Roving round London, keeping left on escalators and back home running

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With both shock and relief the temperatures dropped this week making London commuting much nicer for me and many others I am sure. I have not quite got into a rhythm of running or proper exercise when I am in London mostly because I can’t seem to get out of bed early enough to fit in a decent run before work and don’t always have time ( or the inclination ) in the evening.

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heading south
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early in Ealing

So exercise when in London is walking and walking and stair climbing and stepping briskly up and down escalators on the LEFT-HAND SIDE – yes I conquered that small fear – Bravo to me!

I have also perfected the technique of trolley bag running   – safer than running with scissors –  except perhaps for those on my path. An essential when cutting it fine to catch the train home.

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lunchtime walk

Last night on the return journey north I got chatting to a fellow passenger and runner and she gave me some run routes to try when I am next back in London and encouraged me to embrace run commuting. Giving me insider tips on routes to minimise road crossings, slow walking crowds and parks to try even when dark ( turns out they have the lights on ).

That will be for next week- today I was back in Edinburgh running on home turf with regular run companion Alison. Beautiful day for running – cold, clear air, sun and blue skies.

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And breathe

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Small confessions of mild obsessions.

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Mary Somerville

Towards the tail end of October, I got caught up in one of my recurring running obsessions – chasing a target mileage for the month . Although October is blessed with 31 days in which to run, come the last week I was ruing my slacker behaviour of the preceding October weeks when I realised how far behind I was in miles covered to date.
But with five days of October remaining, all was not lost. I had covered a fairly respectable 60 + miles so was confident that I would at least manage to reach a total of more miles than previous months 64 and 70 miles respectively.

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Although not currently training for anything – I am trying to keep up a decent amount of mileage each month because I don’t seem to be managing to fit in any other exercise at the moment. Is very easy to talk myself out of doing any exercise (even when I know how much better I feel when I do), without some sort of way of being accountable.

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And having set off at the beginning of the year with big monthly numbers, I am motivated to keep running and recording miles as I am on track to reach an annual total of 1000 miles by the end of November ( barring injury ) – a whole month earlier than I did in 2017.

So that is a target of sorts.

I know there are lots of naysayers around tracking exercise, league tables, wearable devices and the like – but my view is that on balance, it is mostly a force for good creating as it does for me anyway, a positive reason to keep going when it may seem pointless otherwise.

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Runners often have stated and secret goals usually where races are concerned  – (aka the backup plan when the shit hits the fan) and so it is for me and my ambitions around exercise –  I have a stated start of the month goal and as the month progresses and life intervenes I revert to my  back up or secret plan of what will ‘do’ for the month.

Throughout the year my graph of exercise ambition would be a jaggy profile characterised each month by an early peak of optimism usually around the first day and then as the month progresses a few more high spots coinciding mostly with weekend days when post-run, I am filled with euphoria and misplaced waves of invincibility.

The contrasting troughs of run reality and dips in the graph would be plotted next to those weekday work mornings when I opt out of a pre-work run in darkness, trading it for more time under the covers and telling myself that I will just run longer at the weekend.

( if I was not so shit at creating graphs – I would ‘insert diagram here’ – but instead here is a nice pic )

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Back to October mileage. For as long as I have been kind of seriously running, and it being  my hobby of choice –  I have recorded my runs on the Nike+ app. Like other running communities, you can opt to have friends who you share the details of your running achievements with. With Nike+ there is a leaderboard including the stats of your chosen friends – and this provides a degree of competitive edge and encouragement, as I monitor my run chums and their mileage totals.

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While it is not really a contest I do check to see where I am in the standing of my own small league and yes I confess I have sometimes gone out running just to get ahead of a Nike+ ‘friend’ and wallow in the warm glow of satisfaction when I am top of the leaderboard.

So come the last week of October – I set myself the first goal of reaching 90 miles -more than the past 2 months and higher than any month since April. Then on Monday 30th I was at 87 and a bit  miles so if I ran 5 or 6 miles my 90 mile target would be comfortably achieved, and anything more a bonus.

