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.

Race start

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

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 .

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

Hills are my friends

img_7393Edinburgh is a hilly city – and where I live is about 500ft above sea level, at the foot of the Pentland Hills – so running uphill is an inevitable feature of the return leg of my runs (unless I cheat and drive to a flat start  ; ) )

When I have been doing monthly run streak challenges – and often following the same route – I can pretty much tell what shape I am in by how tough the uphill return leg home feels. And just as I know the length of most of the nearby streets to calculate how many to cover a 3-mile distance, I have worked out a number of uphill return options ranging from the direct  ‘get it over with’ straight up path, to one that weaves me home ‘chicane like’ to ease the gradient.

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So of the many running bogeys I might have, running up hills is not the biggest one ( although I reserve the right to say the complete opposite at any given point in the 26.2 mile marathon course )!

Hill reps are featuring in my training plan – and as I seem to have been moaning a bit about training – I thought to redress the balance I would say I don’t mind the hill sessions as much as the speedwork. Although they are tough at the time – and it feels better when it’s over –  I can understand why making yourself run up hills over and over again is one way to develop some of the mental strength needed to get through an endurance run. And also functional strength by running against a gradient.

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I have completed 2 hill rep sessions – one on the pavement on a long hill of shallow to med gradient- that was ok if not in the most interesting of surroundings.  I think the choice of good distracting music or podcast is a key to getting through reps. I was as I often am running listening to a podcast of  Cerys Mathews Sunday R6 show – good chat and music, but maybe not best for hill reps.

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My other hill rep session I did on an off road hill – it was shorter than Sally had asked for but steeper than the pavement run. On a frosty morning at around 8.30 it was lovely to run in the hills alone save for a few deer who crossed my path.

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Sally continues to keep me on my toes and deliver her unique version of coaching – lots of tough love I think is a good way to describe it. This past week she has been reminding me that I need to build myself up as I don’t want to just be stumbling through the marathon and taking forever to finish. And how come marathon day I  will probably start to feel pretty awful from around mile 18 onwards so I will need all the mental strength I have to get me to the finish. She does not sweeten the pill and brushes off my bleating about the length of sessions and my other complaints. Which I hope is both her way of managing my expectations – and getting me match fit for the day.

Time will tell.

The joy of speed work

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Marathon training continues. Week 2 of the plan and after my stumbling attempts at dealing with the Garmin and the concept of threshold running – this week I was attempting a speed session.

I FEAR SPEED

There is a reason why I opt for longer distance events and enjoy regular social running over 5ks  and other competitive short races. This kind of running provides just the right balance of effort and mind sorting to keep me coming back for more and stay reasonably fit. But if I had all the time in the world, my exercise of choice would be walking. I love the meditative effect of walking and it is by far the best for observation.

My fear of speed possibly comes from not really seeing myself as a sporty type. Sure, when I was a youngster I could sprint if pressed and I may even have managed to deal with cross-country once or twice at school. I played hockey in a desultory fashion – positioned on the wing where mostly I stood around for long periods freezing half to death – until someone passed the ball and I would then sprint, in a vaguely heroic fashion, towards the goal passing to the strikers to do their stuff.

So I must have been able to run fast then – aged 15 – and somehow coordinate that with dribbling a hockey ball. But hockey aside, fast running and athletics was something other people did. Girls like Deirdre who won all the sports competitions or Melanie who was an ‘all rounder’ being arty, athletic and academic.

I was largely a bystander when it came to competitive sports and wind forward 40 years and my views that running fast was something that ‘other people do’ has not really changed.

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Back to the plan – as I had not managed to go to parkrun to test me over 5k – Sally wanted me to recreate it somehow and so the speed sesh went:  jog for 10 mins,then run for 1 mile ‘as fast as you can’ x 3 with 3 minutes recovery between. ( expected effort 8-9 )

Jeez – well I was already stressing about running fast, but running fast for a whole mile – how is that even possible?  A mile is forever.

Deciding where to run was a bit of a thought, as I was looking for somewhere to run a mile preferably on the flat without too many stops or obstacles. Finding places to do these different types of training sessions is, along with understanding terms like threshold and intervals, all part of acquiring a new running toolkit.

