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I first heard about the Hardmoors events a couple of years ago when I started trail running, and to be honest I thought they sounded pretty scary. Just look at the name! Hard. Moors. Scary! I imagined wiry fell runners in vests and tiny shorts bounding up and down vicious hills like mountain goats. Not for the likes of me! But then a couple of friends assured me that they weren’t scary events at all; in fact they were very inclusive and varied in distance from 10K to ultra, so there was something for everyone. So when I started preparing for Race to the Stones I thought I’d give one a go for hill training purposes and entered the Hardmoors Wainstones Marathon. I thought it would be a good dress rehearsal for the big day. However, when my dodgy hamstring started playing up after the London Marathon I decided to play it cautiously and downsized to the half marathon.

The Wainstones events (10K, half and full marathon) all start and finish at Chop Gate near Helmsley. The drive over there from York on a sunny Sunday morning was beautiful and I was really looking forward to it. There was plenty of parking and I wandered over to the village hall to sign on. The marathon runners had just set off at 9 am. Participants had to carry mandatory kit of a waterproof jacket, hat or buff, a route map and the means to carry 500ml of fluid. Everyone’s kit was duly checked before they were allowed to pick up their number. This was all very quick, so I had plenty of time to get ready and went to the loo about three times, just because I could! The weather was perfect – dry but not too warm. We set off on time at 10 am.

We’d run no more than about 100m when we came to a stile that everyone had to climb over, so that held things up quite a bit! “Never mind”, I thought, “It’s not a road race – time and pace don’t really matter”. After the stile we started to climb up a massive hill straight away and everyone slowed to a walk. The track was quite narrow and lots of people seemed happy to stroll up, chatting and taking photos as they went. This was a bit frustrating, as one of the things I’ve been practising is walking uphill as fast as I can, so I wished I’d placed myself a bit further up the field at the start! But I tried to chill and take it all in. We gained a lot of height in a short distance, and some people seemed to be struggling a bit even at this early stage. We eventually got to the top and the track widened out so we could start running. I clocked the first mile at around 25 minutes! The descent from the first hill was great, a gentle gritty trail that gave me some time to take in the amazing view.

It wasn’t long before we were climbing up another hill. In fact there were five hills in all, so not much flat on the course. It was tough going at times, with a couple of rocky, technical descents as well as testing uphill gradients, and it was really windy on the tops! One of the hills had the Wainstones themselves perched at the summit, through which we scrambled with a gale force wind blowing us along – great fun!

The route went along some of the Cleveland Way, which skirts the edge of the North York Moors and is paved in parts. The views were quite spectacular, but there wasn’t much time to take them in going downhill, as you had to be really careful where you placed your feet. The last thing I wanted was to sprain my ankle – or worse – so I was super cautious. I wished I was better at descending as I stood aside to let various people fly past me. I guess it takes practice! But I did notice that I passed quite a few people walking uphill, so I must be getting better at that.

I went through halfway in 1:37 and couldn’t help thinking that if this was a road half I’d be nearly finished – but I know I have to lose that kind of mentality on the trails. There were two checkpoints en route offering water, Pepsi, jelly babies, peanuts and Jaffa Cakes. I took a couple of Jaffa Cakes at each point and they went down really well. I’d brought a piece of homemade flapjack with me, but the Jaffa Cakes actually sat better on my stomach. We had to check in at each point, and I kind of liked the old-schoolness of a marshal shouting out people’s numbers as they approached. For the last few miles we were on moorland trails, which were quite boggy. I tried to keep my feet as dry as possible, but at about ten miles we had to go through a stream, so that was that! The last mile or so was a really nice descent back down to Cop Gate, finishing actually inside the village hall to give our numbers to the time keepers.

We received a really nice t-shirt and medal, and there were savoury snacks, cakes and drinks on offer. Cracking! I haven’t seen any official results yet, but I timed myself at about 3:12 (I think – I forgot to stop my Garmin when I finished – possibly because I was distracted by the sight of cake!).

Just after I’d arrived back the first lady marathoner finished in what must have been about four and a half hours. This really impressed me, not least because the marathon course was actually 28 miles long! Apparently long courses are a Thing with Hardmoors events. That day’s 10K was actually ten miles(!), although the half was pretty close to normal at 13.2 miles. All in all it was fab event. People I’ve spoken to have all said they think Wainstones is the toughest of the Hardmoors courses – one described it as ‘brutal’! It was certainly very testing terrain, and my legs are still feeling it two days later; but it was great training for Race to the Stones. Hardmoors events do fill up quickly, so don’t delay entry if you fancy doing one. I’d really recommend it, and I’d definitely like to do more in future. Recovery fish and chips in Helmsley were a must on the way home!