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Monday morning and with a flash of inspiration I realised I could combine the objective of reaching 90 + miles in October with the workaday task of taking clothes back to Zara. So in one swift move combine two of my running loves – ‘running with a purpose’ and ‘running a set number of miles in a month’ – how lovely is that?

As I was running I was thinking about how to achieve one of the following mileage number – 90, 93, 95, 99.

So the run story goes like this – I did the run into town and got myself to Zara and exchanged the clothes – at that point by my calculations I was on track to do 95 miles.

After a meander round Zara – I set off to run far enough for 95 miles then after a run up to Calton Hill and down again and not quite knowing where I was mileage wise –  my phone battery died. I just guessed that I was most likely at around 95 miles and that was fine by me.

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Once I was on the bus home and had fired up my phone with back up battery  – I discovered my Oct mileage total was at 98.4 – so from a happy with 95 miles I saw that a tantalising 1.6 miles would take me to the magic 100 for the month and while I ‘could’ have done this extra bit the day after- I reckoned getting this done and dusted on this day was the better answer.

I got off the bus 3 stops early and ran the remaining distance home – wishing as I often do that I did not live on top of a hill.

Anyhow – my end of Oct total was 100.1 miles. the running was not always pretty but I did it with a day to spare. And thanks as always to my running challengers for spurring me on 🙂

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Runspotting

More by accident than by design – I have spent much of September visiting different cities throughout the land, and as is my habit – have taken my running shoes with me on these travels.

I don’t do much by way of proper running on these trips – but fitting in a run is the closest I get to being a collector, or to the satisfaction of ticking off a list, ‘trainspotter-like’.

Yes, I confess I am a runspotter !

With apologies to trainspotters – but I am guessing based on casual observation (given that I do spend a shit load of time at train stations) that you guys & gals like to collect numbers and tick off lists – just as  I do by running in different places.

So running somewhere unknown is a good way to get a feel for a place, to satisfy my curiosity and sometimes find the places worth returning to for a proper visit. It is quicker than walking and cheaper than an open-topped bus –  and of course, helps to offset the effects of wining and dining excess that often goes with travels.

Alas the weather on most of these runs was not great and skies are often Pantone cool grey 5 with drizzle – but although the photos may look a tad sombre, rest assured I was having a darn good time.

September London

Have been in London quite a bit this month and fitted in a few runs along various stretches of the Thames. London is a nice city to run in with always something to see although it can be hard underfoot. Those golden pavements are tough on my creaky knees.

Sept 24 Inverness

Took a birl round my home town ( city ) to blow away the cobwebs the morning after my sister in law’s very enjoyable 60th birthday party. Was the day of the Loch Ness marathon and I was delighted to not be running a marathon – or any other race, although I did accidentally get caught up in a family fun run.

Sept 26 Belfast

A first proper visit to Belfast for me so managed to get a bit lost despite some good directions from a native. Early morning run taking in some of Belfast’s art trail and checking out some of the very splendid municipal buildings and high spots.

Sept 29 Edinburgh

Not really exploring a new city as Edinburgh is my home turf – I should really make more of an effort to run the sights of Auld Reekie, but sometimes getting back to running on familiar trails makes a comforting change after taking in the tourist spots.

 

 

 

Autumn

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I just saw a post from one of my favourite bloggers Materfamilias writes – a wordless Wednesday tour of mural art in her Vancouver neighbourhood. Truth is – it is not really wordless as she takes you on a descriptive tour and her observations are always thoughtful.

I have been doing a bit of touring and observing recently at home and in London, so thought I might try a word ‘lite’ post to try and jump start my writing habit.
Maybe a kind of a writing warm up.

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Banish the blues – I love running !

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This past week I have been trying to get back into running more regularly and to rediscover the joy and peace that, until recently, I found that running brings.

