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

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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

writing and running in the key of green

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Running in the months of  January, February and quite a bit of March – the skies have been grey, the trees bare and the paths muddy brown.

But this weekend the sun came out and as if by magic everywhere was green.

Wild garlic seemed to grow overnight into a lush fresh carpet of pungent loveliness and even my neglected garden threw up some vibrant colour – bless my everlasting die hard euphorbias.

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With Monday a rest day from running, I picked some of the wild garlic and made pesto.

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Big miles milestone

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It is easy to fall back on cliches when I am writing about my adventures in marathon training. Saying that you are on a journey is an oft used phrase these days and by folk embarking on all manner of personal changes or goals.  And maybe because we hear it so frequently stated – the meaning of the phrase has become devalued.

But cliches aside, this does feel like a journey for me – it is certainly a road less travelled. My journey so far I might describe as following a winding path encountering small victories and a few setbacks on the way, and then, as happened this week, a sense that progress is being made.

A milestone

In reverse order the biggest milestone was me managing to run further than I have ever done before in one session. 15 miles !! That felt good, even if I did almost spook myself by overthinking it.

I completed the run feeling OK and if I had paid proper attention to Sally’s fuelling instructions I could maybe have managed a mile more – who knows? I planned the run to include the  ‘harder to me’ extra 4 miles at the beginning – uphill into a headwind and on my own. I then continued for 4 more downhill with a nice tailwind – then I met my good running buddy Alison who ran with me for the remaining 7.5 miles. She kept me company, motivated and pacing sensibly for the rest of the distance.

Yes, my legs felt heavy from about mile 13 onwards – but I reckon that was a combination of not taking the extra gel and giving myself a fright about how far I was running. There is so much head stuff going on in this marathon malarkey, I have to keep reminding myself that if all else fails I can stop, or walk.

While reaching the longest distance is the most obvious milestone on this marathon path- cautiously I am beginning to believe I am making progress. And even better I this week I enjoyed what I got out of each of my runs. There were just 3 sessions but in each, I felt I had ticked the boxes.

The paced run while not quite ‘a walk in the park’ – is beginning to feel a bit more natural. And the hill session I did on Thursday was hard but exhilarating. After finishing my last rep and running home my legs felt so good  I was sure I was speeding along ‘gazelle-like’ ( this is of course what happens when you run on the flat after 10 reps of a long hard hill ).

The week started with 2 rest days – and while this did feel a bit odd,  I reckon the rest helped me to get the most out of the other training sessions, and it also meant I was able to fit in some non-running sightseeing to the National Wallace Monument and a visit to the Joan Eardley exhibition at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh.

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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

pacing and parkrun

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In my fourth week of marathon training, my true love gave to me a pacing session and a parkrun in a pear tree …

Like many novice runners, I am not very good at pacing and I have spoken before about how I fear speed. These are not good qualities in a would be marathon finisher, as whilst I am not planning on running very fast for the 26.2 mile distance, I need to understand what pace I am capable of running and be confident I can maintain some consistency. And I think the idea of a race pace session is that by making yourself run at what will be your race pace – it helps to imprint the feeling of running at that speed and gives you an understanding and memory for race day.

Anyhow – what pace I was to do my race pace training sessions has been a bit of a topic of discussion between me and coach Sal, with Sally  putting the fear of death in me setting  me what seemed like an impossible pace and for an inordinate length of time  – e.g. run 75 minutes at 8.55/ 9 min mi pace – and me responding that there is no way I can run that fast for 15 never mind 75 minutes.

So this week  – Sally put the ball back in my court and asked me what pace I thought I  could manage to run at – well the truth is I don’t really know, but I reckoned probably slower than 8.55min mi !

But it turns out my lovely Garmin has a virtual pacing feature, so if I programme a set pace, as I run it tells me if I am ahead or behind that. I imagine any half serious runners, or lovers of sports watch technology reading this may at this point be saying – did she even read the manual before she bought the thing ? (answer no ).

On Tuesday I decided to try a run with the virtual pacer and in another quirk of kidology – I set it to 9.15 min mi pace, as was pretty sure I could maintain that.

I set off with my little pacing chum- on a rather grey and overcast day. The weather was a bit of an issue because in dim late January Edinburgh light there is not much contrast on the watch screen, so when glancing at the message I had to peer a bit to see if I was AHEAD OF PACE or BEHIND PACE and in scowling at the screen found myself REDUCING PACE.  But after a wee while I got the hang of it, and soon did not have to slow down to read the message. I even began to understand how it felt to run at a particular pace – which was the point of the exercise.

And while it is early days, I think I kind of get it – when I think I can’t maintain a pace of say 9 min mi, it is because I am not running consistently at 9 min mi – but am shooting off too fast then of course as I can’t really run for any length of time at 7 min mi or whatever, I drop right back only to shoot off again and this is not really pacing, and more importantly not a very enjoyable or sustainable way to run for any duration.  This coming week I am going to try it at 9 min mile and see how I get on.

Flushed with the success of beginning to understand pacing – I did my hill reps the day after and that was OK – although in an ongoing comedy of technology errors I forgot to hit the lap key at the top and the bottom so made it tricky for Sally to see what HR effort I was achieving going uphill.

One day I will master Mr Garmin

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parkrun Saturday

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parkrun is a free weekly timed 5k race /run held all over the country on a Saturday morning. It is a wonderful thing and has got lots of people enthused about running and is enjoyed by runners at all levels for different reasons. That said I have to admit that although I understand it is a good way to improve your performance and give yourself a regular test –  I really don’t enjoy doing parkrun- and it has become one of my running ‘bogeys’, and something I find all sorts of reasons to avoid doing.

But parkrun was on the training plan, and when I mentioned my dread of it to my non-running husband, he asked “how far do you have to run – and I said 5k – to which he replied  “that’s nothing to you why are you so bothered about it? ”

What he does not appreciate is how much I hate having to run fast, and when it is only 5k and it is a race – you really do have to run as fast as you can.

Or as Sal had helpfully said:

” run as fast as you can – it will feel horrible but it will soon be over”.

Anyway, I persuaded Alison to join me on a parkrun outing and it turned out to be not as bad as I was dreading. While I did not get a PB, my time was  26.05 and around 8.20 min mi pace, and during the run, I felt my pacing was a bit better ( hard when it is windy ) – so  overall not so bad for a slowcoach and maybe a sign of some progress.

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