 

This weekend I’m off on holiday to France for a fortnight, spending a week of that in the Pyrenees. Hopefully I’ll find some more great hilly trails to train on!

I’m running Race to the Stones in aid of Cancer Research UK. You can read why here. If you’d like to make a donation my Just Giving page is here.

 

 

Last time I wrote about training for Race to the Stones I was worried because I was a bit behind schedule. I’d had a hamstring niggle after the London Marathon that didn’t seem to be going away. I was also having a bit of pain from time to time in my right calf and felt like my high hamstring tendon problem might be coming back. But instead of panicking I decided to try a new physio and booked in to see Dave Baxter at Tadcaster Physiotherapy. I noticed on his website that Dave was an ultra runner himself, so felt he’d understand where I was coming from! I’ve seen Dave’s colleague Millie for sports massage before and always felt it’s done me good.

I had an initial assessment with Dave where we went through some range of motion exercises. He also popped me on his treadmill for a bit and had me doing lots of one-legged bridges on his couch! For some reason it appears my right hand side is weaker than the left, so Dave gave me some exercises to do at home to try and help with this. He used an app to film me doing them and emailed this to me, which was really useful. He also advised me to use hiking poles for the hills on my long run to give my legs a bit of support, which I did on my next Sunday outing along the Yorkshire Wolds Way.

I went back to see Dave two weeks later and felt that things had definitely improved in the meantime. I’ve done some long, hilly runs and felt OK afterwards, and also did some speed intervals for the first time in ages last week. On the last two weekends I’ve done back to back long runs and feel pretty much normal now – although getting hungrier than usual! I’m really glad I went to see Dave; apart from his physiotherapy he’s also a great source of ultra running advice, and suggested I get some shoes with more cushioning than my Inov-8 Trail Talons for covering 100K on hard trails. I’ve ordered some Altra Lone Peaks to see how they compare. Seeing Dave has really brought home to me the importance of doing strength work to support my running; something I’ve not been very good with in the past, but will definitely do more in the future.

I’ve been experimenting with different sorts of food in training recently. I find it quite hard to eat and run, but I know I’m going to have to eat some real food to get round Race to the Stones, so have tried various things over the past few weeks, including homemade flapjack, salty crackers and baby food pouches! Flapjack seems OK if I chew it really well; I thought salty snacks might be good if it’s a hot day; the fruity baby food was nice, but I’d have to eat (and so carry) quite a lot to get enough carbs. The best thing I tried was a Tribe Infinity bar, which I got in a sample box I ordered a while ago. When I opened it I thought it looked like MDF and was a bit dubious, but it tasted fine and (most importantly) was really easy to eat and sat well in the belly. I think I’ll have to order some more of those!

Training on the Cleveland Way

It’s now less than six weeks until Race to the Stones (eek!). I’ve just started a three week period of what’s called ‘Peak’ training on the plan, followed by a three week taper. This weekend I’m taking part in my first ever Hardmoors event, the Wainstones Half. I’ve fancied trying one of these events, held on the North York Moors, for ages, and thought this would be a good training exercise. Then we’re off on holiday to the Pyrenees at the end of next week, where the OH is taking part in the Ariégeoise cyclosportive and I’m hoping to be able to take to the mountainous trails to get some good training done. I’m already finding hills a lot easier than I used to, so hopefully those French mountains will make my legs even stronger. Also: I’ll need to work off all the fabulous French pastries, cheese and wine!

I’m running Race to the Stones for Cancer Research UK. You can read why here and if you’d like to make a donation my Just Giving page is here.

The London Marathon was a fantastic event, but Race to the Stones is now looming on the horizon, so I need to start preparing for that. I’ve already been including hills in some of my long marathon training runs, and also completed a couple of hilly events, like the Temple Newsam Trails half marathon. Hopefully that will have set me off to a good start, but I know that I now need to do as many hills as possible and work on building strength rather than focusing on pace and speed. My post-London plan was to have an easy week immediately afterwards, then start to follow the training plan on the Race to the Stones website, which looks like this:

 

So after just a short recovery run mid-week I headed to my new favourite training ground, Temple Newsam, for a few easy trail miles a week later. And midway through the run I felt a little niggle in my right hamstring – the same side as I had my hamstring tendon injury nearly two years ago. I gave it a little massage and a stretch and hoped it would settle down. But during a short run on Monday it felt no better, so I took myself off to see Jeroen at Jorvik Physiotherapy. After a bit of poking around Jeroen told me it was the muscle on the outside edge of the hamstring group that was the culprit (the one on the right in this picture) and that it was good news as it didn’t seem to be the tendon this time; it was just a bit tired and sore post-marathon.