2017  has been a year of change for me. On the professional front, I left a job after eight years with the same company. Moving on from the comfort and security of working  where I understood how the business worked,  and with the friendship of good colleagues, to trying to work out what next, navigating job hunting, rebuilding a network and the like has been something of an emotional rollercoaster and a game of snakes & ladders all rolled into one big fat metaphor !

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In family life, our youngest daughter graduated, and with that came the acknowledgment that our job as parents was entering a different chapter. The education years are well and truly over, our girls are all grown up and the fledglings have properly flown the nest.

But beyond work and family – there was running. Running is my thing and as someone who has scampered between a myriad of hobbies and interests over the years, running has been the constant – a touchstone- and my ‘go to’ when the rest of life was a bit chaotic.

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Then post marathon – even the constancy of running seemed to change.

After the elation of finishing a marathon – I  found it harder than I expected to see the point of running and it stopped being something I looked forward to doing.

People talk about the post marathon blues, but during training, I was sure this would not apply to me. Towards the end of marathon training, what kept me going was looking forward to a time when I could say cheerio to prescribed training sessions and hello to running whenever I wanted to. Choosing to run for however long a distance and with friends who were happy to stop and run slow, take pictures – just about everything I was not able to do during training.

But it turned out I did succumb to post marathon blues, just like lots of others before me and kept finding excuses to not bother going out. Briefly, I considered signing up for another race to reignite running love and give me a new goal – but I just could not face it. Having spoken before about my ambivalence over races, competitions and the stress of pushing for PBs, chasing a new target is not the answer for me right now.

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In short – I was not managing to get back into a running groove. The routes I have run for years and even with repetition – managed to enjoy and see something new each time – had lost their appeal. When I was running, every yard seemed harder, I was puggled and weary after the first 10 minutes, I cut short planned distances, walked up hills I would have run before and felt every niggle like a heavy weight.

But as I believe in the power of running as a cure all – I persevered, and this week I think I turned a corner. On Tuesday summer arrived in Edinburgh and I did a toasty 5 miles along the canal – allowing myself the luxury of lots of stops, and even took the bus home. Then on Thursday, an otherwise pedestrian run was enlivened by both a wardrobe malfunction and finding some field mushrooms in passing.

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Friday and Saturday I ran with Alison and rediscovered my favourite kind of running – the stream of consciousness run chat 🙂

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Then today by way of a grand finale – I joined a visiting friend for a run in a completely different part of town, to run 10 glorious rain drenched miles, and with it, the post marathon blues washed away into the cloudy skies.

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Two for joy

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One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl and four for a boy  MAAAAAG PAYAYAAYYYY

For those of us of a certain age, this 70s interpretation of the nursery song is, along with many other TV theme tunes and advertising jingles, embedded in our collective hard drives – or is it just me who can recall and recite verbatim TV advertisements and public information film lyrics – 40 plus years later?

I was mostly a Blue Peter fan, but I did occasionally venture across to the other side to watch Magpie – partly because I had a bit of a crush on the male presenter – Mick Robertson and his incredible hair (quite a contrast to John Noakes that’s for sure). And also because the pop graphics of the titles and theme tune were pretty memorable.

Maybe an early indication of a career in marketing 😉

But it would take more than a trendy hairdo and tight jeans to shift my loyalties from the land of sticky back plastic, silver bottle top appeals and of course the quest for a Blue Peter badge. ( successful ).

MAAAAAG PAYAYAYAAYYYY ….

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A thing of beauty is a joy forever – running with poetic inspiration

Forgive the lofty and possibly misleading headline – but today as per my ongoing post marathon quest to rediscover my love of running, my ‘mojo’ or however best to describe the need to get back on the two-legged horse, and remember why it is a fun thing to do- I decided to try running a favourite route.

The route  I chose is much loved for many reasons. First and foremost – it includes a section through the evocatively named Poet’s Glen, whose name appeals to my inner romantic –  but beyond these literary references, it is a much loved run because when I am not in training or being a ‘serious’ runner, I opt to walk part of the route.

