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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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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You’re my first, my last*, my everything …Stirling marathon round up

This time last week as predicted, I was walking a bit ‘John Wayne is big leggy’ and feeling not as fresh as I might – it being the day after the marathon. I was a bit tired – but this tiredness was more I suspect due to post-race champagne excess and an early start for Monday work than the race effort.  Yes – standing up after a time seated was a slow process, but I did not feel as destroyed or wrecked as I thought I might.  The cocktail of euphoria, relief that it was behind me and an excess of adrenalin was serving me well.

Eight days on – the detail of my first marathon experience is both a fading memory and as clear as if it had just happened a few hours ago.

I have been reading other Stirling marathon race blogs – and is good to recognise similar versions of the day to my own, but also to read of a completely different race experience. Illustrating how with a marathon, or any mass running event, while it is a collective experience it is very much your own race.

Somewhere along this marathon journey – I came across this blog by Angela – That extra inch– Angela was also running her first marathon and her training sounded quite like my own. We exchanged a few comments and words of encouragement via our blogs in the latter weeks of training, and I enjoyed reading her race story.

Her account of the day had many similar observations and emotions to my own – we both love a good spectator sign, we both had a secret and not so secret time goal, and were both chuffed to join the marathon club – and as we completed the race with only 7 seconds between us, we must have been pretty close running companions amongst  1000s of runners.

On the other end of the racing spectrum – I have been following the training and race prep of Owain Williams aka Scottish runner. Owain was training for a sub 3hr marathon which he achieved with room to spare and great aplomb –  Bravo Owain!   Reading his account provided a great insight to how to apply mental toughness and the benefit of good race planning, not to mention the deserved reward of dedicated training paying off.  ( Owain’s time 2.52.52 ) But  – with his  6 min mi pace and the ( apparent ) ease with which he dealt with the finish lap section and other obstacles  – it brought home to me the difference between experienced racers and those of us who just look to get to the finish.

If you are a runner or a marathoner be it a first of 50th time – I think reading the accounts of fellow runners’ race experience is both enlightening and fascinating, but I do appreciate that it might not be quite the page turner if you are not a runner.

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As it happens – my own race story is not one full of great incident or drama albeit it has a good ending  – and as I was mainly trying to keep myself moving for 26.2 miles, and it was raining – I don’t have many pictures, except those in my head.

Maybe this is why it feels a little bit unreal, now I am back to normal life and have cast off both the marathon training regime and the overriding fear of failure that has been with me since I decided to do this many months ago.

But of course, there are a few moments that stick in my mind – first off how emotional I felt at the start. Friends and family know that I am easily given to crying –  both with happiness and sadness – so it is maybe not surprising that I was going to well up at some point – although I think the acceptable place for a good greet should have been the finish line !

Instead, as I  lined up waiting for our wave to start, in the mildly surreal environment of a Safari Park I was quite overwhelmed and found myself sobbing – proper tears were running down my face. While race starts are given to drumming up a kind of collective emotion, particularly around music choices – it was not hearing the Proclaimers for the 3rd time that started me crying – but a deeper level of emotion I felt about how far I had come to get to this point. And a quiet acceptance that I was definitely going to finish the race.

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My own race then went pretty well with some predictable setbacks but nothing too major. In the first mile, it was a crowded start so I was able to follow the accepted advice of start slowly, run slower. In fact, I was so slow that not only did I think that mile one was the easiest mile I had ever run – but my pace spooked my husband who was following me on the tracker because he thought I was going too slowly 🙂

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So the first section is quite undulating and after a slow start, I did go a bit faster than possibly I should have – with my 10k split time at 59.27. My legs felt fresh and I was enjoying the day – looking out for supporters I knew would be at Doune which is about 4.5 miles in. The crowds on the race route in those early sections through Doune, Dunblane and Bridge of Allan were amazing – and I understand now how important crowd support is. I did as many high 5s as I could and hoped I was smiling, as advised( top tip from a fellow runner).  I do have a tendency to grimace in concentration.

At the Stirling Universty section, I encountered a rookie error of not having scrutinised the race route closely enough. I reckon I spent so much time worrying about the laps at the finish I did not bother to check much else. So I  was a bit derailed by the steep hill loop and by this time it was raining quite heavily – so I decided to slow down and put on music- up until then I was not using headphones.