 

Jeroen gave me some ultrasound treatment and told me to take it easy for a couple of weeks, which basically means no speed work, no hills and no racing. Thankfully I can still run, but if the muscle starts to play up I’ll have to back off and rest it. I can cycle if I want to, but I’d rather not if I can run. This isn’t great news training-wise, but it could have been worse, and I have to do everything I can to ensure I reach the start of Race to the Stones injury-free – especially as many people have now kindly donated to my Just Giving page for Cancer Research UK.

I was really disappointed to have to miss the North Lincolnshire Half on Sunday. I did this race for the first time and it’s fab – you can read my review of it here. I managed to achieve sub 1:50 for the first time thanks to their brilliant pacers, and was looking forward to having another go (and getting cake at the end again!) but it would have been stupid of me to dose up on ibuprofen and do that – I might have put myself out of action completely. But I still have the Vale of York Half in September to look forward to. Instead I went out for a very slow, flat two hour trot. I’m going to practise eating various foods on the hoof over the next few weeks, especially savoury ones, as I think I’ll get sick of sweet stuff over the course of 100K. Yesterday it was salty crackers, which went down really well – easy to digest and I think the salt would be useful on a warm day in July. Isn’t ultra running all about the eating?! Anyway, here I am chomping one down – my selfie skills don’t get any better!

 

So that’s where I am for now. This week I’m planning to do just a couple of very short, gentle runs to keep my legs turning, but also go to flow yoga twice to try and build some extra strength and flexibility. Then I’ll see how I feel next weekend. It’s frustrating and a bit worrying not to be training completely how I should be for now, but I’m hoping my cycle of marathon training will stand me in good stead fitness-wise. I don’t need to get any faster, just stronger!

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to make a donation to my fund for Cancer Research UK you can do so here and read about my personal reasons for raising money for them here.

 

 

 

 

In the past I’ve done quite a bit of running for charity; the first time was back in 2009 when I first started running and the OH and I both did the first ever Run for All York 10K in aid of the Jane Tomlinson Appeal. That was a big deal at the time! I also did the Great North Run for Martin House Hospice. Then, as I started to do more and more running, I realised that I couldn’t expect people to cough up every time I took part in an event.

 

However, I’ve recently realised that I haven’t done anything for charity for nearly three years, when I ran the Berlin Marathon and the OH rode L’Etape du Tour for Children With Cancer.

 

So I thought I should give it another go; but as nobody is that impressed when I run a marathon any more (and rightly so!) I knew I’d have to go the extra mile this time to get people to part with their hard-earned cash. Actually, quite a few extra miles…

 

I’ve been tempted to enter Race to the Stones ever since I heard about it last year. It’s a hilly ultra of 100K (or 62 miles in old money) that takes place in July and follows the Ridgeway trail from Lewknor to the ancient stone circle at Avebury. Not only does it look like a great event, but Cancer Research UK have charity places, so it was an ideal opportunity to take on my first 100K and support a cause that’s very close to my heart at the same time. Here’s why I’m running for CRUK.

 

There’s always been quite a lot of cancer on my mum’s side of the family. She and her two sisters (my aunties) all had breast cancer at a relatively early age, and her brother (my uncle) had prostate cancer. When my cousin also developed breast cancer recently she was offered BRCA2 genetic testing because it was suspected that we might have it in the family. Unfortunately her result came back positive, so we knew for sure that BRCA2 was around and that there was a 50% chance others would have it. That left me and my siblings and cousins with a decision to make. Should we also get tested and find out if we had the gene? For me it wasn’t a hard decision to make. I try to live (mostly) healthily to reduce my risk of developing long term health conditions. We all know that you’re less likely to get cancer if you don’t smoke, maintain a healthy weight and exercise. But you can’t fight genetics. Having the BRCA2 gene seriously increases your risk of developing breast, ovarian and prostate cancer. However, women with the BRCA2 gene have the option of undergoing risk-reducing surgery that ultimately makes them less likely than the general population to develop breast cancer. For men it’s a bit trickier as there isn’t much you can do to prevent prostate cancer apart from keep an eye on things.