I  could run the narrow uphill section – but I choose to walk not simply to avoid the steep incline and the stony path with associated high ankle twisting potential, but importantly – and here is the big thing – sometimes it is nicer to walk than to run.

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Walking the short section that takes you from the road above the Dell path to the reservoir section,  is a welcome pause to gather breath, take in the surroundings and slow down.

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This route has lots of other things going for it – not least the views. After the first half of steady uphill running, you find yourself elevated above the tree sheltered  Dell path and see all of Edinburgh and Fife below. And knowing that after a two-mile uphill slog there is a welcome downhill section leading me back to my front door is a very rare and attractive feature in a run route. There is something very pleasing about a run that takes you home with a downhill ending and something I appreciate living as I do on a fairly elevated part of Edinburgh.

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This route is a good illustration of the contrasts you can enjoy running in Edinburgh. As a fairly compact city surrounded by both hills and water – you do not have to be a distance runner to experience a smorgasbord of rugged heather clad hills, bucolic pasture, leafy glades, urban architecture and a  glimpse of the sea all in the course of a morning’s running.

To return to this route – I would love to give an authoritative account of the significance of the Poet in the poet’s Glen – but this requires more research than I have undertaken. Earlier this year, I did meet two ladies from a local historical society who were very well informed and shared a lot of background on local history with me as I stopped at a 7 mile half way point on a training run.

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Alas, I  confess when I am running my ability to retain detailed historical or other relevant detailed facts is limited.

So today’s outing was an easy Sunday run, filled with many life-affirming views of nature – and at  5 miles is the longest distance I have managed to cover since the marathon, so was a step in the right direction.

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Summer running – having some fun

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I have not been running much this month- truth is since the marathon I have not yet got back into a proper running groove.

It is only 3 weeks since the race, so early days  – but knowing of other marathoners who have struggled to find the motivation to run again after training for a big event- I hoped this would not be the case for me.

I thought it unlikely, as one thing that kept me going through the latter stages of marathon training ( aside from the fear of running the marathon ), was the thought of getting back to just running for fun. Running with friends, running punctuated with stops to take pictures, running without the dread of speedwork and just running without it feeling like I was doing my homework!

But it is funny that when the pressure is off and there is no ‘reason’ to run, no plan to tick off, no specific session to complete, how it can be very easy to find lots of reasons to just not bother.

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Late afternoon today, after another day of not running – with the sun shining and the bees busy in the garden –  I  heard the running sirens calling.

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Turns out, when running motivation is in short supply the best cure is a run.

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The loneliness of the long distance runner and dreaming of the finish line

race number Stirling
4864 is the magic number

So I have taken a  while to write this – for some practical reasons – I started a new job in Glasgow four weeks ago, so what with that and marathon training and commuting and life – time to write about running kind of evaporated.

But also because in the last few weeks of training, it feels like not only have I been running for what seems an eternity,  but I have been talking about running constantly and even I am bored hearing myself go on about the bl**dy marathon!

Still, the end is in sight – and this is both an exhilarating and alarming thought.

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This time next week  – I hope I will be savouring my achey hips and relishing, in addition to a big fat medal, the curious badge of honour demonstrated by a John Wayne  is big leggy stair descending gait and body chafing in who knows where ?

I will be reflecting on how earlier in the day I had managed somehow to run a distance of 26 miles 385 yards, ( always assuming  I am not crawling on all fours to the finish with the sweeper van behind me).

So the plan is to try and enjoy the day, to get to the finish, to tick off the marathon and join that club.

 I am almost scared to write it down.

As I enter the phase of inevitability and with race day drawing ever closer, my desire for talismans, good omens and whatever other nebulous support I may need to get me through increases daily. In the past few weeks, the signs of panic have been building. I have been hoovering up as much information as I can on other people’s marathon experiences – good and bad, which I am not sure is always a wise idea.

Some of the bad experiences are really bad.