I thought this next section a wee bit tough but it marked the half way point which is a nice feeling. My half time was quite slow at 2.13. Miles 13 – 17 I expected to be a bit light on crowd support and as it is a long straight stretch these miles were a bit of a slog.  I tucked behind a group from Calton Athletic and just tuned into my Van Morrison on repeat!

By mile 17  I could see Stirling and what I thought was the start of the lap section. Much has been spoken about this and it was a bit of a mental test to run 2.5 laps at the end  – but for me, the biggest challenge was knowing where the laps started. As I ran into Stirling I was looking for the gantry and not seeing it, then seeing a 21-mile marker, and a 3hr 30 pacer, I panicked that I had somehow taken a wrong turning. So I crossed over to a race official who told me I still had to keep going to reach the gantry 😦

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Confusion aside, coming into Stirling the crowds everywhere made me feel like a proper runner, even if my arrival in the city coincided with me hitting a bit of ‘a wall’ at mile 18 and nicely timed as I caught sight of my family and friends. Of course seeing people who have come to support you is a massive boost – even if I was dealing with the reality of legs that did not want to work, a dodgy tummy and 8 miles to go.

The good thing about the lap set up is knowing you will see supporters again – the not so good thing is the course had a  few nippy hills and narrow sections and disappeared into some very quiet spots – and this made it hard for me to keep running. Owain had given me the advice to try to not walk – but between miles 18 and the finish, I did resort to walking some sections. My pace dropped to a slow as 12 min miles, and I was reassessing my finish time from the ridiculously optimistic Chariots of Fire 4 hrs 30 to just finishing before the sweeper,  to fingers crossed do it in under 5 hours.

I was wearing a watch – but I am never very good at doing the maths or reading the dial or even properly knowing what I have to do to reach the desired time in races, and I think in this case I was going a bit woolly of thinking.

Not much else to report other than my phone battery almost ran out and with it my sounds. I started developing cramps in my legs as I was doing the last few miles ( think I was drinking too much water ), but then once I had passed mile 25 I found a wee boost of energy and while I won’t say it was a sprint finish – I am proud of how I ran the last 1 mile 385 yards.

As I was approaching the finish line I caught sight of the gun time and saw it edge to 5 hours – and was a bit gutted – until I saw that the pink wave time was 4.40 something.

Hallelujah – I crossed the line over the moon to be comfortably under 5 hours and full of I bloody well did it and other end of race exaltations of delight (no tears).

My time was a sweet 4.40.00 which I was very happy with.

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While I have been training for this race I have thought of lots of analogies around journeys and other life changing or transformative experiences. When I was in the latter stages of training and dreading the inevitability of the full marathon distance, it felt a bit like when I  was pregnant with my daughters and full of the fear of childbirth, while knowing I had to go through with it. Now having completed a marathon I can say from my experience of both that childbirth is much harder and unpleasant ( sorry sisters ).

What it felt more like was studying for my finals – when you have to try very hard to keep studying and it all gets a bit boring and you try to remember stuff you learned 3 years previously – and know that it might just not come back to you on the day of the exam. I am very glad to have had a training plan and coach to guide me through a first marathon and I am sure that Sally’s  training not only got me through the marathon but has helped with my recovery. ( as has my general health and nutrition since following the eating plans from fitnaturally )

Likewise in the days after the marathon, I have felt that same mix of giddiness and mild hysteria that I remember after my university exams were over. Alas, I have a day job to go to which means I have not been able to party to the same extent as I did after my student finals – but I have made a brave attempt 🙂

Will I do another one? I don’t think so, but I do understand now why some people do go on to run multiple marathons.

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* one and only marathon as promised to husband

A BIG 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   Through your generosity I have managed to raise £ 522 for Scottish Women’s Aid and £ 326 for Smalls for All. I am a bit behind in my thank yous and admin generally, but to anyone I have not managed to thank personally, I really appreciate your support.

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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 .

Toasty 10k trail race

IMG_8377With 6 weeks to go until the Stirling marathon, training is continuing and the verdict is so far, mostly so good. But I am discovering that marathon training can be a bit relentless and turn running into a very serious business. Don’t get me wrong – I totally respect the distance, and know I need to put in the miles if I am to have a decent chance of getting round in one piece, but it is still hard some days to find my marathon training mojo.