Rather than living with uncertainty, I felt I had to know. I saw a genetic counsellor at York Hospital, who was lovely, and had a simple blood test. Fortunately for me the result came back negative. I felt a strange mixture of emotions at hearing the news; obviously happy and relieved, but at the same time a bit guilty that I’d ‘got away with it’ when my cousin hadn’t – although the good news is that she had the surgery and is doing really well, and another of my female cousins has, like me, tested negative. The bad news is I won’t get a free ‘Angelina’ boob job on the NHS! Others in my family haven’t yet taken the plunge to find out. It’s a difficult decision to make, so I respect their choice, but obviously it affects future generations as well as yourself.

So that’s my very personal reason for supporting CRUK, although I’ve been lucky so far. Well known for their ground-breaking research – the BRCA2 gene was actually discovered by a CRUK-funded team – it also does a lot of brilliant work to support those affected by cancer, as well as educating people about cancer, which is why I’m supporting them. Even though you can’t change your genes, educating people about how to avoid cancer is so important. CRUK also has a wealth of useful resources on its website that anyone can access.

Thanks for reading this far if you have! I’ll be blogging a bit about my ultra training between now and Race to the Stones on 15th July. If you’d like to donate to my Just Giving page and help CRUK you can do so here. We’d both really appreciate it!

 

 

The London Marathon – considered by many to be the greatest long distance event in the world – is probably on most runners’ bucket list. It took me a while to get there though! Having been unsuccessful in the ballot a couple of times I decided to have a go at Good For Age qualification, which I achieved at the Manchester Marathon in 2015. However, the week before Manchester I’d entered the Paris Marathon for 2016, and because I thought it might be a bit daft (and expensive) to do both Paris and London in the same month, I deferred London until 2017.

So it was almost two years after entering that I finally headed down to London last Saturday to take part. I almost couldn’t believe it was happening after all this time! First stop was the expo to pick up my race number. The lovely man on the registration desk said to me “Well done Angela, Good For Age”, which was great. I also picked up a goody bag that seemed to consist mostly of healthy snacks – no complaints there! I didn’t hang around long at the expo, as I was trying to minimise time on my feet, and I find events like that really energy-draining. Instead I headed off for some carb-loading coffee and carrot cake and a bit of a rest at the hotel. I’d booked a Travelodge just near Cannon Street station, which was really handily placed for travelling to Greenwich. The weather forecast was quite warm, so I pre-hydrated with lots of water and some High 5 Zero electrolyte drink. After some more carbs at possibly the most scenic branch of Strada in the country, overlooking Tower Bridge, it was time for an early night.

 

Obviously I woke up before the alarm next morning, so got on with the job of drinking more High 5 and forcing down two porridge pots. I always find this a hard (but essential) part of race preparation! I expected the trains to be chaotic, so set off in good time just before 8am, but they were fine, and it only took about 20 minutes to get to Maze Hill. From there it’s about a ten minute walk to the Green start, which is much smaller than the Red and Blue areas, and where participants are mostly Good For Age runners and celebs. Not that I recognised many of them – although I was delighted to meet comedians Paul Tonkinson and Rob Deering (who produce the podcast  Running Commentary) at the entrance. I love Paul’s column in Runners World, so I hope they didn’t mind a bit of ageing fangirl gushing! They were both lovely anyway, although I’m always too shy to ask celebs for photos. Queues for the portaloos were pretty lengthy – it took me about half an hour to get to the front, but at least I didn’t need to go again after that! I tried to warm up a bit on the grassy area, but space was pretty tight. I got into my pen at about 9.45 and was delighted to see Bibi from Veggie Runners. We chatted until gun time, then I looked for the four hour pacer. My plan was to hang on to him as long as I could and see what happened!

 

The weather was sunny but cool with hardly any wind – perfect. I felt really comfortable as we set off. After a short while we Green runners merged with the Blue, and I could see the amazing Susie Chan pacing four hours. Well I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to run with Susie, so I joined her pace group instead. I was stunned that one of the guys with us didn’t know who she was, so had to tell him he was running with a living legend! The course was quite crowded, especially in the first 10K or so, with quite a bit of shoving and jostling, but this eased a bit as we spread out later on.