I have also been researching both sensible advice and hokey top tips – evaluating the merits of possible last minute nutritional aids like eating beetroot from now till May 21or putting butter in my coffee. ( Sally – rest assured I will not be doing any of that mad stuff 😉 )

My health has become a big focus and I have been looking to increase my odds of survival by eating more than my 5 a day and dosing up on Echinacea. Not to mention hiding from sneezing colleagues and washing my hands more often than Lady Macbeth as ‘maranoia’ and my fear of bugs sets in big time. Walking cautiously everywhere I go, lest I trip on a marble or such like because let’s face it –  how much of a scunner would it be to break an ankle this coming week?

The rational part of me knows I have been reasonably diligent with my training schedule and have covered a fair few miles- in all kinds of weathers and through a cold, miserable winter- and aside from the weather more importantly in a wide range of moods.

While there have been some moments of joy and a real sense of accomplishment, the truth is I have not loved ‘every’ moment of training and having done most of my 500 +  training miles on my own, thinking and observing as I run and listening to my inner voice – sometimes that voice can get quite tiresome.

While running is a physical exercise requiring a degree of fitness competency to complete, most runners will admit that when it comes to races and contests, much of the success or failure lies with how you deal with what is going through your head.

Following a training plan for the first time, I have had to cast off my inner free spirit and stick to the script. This most excellent script provided by Sally has got me to where I am, but I appreciate not without some petulant questioning and less than gracious acceptance on my part.

On this voyage of running self-discovery I have realised the following;   I don’t like running faster than my natural pace ( but I can if I have to – or more importantly if I know I have to report back to coach Sally).  I don’t mind running up hills – even if running up and down the same hill 14 times is a strange thing to do, and the long run – well that is just one big mental mindfest !

Oh the long run – so many hours to think – or to not think, to try to not freak out at the distance, or the hours ahead of just putting one foot in front of another. To zone in and zone out – to catch a glimpse of other lives , to hear the birds, play mental arithmetic tricks, chopping up how far to go and how far covered, listen to random podcasts – watch the country seasons change, overthink your clothing, weep as you run into horizontal rain or a strong easterly, then if lucky have a brief pointless chat with a fellow runner or anyone  who happens to be on the same path as I pass them at mile 11,15, 18…

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Sorry to all the strangers I encountered and just started telling them my marathon story.

I have not completed all my training on my own, as for most of my long runs, my patient and mostly abandoned running buddy Alison joined me for the last hard miles – and listened to my ramblings and stories I had stored up for the 12, 13 or more miles previously.

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My long runs have been a mixed bag, but mostly quite satisfying as I have progressed through ever longer distances. It seems like a different lifetime when I wondered how I might manage to run 15 miles – 2 whole miles longer than I had covered before, and then to find me just 2 weeks back running 22 miles – who would have thought it ?

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So with 6 days to ‘M’ day, I am as ready as I will ever be and looking forward to the last of my taper.

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Post marathon – after a modest celebration 😉 I am looking forward to getting back to my social running and have a few ideas for some new run adventures providing the marathon does not put me off running completely.

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I don’t think it will 😉

Taking part in this marathon is for me, mostly a personal challenge, but I do also hope to raise funds for two charities that support women and girls in different ways. One of these is Smalls for All  – a Scottish based charity that collects and distributes underwear for women and children in Africa and is also hoping to fund an education programme to help girls.

Thank you to everyone who has sponsored me or made a donation to Smalls for All  using MyDonate or Scottish Women’s Aid via the  Justgiving page

Any donations will be very much appreciated and will definitely help put a spring in my step come May 21st .

sunshine parkrun

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I have spoken before of the love / hate relationship I have with parkrun, and none more so than when it is included as part of my marathon training session. Not for me just sauntering along to parkrun to soak up the family atmosphere and by way of a footnote, benchmark my time over the 5k distance.

When parkrun is included on my training schedule it is because Sally wants me to run fast. And to me being asked to do parkrun is the equivalent of when, as a teen, my maths teacher would announce without warning that there would be a quick test of how well we were doing in calculus.