So with all those miles ( 409 so far) and many weeks of training in wet, cold, windy winter weather behind me – it was nice* to see some sunshine forecast for last weekend when the plan included a 10k trail race.

*Or so I thought!

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I was running in the Winton House 10k – a trail run, also previously known as the Pencaitland fun run and it is a while since I did a 10k race.  From memory, the last 10k I entered was also a ‘fun run’ at Direlton – and it  turned out to be a sunny, hot and hard 6 miles.  Fun runs can be deceptive and sunshine on race day must be an East Lothian thing 🙂

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As this 10k was part of my training, Sally had given me the race tactics to follow, which were the usual run fast, then run faster 😉  Timing was a 2 pm start –  and with the sun shining it was lovely for spectators but maybe less so for runners.

I do know I go on about the weather – but this is mostly because – I am British and I am always out running in it!

When it comes to the weather I fear most when running – hot is probably top of the list. As a Scottish native, fair of skin and acclimatised to year-round cool temperatures – I am really not built to move quickly when the sun is splitting the sky and the thermometer reaches into double figures.

But 10k – is only 6+ miles, and a trail must mean we would run through woodland and woods mean shade – yes ?

Alas no.

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Pre race hubub
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Bales, bunting and a bake sale

Yes we did run through woods, but the leaves on the trees were sparse, the sun was high in the sky, and it felt pretty hot and uncomfortable for all 10 of the 10ks ( not to mention a sting in the tail hill finish).

I can’t remember what time I did on my last 10k race, but despite the heat and the trail route, I managed to finish this one in under 1 hour( 57 mins 53 secs ), even though it was not pretty and I did not manage to follow the recommended race tactics.

And now I have new nightmares to add to my marathon worries about how I might survive 26.2 miles if it is as hot as this come marathon day – but I will just have to keep doing a rain dance and if that does not work – deal with the weather closer to race day.

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Get me to the biscuit medal

 

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As to the  Winton House trail race  – as an event to go to and have fun as a family, it was spot on – very well organised with a friendly atmosphere and in beautiful surroundings – not to mention the most luxurious toilets I have ever encountered in a race!

My husband and daughter enjoyed soaking up the sunshine, eating ice cream, taking pictures and saying hello to the lambs, while I was racing.

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I bumped into a few familiar faces and met ‘IRL’ for the first time  –  fellow blogger and Stirling marathoner Owain Williams (@Scottish Runner)and his wife Mandy. Check out their blog running beside.me

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Proudly showing off our tasty  biscuit medals !

 

 

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.You can find out more about the charity’s work at their website Smalls for All

If you would like to make a donation to support this charity, you can do so via my page at  MyDonate

I am also raising funds for Scottish Women’s aid – I had to set up two fundraising pages because of how the charities are set up differently to take donations so here is the link to the Justgiving page if you would prefer to make a donation to that charity.

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

Thank you

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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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My Heart’s in the Highlands

Inverness Castle and river Ness
Inverness Castle

My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart’s in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer;
Chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart’s in the Highlands, wherever I go.

So goes the Robert Burns song and although a big part of my heart is in the Highlands, ( I was born in Dingwall and spent my childhood near Inverness before heading south to study in 1979) –  it is not deer I chase but PBs at the Inverness Half marathon race!

The Inverness Half marathon, held as it is in early March, is one of the first half marathon races in the season (in Scotland).  It is a good way to test your legs over a longer distance after winter training and suits many people who are training for a spring marathon.

 

Until this year, I was not in that marathon training category but had chosen to take part in this race partly because of family connections, but also because having first completed it in 2011 in snowy, cold, conditions and lived to tell the tale –  when I compared it with my experience of some other half marathons, I concluded that Inverness is a race that for me offers close to the perfect combination I am looking for in an event.

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The course is interesting but not too taxing, with lots of places for spectators to support you, it is big enough to feel like a special event but is not so big to be impersonal or overwhelmed by the razzamatazz. And it is very well organised and friendly.

As a bonus, I get great race support from my brother and sister-in-law and my niece, who between them provide excellent cheerleading, patiently listen to my pre-race anxieties, provide fab post race support and generally make it a most enjoyable occasion.

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Even though I have run other races with arguably better PB potential ( Edinburgh and Aviemore ) my half marathon PB was and still is from Inverness. Not completely sure why this should be – and maybe once I have the marathon behind me, I might revisit some other half marathon races to see if I can improve my time.