I was going really well until about 15 miles, then started to feel the pace a bit. For some reason I was finding it really hard to eat my usual Clif Shot Bloks. I forced some down, but it seemed like hard work, and it was starting to get a lot warmer too. I passed a point where Lucozade gels were being given out, and took one because it would be easy to get down – but shortly after wished I hadn’t, as it didn’t seem to agree with my belly! My fuelling strategy definitely went to pot and I felt myself starting to slow down a bit. But then I remembered that my objective for the day was to enjoy the ride rather than get a PB, and settled into it. I even walked a couple of the water points, because I knew I’d probably only run London once and didn’t want my memory of it to be painful! There were some great sights on the way round the course; Cutty Sark and Tower Bridge in the first half, then Big Ben and many of the city’s landmarks towards the end. The glorious weather made everything look brilliant.

Meanwhile, my husband Steve had been dashing round town and managed to spot me in three places – although I didn’t manage to spot him at the first two! There was so much crowd support and noise around almost all of the course, which was amazing, but meant I missed him; but the thought that thousands of people had come out to support runners they didn’t even know was so touching and really spurred me on – as did the thought that various friends and family were tracking me online! I eventually saw Steve in the last mile, just before turning onto the Mall. My left calf was starting to twinge a bit with cramp, so I was pleased to be nearly finished – but the final stretch down The Mall was really special. I ran it deliberatey slowly because I wanted to savour it. The palace and all the flags looked fantastic in the sunshine. The speakers were blasting out YMCA, and I think I even did the actions as I approached the finish line. I had finally run London! My finish time was 4:05:07; not Good For Age, but my third fastest marathon, and I was happy with that considering how things had panned out. A lovely woman hung my medal round my neck and I remember saying to her “I’m so pleased to see you!”.

 

I picked up a goody bag with more snacks and a really nice t-shirt. The finish area seems to go on forever – a long walk after running 26.2 miles! But at least it was in the direction of the tube.

Am I glad I ran London? Definitely! It’s an epic event and I’d recommend any marathon runner does it at least once. Despite being vast it’s really well organised and the atmosphere is amazing. Would I do it again? Well on Sunday, at about mile 18, when things felt tough, I convinced myself that this was going to be my last ever road marathon. But then on Monday I realised I could qualify for next year with the time I ran at the Yorkshire Marathon last October. So let’s just say we’ll see when Good For Age entry opens!

As part of my recent marathon/ultra training I’ve been trying to run up and down as many hills as possible. When I did the Calderdale Ultra nearly two years ago it became clear to me that I was sadly lacking in hill experience; we don’t really have any in York apart from Windmill Rise, where I sometimes do hill reps, but which isn’t very long. So I know hill running is something I need to do regularly if I’m going to make it through Race to the Stones in one piece! With this in mind I did the Temple Newsam Ten (miles) in January and the Harewood House Half in February, and have also been out and about in Yearsley Woods near Ampleforth (where I managed to get lost!), Dalby Forest and along the Yorkshire Wolds Way as often as I can.

The Temple Newsam Trail Races is a new event organised by It’s Grim Up North Running. It’s basically a 6.7 mile loop around the estate, so you can run one lap for approximately 10K, two laps for a half marathon, three for 20 miles and four for a marathon. It was one of the most low-key but enjoyable events I’ve ever done. Firstly, it started at a very civilised time of 10.30, so as it only takes me about half an hour to get to Leeds I didn’t even have to get up at the crack of dawn. As only about 200 people were taking part there was no queue at all at sign-on or the toilets – fantastic! Just before kick-off we had a race briefing, then we were away.

 

There was no messing here, as the course started with a run up a hill to the front of the big house, but the incline wasn’t too steep. The course then followed an undulating route through the beautiful grounds of the house, featuring woodland, gardens and even a bit of a muddy descent. I really enjoyed it – I’d only entered the half as I had 15 easy miles on my marathon schedule for that weekend, but kind of wished I was doing the whole thing in the end! The only thing that was a bit disappointing was the weather – it rained for nearly all of my half – but improved as the day went on. I chatted to several people who, like me, were running the London Marathon in three weeks and using this event as their last long training run, and I think we all had a great time. There was no chip timing, but that doesn’t really bother me in trail events, where distances and PBs don’t seem to matter as much, but results were posted online anyway.

Refreshments were provided at two points along the loop, with water, cola, jelly babies, crisps and energy gels on offer. At the end there was the most fantastic array of cake – always a welcome sight to runners. And the goody bag was epic, containing some great race bling, an Easter egg, beer and a bunch of daffodils! I thought this event was great value and great fun. I’d be happy to do it again, and I think it probably has scope to get bigger. In the meantime I’ll keep looking for hills to run up and down.

Next stop – London, baby!

