim more than once) and they’ll hand over your top. The top colour matches your corral (pink, in my case) which is quite cool on the day – as you can easily spot others in your pace group, and follow them to your start area! (And of course, it makes it easier to pick them out on the course, too).

I chose not to wear mine on the day, so as to stand out for my boyfriend to spot me – but lots did! ūüôā

– The Day Before

As you can imagine, there is TONS to do in a city like Barcelona. I’ll admit, I was quite disorganised and didn’t really plan too much beforehand, but it turns out that for loads of places you can book tickets online, and just present your ticket on your mobile when you get there (rather than having to print them out). So if you haven’t pre-booked, don’t fret!

A few things were recommended to me by friends: the Sagrada Familia, which is in the city centre and super easy to get to; the Tourist Bus tours, which follow 2 different routes in March and take around 2 hours for a city tour (though I didn’t end up doing this, it’s on my list for next time) and of course, Barceloneta beach. This gets wildly busy in the summer, but amazingly it was quite peaceful on marathon weekend! (This isn’t the only ¬†beach in Barcelona, but was the closest one to the expo and we didn’t fancy travelling further afield!)

Barceloneta Beach

As well as the Sagrada Familia, you also have Gaudi’s other projects on La Diagonal:¬†Casa Mil√†, or “La Pedrera” and Casa¬†Batll√≥ are both worth a visit. We chose not to go inside, as¬†entry is pretty expensive at over 20e, and they’re spectacular enough from the outside! Make sure you check them out during the day and at night, as they look vastly different.

Another of the Gaudi must-sees is Park G√ľell – but NOT before race day. My boyfriend picked this one for the day directly afterwards, but¬†kept very quiet about one little teeny detail: the climbing. (Thanks, James).

Park Guell Stairs 1

Stairs, and more stairs…

Park Guell Stairs 2

I played a game of spot-the-runners. Hint: all of us were hobbling about and gripping the handrails as if our lives depended on it!

Park Guell Stairs 3

Whilst the views were stunning, I did stop a couple of times and question my life choices slightly. (For example, I may or may not have needed help getting down from that rock. #runnerproblems).

Park Guell View

If you do fancy it, it’s well worth the effort. Park G√ľell is about a 15-minute uphill walk from Lesseps metro stop, but luckily for the worst of the climb there are escalators (though not, as I soon realised, for the way down!)

– Carb Loading

Barcelona Marathon Expo Goodies

Collecting my Asics pace band, and some free bread from the expo! Carb loading FTW!

There are loads of places to eat in Barcelona. However, I would recommend checking out the local restaurants online before you travel. I forgot to do this, and ended up eating at the hotel the night before the marathon. A couple of good areas for food are Barceloneta (mostly paella and tapas places, but SO GOOD), and on/around La Rambla (huge variety). We found a couple of really nice Italian places as well.

One thing to keep in mind is that the Spanish tend to eat later than we do here. 9pm is a completely normal dinner time, and lots of restaurants won’t open for dinner before 8pm. If you want to have an early meal, stick to the touristy areas, as the restaurants and cafes here are more accommodating and serve food for most of the day.

– – –

Stay tuned for part 2, which will cover race day itself! ūüôā