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My Inverness race history

So having taken part in this race 5 times since 2011 – my times are as follows

2011:2hrs 16 mins 38 secs

( did not enter 2012 ) 

2013: 2hrs 16 mins 14 secs

2014: 2 hrs 14 mins 04 secs

2015: 2 hrs 11 mins 02 secs 

2016: 2hrs 02 mins 09 secs  

Each year before Inverness, I will have followed a self-designed if somewhat fluid ‘training’ plan – mostly around adding in a longer run at the weekends to my regular run schedule of around av 12 – 15 miles per week.  I also do this run streak challenge every December and maybe running 3 miles every day in December gives me a base of fitness.

I know from reading my large collection of running books, that my training for Inverness could not really be described as following a plan, and even more so now that I am following a proper training plan for the Stirling marathon. My lead up to Inverness has never included any specific sessions of speed work or hills or running at race pace, although last year I had started to do a weekly session with a  PT to help my core strength and build on my endurance.

But although I was not taking run training as seriously as I should have – between 2015 and 2016, I had been following a new eating plan with fitnaturally and because of this, I had lost quite a bit of weight. Being over 14 lbs lighter meant I found running more enjoyable and I think largely due to being lighter and despite my casual approach to training – I was absolutely delighted to knock almost 9 minutes off my time in 2016.

My time in 2016 was 2.02.09 – a new PB and tantalisingly close to sub 2 hours, and so in the post-race euphoria, I foolishly said I would come back and get sub 2hr in 2017 !

2017 arrived and I started my marathon training plan – sharing with Sally that I would quite like to do sub 2 hrs in a half. This was built into my plan, and  then I discovered that I really did not enjoy speed work !   As the Inverness race drew closer  I started to get the jitters about achieving a time of under 2 hours, when I knew that it meant me averaging 9-minute miles for the full 13.1 mile distance.

 

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I started to back pedal and keep quiet about my sub 2 goal, saying that the marathon was my 2017 goal and anything else a bonus –  of course, a new PB would be nice – but hey –  I only had a knock a few seconds off my 2016 time to do that 😉

I know that one reason I felt the pressure was because this was the first time I was approaching this race or any race against a background of having properly trained. Excuses for failure were thin on the ground, and as is the contrary way I am around pressure and expectation – I was dreading the race more than I had on previous occasions.  I am slowly understanding that in running, putting in the training hours is about giving you the foundation for success, and I knew this would be the first real test.

Fortunately, this story has a happy ending.

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Having already put in a decent amount of training since January, come race weekend I did my best to avoid sabotaging my chances, first by resisting the temptation for a night before glass of wine or two, then on race day following Sally’s nutritional advice to the letter, and I even took heed of her race plan advice which went something like this:

“warm up for a mile, run as strong as you can for miles 2 – 10 , then  run as fast as you can after that – ending  with a sprint finish “- which as  my brother translated was pretty much saying – warm up for a mile then run as fast as you can for the rest of the race 🙂

Overall I did feel more in control during the race – and had an inner strength that I will put down largely to the mileage and other training I have been doing as part of my marathon build up. But I did not find it easy, and particularly as I got closer to the finish and knew that my sub 2 hour time was within my grasp.

Cheerleader Laura
Cheerleader Laura with her distinctive hat

With 3 miles to go and with a big part of me wanting to just accept a PB and abandon my ‘not so secret’ real sub 2hr goal for another day – I had a conversation with myself and it turns out that even I have a bit of competitive spirit. So with less than 2 miles to finish I gave it my best shot – and helped by a final and extremely loud cheer at around 12.5 miles from my niece Laura – I got there in a time of 1 hrs 59 mins 18 secs.

Including sprint finish 🙂

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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

 

snow, socks and a stitch

img_7656Into week 7 – I  think of marathon training and by now I was expecting it to just be running, running and more running, which of course it is, but the running is punctuated by new discoveries and all sorts of learning that I have to hope will all help me come the big day.

Weather so far this year has been a winter of the unrelenting grey and bleak variety – cold as a given- but with hardly any uplifting crisp, frosty, days to offset the drab – just a shed load of Pantone 442.

And as I am following a training plan of set days – sometimes my run days just don’t coincide with the odd sunny spot.