 

Here are just some of the thoughts that passed through my mind during my 20 mile run on Sunday.

Do any of them sound familiar?

20 miles. I haven’t run that far since the York Marathon five months ago. Eek. But it’s meant to be slow today though. Ten minute miles. Three hours and twenty minutes. Eek!

They said it might rain. It doesn’t look like rain. Of course it won’t rain because I’ve brought my hat in case it rains.

Yeah, my legs feel OK today. Well maybe my calves are a bit tight. But that normally goes off after a couple of miles. I should probably have rolled them before I set off.

Right, so I’ll eat a bit of flapjack after about an hour and a half, then every half hour after that. Got to practice eating on the hoof for Race to the Stones. No gel because I’m only running slowly today.

My calves are still tight. There’s a bench over there. I’ll stop there and squeeze them a bit. Yeah, that’s better.

Oh, thanks for coming out when you weren’t supposed to, sun. When I’ve left my sunnies at home. Because it was supposed to be raining. Now I’ll be squinting for the next two and a half hours! I suppose I could put my rain hat on, but then I’d probably sweat to death.

Bloody hell, it’s really warm. I don’t remember the weatherman saying it was going to be this warm. He only mentioned the rain that isn’t actually happening. I’m so overdressed. Why is everyone wearing coats? Are they aliens or something?

Six miles in exactly an hour. That’s good. Only another two hours and twenty minutes to go. That’s hilarious!

Look at all these people walking to the shops. On a sunny day like this. They need to get a life.

Jesus, what makes some dog owners think I’d love it if their mutt jumps up at me. Yank the bloody thing in! It’s always the little yappy ones. Big dogs are so much more chilled.

Five miles, that’s a quarter.

Must slow down a bit. Train body to use fat as fuel. I always speed up in the middle bit, after I’ve warmed up and before I start to get tired.

It’s better now I’m out of town. Nice by the river. Blossom out, that’s pretty. Springtime.

Oh, there’s Neil on his bike. Haven’t seen him for ages. I’ll stop for a quick chat.

I’m boiling now. Sweating like a beast. But at least nothing’s chafing. Nice one, Shock Absorber.

What fraction of this run have I done now? Over half anyway. Soon be two thirds.

Fed up of flapjack. Should have brought something salty. What though? Peanuts? They were giving out peanuts at that race. Yeah, I might bring some peanuts next time.

How much drink have I got left? Hard to tell in the Camelbak. Feels quite light though.

There is virtually no wind today. Typical. I want a breeze!

Should I enter the Boston ballot for next year? I bet it would cost a fortune to go to Boston. Am I that bothered? What if I entered, booked flights and that and then got injured? Remember that time you spent the night before Manchester in the hotel loo and couldn’t run? Hmm.

Why is that woman running in a jacket? Is she training for the Marathon des Sables? Or just insane?!

I want a wee. I’ve clearly drunk too much. There’s some bushes. Just stop the Garmin for a mo…

What shall I have for lunch when I get back? Fish finger sarnie? No, you had that yesterday. What about eggs? Yeah, scrambled eggs. Eggs are good. On toast. Protein and carbs.

Feeling a bit tired now. Oh yeah? Well suck it up, because if this was Race to the Stones you wouldn’t even be a third of the way through it. Jesus! Yeah, but I’d be running slower and with walking breaks. But still. God, how will I ever cover 100K! How? It isn’t remotely possible! WHY THE HELL DID I ENTER THAT?

Why is the Garmin bleeping? Powering down? FFS, I must have forgotten to restart it after I stopped for that wee! How far back was that? Brilliant, that’s totally buggered up my route. Well I’m not stopping til the Garmin says 20. I’ll have to do a bit extra. Bollocks.

I’m knackered now. I wish I’d brought a gel. Why didn’t you bring an emergency gel? Idiot!

Why am I doing this? I’m 53 years old. I should be in a garden centre buying a Cath Kidston trowel or something. Or shopping. Or sitting outside a pub. This is the last time I’m ever training for a marathon. Probably.

How did I ever run 26.2 miles faster than this? Actually I did it twice. Hard to believe now. But it’s on the internet so it must be true. Unless it’s Fake News – haha!

I’d really rather be walking now. Shall I have a little walk? I could walk in an ultra. Yeah, but only up the hills. This isn’t a hill. And anyway, this is London training. For the road. No stopping. Yay, these traffic lights are against me! A few seconds rest. There is a God!

Nearly home. This bit’s downhill. Flying I am. Yeah, right!