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I wonder how many marathon newbies feel the same way  – and rather than dreading the long run, instead look forward to the relief of running 17 miles at a steady, conversational ‘slow is good here’ pace over the prospect of running 3.1 miles as fast as possible.

The course in the original Edinburgh parkrun is along the Cramond foreshore, and is a pretty nice out and back on a flat, even surface – it can be windy, but out and back is better than multiple laps I tend to think.

On Saturday I arrived at parkrun a bit early – my game plan was to try to run for a couple of miles first to settle my nerves and kid me into seeing the second 3.1 miles as just part of a regular run. (this was contrary to Sally’s instructions which were to warm up with several short sprints – or strides but it seems I like to live with the danger of reprimand ;).

The sun was shining, the air was calm – amazingly there was not a breath of wind.

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I felt myself go clammy at the prospect of having no valid reason to not do as I was told namely – race it and go full pelt at the final section.

Soon it was time to start – and surrounded by the warmth of happy runners of all ages, shapes and fitness levels, I set off. Somehow I had managed to be further to the back of the pack than I maybe should have been, so it was a slow start. I knew I was not going very fast weaving my way through, so as the field spread out, I started to gradually increase my pace and move forward, kind of picking off runners ahead of me.

I did not have the pacer set on the Garmin, but Nike + told me that I was doing around 9 min mi pace after the first mile, which was not really accurate but it did feel like a pace I could sustain. All I had to do was stick at this pace and hope I would still have the legs to go full pelt at the end!

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Whether because of the lack of wind, or me getting over nerves, or perhaps I have gradually got better at running faster – but I was able to sustain the pace and continued catching up runners in my own tortoise-like version of racing. I  was pleasantly surprised that it did not feel too bad.

Not to say it was a walk in the park, as I was putting in a decent effort, and then as I can never quite remember where the actual finish is, I knew I had to keep to this pace beyond a wooded section whilst not pegging out.

I reached the finish and my Garmin showed a time of 26.22 – which is not a parkrun PB, but a decent time and meant I was doing just under 8.5 min mi pace.

Queuing up to give my token – a fellow parkrunner thanked me for my pacing that had helped him in the latter stages – this is something of a compliment for a runner, and even more so when coming from someone who was sporting a parkrun 100 teeshirt.

As usual, after finishing parkrun – the relief that it’s over means I start to love it a bit more, and I do understand how  it helps you to run at a faster pace.

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Later that day the results came out and confirmed my time at 26.21 – so no new parkrun PB ( which remains at 26.05 ), but I was amazed to discover I was 3rd in my age category  !!! This is the closest I am ever likely to come to any kind of ‘podium’ position – and I was super chuffed. I was 3rd from a field of 20 in that category and even though I know this result was largely due to my chum Alison ( and other better runners than me ) not racing that day – it still felt good to see that in print.

Maybe after my marathon is over, I need to switch my goal to holding or improving on that  podium spot and getting a new  parkrun PB 🙂

 

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Notes

I am taking  part in Stirling Scottish Marathon on May 21st and it will be my first marathon. To get me ready for this challenge I am following a  marathon training plan provide by Sally at fitnaturally.

fitnaturally offers a range of healthy eating plans that can help with weight loss and sports nutrition. They provide bespoke training and nutrition for people taking part in sport at any level. I have been following fitnaturally plans for over a year and I have become leaner and fitter, losing more than 20lbs in weight and a reduction in body fat% in a gradual and sustainable way and by eating normal and enjoyable food !

Fundraising

Through my marathon efforts,  I  am hoping to raise funds for two charities – Scottish Womens’s Aid and Smalls for All both of these charities work to help women in different ways. If you would like to support either of these charities, please consider making a donation, however modest by following the link to my Justgiving page  ( Scottish Women’s Aid )  and Mydonate  ( Smalls for All ) pages.

Thank you