No matter – this training in all weathers is all helping me to develop MENTAL TOUGHNESS.

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This phrase is a recurring one in marathon training, and I imagine any race training – and I think I get the message. It seems I will need bucketloads of this mental strength come race day. I just can not begin to imagine (and have no intention of finding out) how much mental toughness you might need to develop to do some ultra distance or these races that have you running through the desert or in the depths of Death Valley or across Scottish mountain tops. Respect to all of you guys out there doing that kind of thing, but its a no from me.

To come back to this week and my weather obsession – Thursday was my hill repeat day and snow was forecast. These days storms all have names – and Doris the storm was going to bring winds, rain and for some parts of Scotland a shedload of snow.

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Hearing that forecast – I had the same kind of feeling I used to get during summer when rain was forecast. By way of explanation –  I grew up on a fruit farm and in the summer months worked there during the raspberry harvest. Of course, as a family we did not want it to rain during the raspberry season, but sometimes I did just long for one rainy day to get me out of a day’s work.

And so this week I had much the same feeling when watching the weather forecast on repeat  – maybe it would be just too windy/ snowy/ dangerous to train – yippee! A day off for me

But then unlike getting a day skiving off work, skipping a training session is not really helpful in the long run – I know I have to put in these long cold hours to get me round 26.2 miles come May.

As it turned out storm Doris did bring some very windy weather but in the part of Edinburgh where I live it also brought a welcome snowfall – by that I mean just enough snow to be pretty but not enough to interrupt things too much.

Was a nice change to run in cold crisp air and amongst a snowy hilly landscape.

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After the previous weeks training when it felt as if it was all coming together, this week I thought it was unravelling. On Tuesday I cut short a planned pace session as I just could not get my legs to move fast enough and could not get warm. I had done a different body pump class the day before and my legs were heavy, but truthfully it was more my head that did not want to play ball.

Mental toughness was in short supply on Tuesday.

My snow hill session was invigorating, but not sure it could really be classed as a genuine example of hill repeats, as I spent quite a bit of recovery time taking pictures. then on the way back from the hills I took a tumble and landed heavily on my knees – no damage done save for some grazing and technicolor bruising.  Falling and getting up to keep running is a good way to develop mental toughness though !

Then on Saturday, I was to do 10 miles steady on a hilly route but in the afternoon. I am not so good at eating for exercise when the session is later in the day, and as a creature of weekend running habit – it feels a bit weird to be sitting around reading Saturday papers at a time when I usually have my running done and dusted for the day.

But I had a route planned and was also going to try out running in my new compression socks – so I downloaded the podcast of Cerys Matthews R6 show and following what I thought a decent interval after a brunch of poached eggs, bacon and toast – I headed off.

Not far into running, I got a bit of a stitch. This was something new and so I just slowed down but the stitch did not seem to want to budge. I was trying to put it to one side and at the same time try and remember self-cure for stitches. Neither of these mental actions made much difference so  I just kept going – and made it to the Meadows where there are public toilets.

Even after a comfort break, my tummy was not feeling great but I had completed almost 6 miles, so more than half way. I had opted for a route into town partly to get some hills, but also to have some distraction as I  was running alone. The route I often do is an out and back along a trail path – and while a favourite run route – you are much more on your own.

Is good to have distractions sometimes but the downside of running into the city is knowing that at any given point I could hop on a bus and get myself home – and when I was feeling less than 100% it was tempting.

But of course come marathon day this will not be an option – so I just did a tried and trusted method of breaking down the miles left into songs – usually 3+  to a mile. Fortunately, Cerys Matthews Sunday show is just perfect for this as she has a very eclectic music selection and good chat between songs.

So I made it to 10 miles – including 3 uphill return miles that at least took my mind off the stitch, and was pleased to have completed the session even if it was not the most enjoyable.

Later when discussing my stitch and tummy trouble with Sally – she told me I had eaten completely the wrong things before my run ( largely because I ignored what she had told me to eat )! – so that’s a lesson learned. But a run chum was a bit more forgiving saying that finishing a run when you don’t want to and are feeling out of sorts is a great way to develop the necessary MENTAL TOUGHNESS -an essential component of marathon success.

It’s that old chestnut again.

As to the socks – I have no idea if they are making any difference, but at least I know they did not cause the stitch !

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L