Aren’t chairs great? I need milk. Cold chocolate milk… drink of champions.

Just a few of my long run thoughts. I love it really!

What do you think during a long run?

A few days ago I noticed a plug on Facebook for a new 20 mile running event to be held in Nidderdale this May. Run Nidderdale, organised by the Rotary Club of Harrogate, describes itself as being ‘for serious runners only’. I guess they mean they only want entries from sub-elite skinny minnies in running club vests who post super-fast times, but it got me to thinking about what constitutes a serious runner. Does it depend on your ability? Or can it just be about your attitude?

I have friends who are runners at all levels, from those just starting out with Couch to 5K to others who can run a marathon in less than three hours, and everything in between. They are almost all taking their training seriously: setting a goal, following a plan, trying to eat healthily and doing their best to improve, sometimes at the expense of other things like holidays or even a social life. But if someone happens to be older or slower than that person who can run a marathon in three hours, does that mean they aren’t taking running seriously? That their efforts count for nothing?

To look at things another way… when I’m out running I always say hello to other runners. I guess I feel an affinity with them, whoever they are. Some reciprocate, but others totally blank me. Am I not worthy of their acknowledgement if I’m clearly not clocking sub six minute miles? If I smile and say hi does it mean I’m not taking things seriously enough? Are they the serious runners, too po-faced to offer a friendly greeting? Being snooty/serious doesn’t necessarily make them any faster than friends of mine who are super speedy and dedicated, yet also some of the most cheerful people I know; people who’ve encouraged me throughout my running journey and don’t feel the need to be so up themselves.

Oh dear…

 

So where does that leave me? Am I a serious runner? I’m never going to trouble the podium in any event, but I always want to do the best I can. Even though I’m no spring chicken I’m still trying to improve. I didn’t become a Good For Age marathoner by not taking my training seriously. I haven’t yet given up on trying to shave those last few seconds off that elusive sub 50 10K. But I feel the good Rotarians of Harrogate wouldn’t classify me as a serious runner because I’m never at the head of the field.

Interestingly, the aim of this new run is to give people (and I quote) ‘the opportunity to raise money for their favourite charity’. But is running 20 miles a challenge for a serious runner? It’s far more of a stretch for those of us lower down the food chain. You know, the ones who sometimes wear tights when it’s a bit chilly, have fun while we’re running and are probably more likely to run for charity anyway.

If the organisers of the Rotary run want only fast runners to enter, then that’s what they should say, not insult the rest of us by implying we don’t take our sport seriously. Personally I don’t ever want to be serious enough not to say hi to another runner. I prefer to be in the middle of the pack. Smiling.

What do you think makes a ‘serious’ runner? I’d love to know.

 

Ooh, it’s been a while since I blogged about running. What have I been up to recently? Well, I took it easy for a while after the Leeds Abbey Dash in November and also did some cross training during November and December – mostly turbo training on the bike, plus a bit more yoga than usual. I think it’s good to do this a couple of times a year to give the legs and feet a bit of a break from pounding out the miles. I also find it helps my running mojo to keep working; when I’ve had a break from ‘proper’ running I find I can’t wait to get back on it!

I’m now four weeks into my training schedule for the London Marathon. I’m following the Asics Sub 4 plan again, which has worked well for me both times I’ve used it in the past – for the Manchester Marathon in 2015 and York last year. I know some people think you should try different plans, but as I enjoy this one my view is “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”. I’m not massively bothered about running a PB at London, because having finally got in via Good For Age I really want to savour and enjoy the whole experience and not beat myself up if I find the pace slacking a bit from sub 4. Just as well really, as I came down with a stinking cold this last weekend and didn’t do any running at all! I was so excited to hear last week that Jo Pavey is doing London this year too. She’s such a hero and inspiration of mine that it really gave me a boost to know we’d be running in the same race – even though we’ll be miles apart!

Good enough!

Good enough!

A couple of weeks ago I ran the York Brass Monkey Half Marathon, which has become a bit of an annual tradition now. I’m never at my best form so early in the season, straight after the Christmas holidays (who is?!) but it’s a fab event that I love to take part in – and you always get a really useful long-sleeved technical top at the end. I was a few minutes off my PB at 1:53, but if nothing else the Monkey is always a good wake-up call! I’ve also entered the North Lincs Half in May, which I did last year and really enjoyed – not least because I ran sub 1:50 for the first time thanks to the brilliant pacers! Coming two weeks after London I hope the fact that I’ll have trained for a marathon and then recovered for two weeks will mean I have another shot at a PB. Oh, and they give you cake at the end!

