2017: The year without a marathon

Enjoying the Devon country lanes…

When I pulled out of Vienna marathon back in the spring, I told myself that it was just a case of life getting in the way of my training, that it was just a temporary blip, that my motivation would come back soon enough. I told myself that I could start over in the summer, make the most of the sunshine, hit some of my time goals and finish with a sub-5 in Berlin to end the year.

But work got busy, that crazy heatwave happened, and somehow my motivation didn’t come back. I was struggling to even finish my 5ks, and my pace plummeted. For the first training cycle ever, I found myself dreading my long runs to the point of making excuses not to do them. And my carefully planned buffer of cut-back weeks dwindled, the mileage stayed low, and I found myself in complete denial of my September marathon as the weeks ticked by.

In theory, at this point I still have 3 more long runs on the schedule. I could still ramp up the mileage and make my way round those 26.2 miles in September. But the tough question I’ve had to ask myself recently is: ‘do you still want this?’

On paper, of course I do. I’ve been SO lucky to secure a Berlin ballot place and I feel awful at the idea of giving that up when there are others out there who would love my spot. I love marathons, I love the satisfaction of hitting those increasingly high miles on my weekend long runs, of feeling my body getting stronger, seeing the shorter runs get faster and faster. I love the atmosphere on race weekend; feeling like a bit of a celebrity wandering round a new city with my race bag, and with my bib and medal on race day.

But right now, at this point in time, I don’t want it enough.

It’s true what they say about 90% of marathon training being in the mind. Since mentally giving up (and that’s exactly what the issue has been) I’ve been struggling with not just motivation, but with the miles. I’ve found myself taking walking breaks on 5k recovery runs, and I’ve been struggling to get my pace back down into the 9s even over that distance. I haven’t been to parkrun all year. I’ve only hit double digits ONCE since my last half marathon back in the spring.

How running SHOULD make you feel.

I know that deep down, I still love the sport. I still want to get my sub-2 half, my sub-5 full, and to push myself on the shorter distances. I want to explore some more off road trails, to try new events and to work harder with my cross training, my running form, and to feel strong again.

In the past I’ve always seen a goal race as a way to motivate myself. Counting down the weeks has got me out the door, and having a plan gives my sessions a purpose, and smaller goals to hit along the way. But this year, for some reason each event I’ve done has only led to increasing worry, anxiety, and a lack of confidence in my fitness, my ability, and my commitment.

I’ve run 3 half marathons this year. Whilst yes, I managed to complete each one, I was left feeling flat at the finish line. I’ve always thought that a DNS was a sign of weakness, of giving up, of laziness… But this year, I’ve learnt that it’s far better for me personally than finishing for the sake of it. It’s not worth pushing through the miles when your heart isn’t in it.

So in short, I’ve decided to DNS Berlin. I’ve also decided that I’m not going to book a spring marathon – or any other races in the meantime – until I can get out of this rut and find that joy again. I need to build back my weekly routine, to finally look forward to those short mid-week runs, the cross-training sessions, and to building my mileage on the trails at the weekends.

I’m sure there’ll be plenty of races in my diary next year. I just want to do them justice. And in the meantime, I’m still looking forward to a weekend in Berlin – and I’ll be cheering all of you lovely runners on from the sidelines!

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Have you ever DNS’d a big race? How did you feel?

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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: 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…

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

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?

Learning to love winter running

Bobble hats and hot chocolates make the freezing runs worth it!

I have a real love/hate relationship with winter in England. The days are shorter, it’s dark and cold and wet, and generally unpleasant! Truth be told, 9 times out of 10 I’d rather be at home in my pjs watching something on Netflix ūüėČ

But there are also some really great aspects to keeping your training going through the winter – not least because you’ll enjoy the benefits in your spring races!

Here are 5 things that have been getting me out the door lately.

1 – It’s dark!

Whilst it’s a bit annoying having to avoid my off-road¬†routes in the evenings, I can take comfort in the fact that nobody can see how¬†red and sweaty and gross I get¬†(I’ve actually had people ask me if I’m ok when I’m recovering from a big hill…) and I also get to wear my head torch! SO MUCH FUN.

2 – It’s cold!

Yep, I’m definitely a cold weather runner. Warm summer days are great, but my pace goes out the window and¬†I really struggle. I’ll admit that I hate the first few minutes when it’s frosty outside, but I seem to always improve my speed in the cold, and it’s also an excuse to buy wear more layers!

3 – New Year’s Resolutions

So I’ve not set any resolutions of my own, but lots of my friends have. Luckily for me, most of them are fitness/diet/health related, which makes¬†it far easier to persuade them to run with me ūüėÄ Win/win!

4 – Brownie points

Cold, wet, windy miles count double, right? ūüėČ Either way, you can’t help but feel pretty smug running past all the pedestrians in your capris whilst they’re bundled up in coats, scarves and hats and muttering about how crazy you are. Or is that just me?

5 – All the treats!

I may or may not regularly bribe myself to run. Or, yknow, use my run as an excuse to treat myself! Coffee, a long hot shower, throwing on the onesie – they’re all brilliant after a freezing cold or drizzly run! ūüėÄ

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What motivates you to train at this time of year?