This year’s Brass Monkey top!

 

My main goal for this year is going to be my biggest challenge yet – the Race to the Stones 100K in July. I’ve watched this event with interest over the past couple of years, not daring to enter. But then I thought to myself “Hell girl, you’re not getting any younger – if not now, then when?” and finally took the plunge! My training strategy for this (based on nothing more scientific than instinct!) will be to follow my marathon schedule until London and then (all being well) switch to the ultra training plan that’s on the Race to the Stones website. I’m also aiming to do more core work than usual to build strength, plus run up and down as many hills as possible. This can be a challenge living in York! I’m trying to enter one hilly event a month to help with training, the first being the Harewood House Half on 26th February. I did this two years ago and it was great fun.

The Harewood House Half

The Harewood House Half

 

I’ve been running a couple of times recently in the grounds of Temple Newsam House near Leeds and am planning to use the nearby Cleveland Way and Yorkshire Wolds Way for some training routes. I’ve also started walking the two miles to work and back instead of cycling, as I figure the more time I spend on my feet the better! And in June I’ve entered my first ever Hardmoors event, the Wainstones Marathon. I thought this would be a good dress rehearsal for RTTS – I hope it won’t put me off as it’s allegedly very hilly!

I’m really excited but also a bit scared about the prospect of running 100K – I just hope my poor old legs will hold out! What are your running plans for 2017? I’d love to hear about them.

Temple Newsam running

Temple Newsam running

 

 

I always think just before Christmas is a great time to reflect on how my running has gone over the last twelve months and make some plans for the new year. 2016 has been a pretty good year on the whole, especially considering that this time last year I seriously thought I might never be able to run a long distance ever again. I achieved two of my long-term time goals this year. The first was getting a sub 1:50 half marathon for the first time ever at the North Lincs Half; it’s a great event that I’d really recommend if you want to go for a PB, as it’s nice and flat and has pacers. The weather was also perfect on the day, which always helps, and they also give you cake at the end! I hadn’t intended to go for a PB that day – I was planning to do that at the Vale of York Half in September – but felt good, so just went with it! You can read my review of that here.

North Lincs Half 2016

The other goal was to get a sub 4 at the Yorkshire Marathon. I’d done this once before, at Manchester last year, but when the course was later found out to be short all the official records were wiped, so I wanted to re-establish my Good For Age time. I was really happy to do that, and am now harbouring fantasies about applying to run Boston in 2018, but it would probably be a bit too expensive. My final goal for the year was to run a sub 50 10K at the Leeds Abbey Dash, but this wasn’t to be. My plan after the Yorkshire Marathon (a month before) was to take a week off and then do some speedwork in preparation, but in the middle of October I felt a bit rubbish for some reason and didn’t really do enough training. I did get a PB of 50:27 however, so I’m not a million miles off and will definitely have another crack at that next year!

Paris Marathon Finish

Back in April I ran the Paris Marathon – not with the aim of a PB, as I was still coming back from injury – and really enjoyed it, although it was a very warm day. The breakfast run the day before was also fun. You can read my review of that here. Other events I’ve done and enjoyed this year have been the Snake Lane 10, the Vale of York 10, the Mont Blanc 10K, the Yorkshire Wolds Half, the York 10K and the Vale of York Half.

Snake Katie

I’ve been doing a bit less running, more yoga and some turbo training over the last few weeks, but I’ve entered the Brass Monkey Half in January, so will try and sharpen up a bit before then. I don’t think I’ll be PB-worthy straight after Christmas, but the thought of running there does mean I’ll probably consume a few less mince pies than otherwise!

Brass Monkey 2016

My two big events for next year are the London Marathon, which I finally got into after several unsuccessful ballot entries by running my Good for Age time, and the Race to the Stones 100K next July, which I entered a couple of weeks ago in a moment of madness! I’ve wanted to have a go at a long ultra for a while, and this looks like a great event – I’ve certainly heard lots of good reports about it. I know I’ll need to do some specific preparation for that. I don’t know if I can do it, but I thought that the first time I ever ran a 10K! I want to try and do as many local, hilly off-road events as I can in the first half of next year to help me prepare for RTTS and am really looking forward to getting into the trail/ultra runner mindset – especially the cake part!

So that’s me for now as we hit the inevitable slide towards Christmas. How was 2016 for you and what do you have planned for 2017? I’d love to know.