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Weighing up the options, I decided on the Meadows – a large leafy park, 4 miles from where I live. The Meadows has lots of criss-crossing paths but also a 1.8mile circuit wide enough to keep a steady pace and with plenty of distractions to keep me motivated.

Although I had driven part of the way there – I parked the car about 2 miles from the Meadows and started my warm up part of the session on the canal path. This seemed a good way to avoid traffic hold-ups and paying for parking, but I was probably running a bit fast for a warm up. I was stressing about the idea of being able to run a fast mile – and when stressed I tend to run faster in a hope to get it over with- unfortunately, I don’t have the fitness to sustain this approach!

I got to the Meadows – after a 20 minute warm up at prob 9.5 min mi pace, then started the first ‘fast as I could go’ mile. I began sprinting – but even as I was doing this I was thinking – how is it possible to keep going at this rate – and surely she does not mean sprinting – Usain Bolt only sprints for 9 seconds – I AM NOT USAIN BOLT.

I think this is what sports and other psychologists call negative self-talk – but you get my drift, of course I know I am not Usain Bolt, or Paula Radcliffe, or Mo Farah, and I know I just have to try and run as fast as I can, but all the time I am thinking

I just can’t do this – running fast is for other people, I feel sick and what is the point of this anyway – I am not going to run fast for 26.2 miles, why am I doing this , I hate running, my foot hurts, I need the loo, how far have I run – what only 0.3 of a mile? – Sally is crazy*

( * also possibly some other not so nice thoughts going through my mind about Sally at this time) 

So this went on for a bit – but I was not going to stop, so what I did instead was slow down a bit and just try and see if I could manage some sort of faster pace for the mile ( perhaps aim for the beautifully described ‘comfortably uncomfortable’ threshold pace)

When doing any kind of interval or timed effort like this – in the fast sections they seem to take FOREVER to finish and you dream of the recovery, but then the recovery period, even at a glorious 3 minutes duration, just seems to be over in an instant and then it is  back to running fast for a mile all over again.

Well, I got through the session after a fashion and a loo stop ( more learning – maybe ease up on the lentils the night before ) and of course once completed I did feel good. Whilst horrible at the time, I have noticed that upping the pace and doing any exercise that takes me out of my comfort zone, into a higher level of intensity – does give a juicy endorphin high afterwards.

I just need to wire that positive thought into my brain before the next speed session.

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Rocking that endorphin high big time 😀 !

NOTES

In May am taking part in my first marathon – the inaugural Stirling Marathon and following a training plan provide by Sally at fitnaturally

 

999 countdown

Convention has it that resolutions and commitments to life improvements take place at the start of the year, but whether through my love of procrastination or a general ennui over goal setting,  I have ambled through 2017 free of embarking on any big challenges or certainly where running is concerned.

At some point I thought about doing a marathon this year, then I talked myself out of it – deciding that it was always too hot in Edinburgh in May and attempting marathon number 1 at Loch Ness in September might be too much worry for me to deal with for a whole 9 months.

Marathoning can be my 2017 challenge – well maybe…

It seems that without some kind of contest to aim for,I just drift along running wise. While that is just fine and a big part of me wants running to be just a regular thing I do, given how much I have a love/hate relationship with competition, there is no escaping the focus a deadline gives me.

Twas ever thus and maybe this is why when recently browsing through my Nike+  running app and  checking on the leaderboard, I noticed that my mileage for the year was close to 750 miles in late Sept.

With 3 months of the year left, the possibility of reaching 1000 miles seemed doable and the kind of challenge I relish. Setting a target mileage would  help with the inevitable shortfall of winter motivation. As the days shorten and clocks change soon,  much as I prefer running in cooler temperatures – running in darkness does require some incentive.

So I have done the calculations and it looks like I only need to do 20 miles a week – less than 3 a day from now till Dec 31st.

And to make it a bit easier and less of a round number I am aiming to reach 999 miles by Dec 31st .

As of today – mileage stands at 784.7 – so If I can get to 800 by the end of October, I think I am definitely in with a chance of getting that medal.

stronga, faster, longer – and other running ambitions

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This morning  I was running uphill into a big fat headwind when I saw a trailer captioned STRONGA – how very handy for me as I was very much in need of an inspirational slogan at that time. Out on my usual Sunday run but feeling a bit under-inspired, on one of those run days when the distance ambition in my head was not matched by the capacity of my legs.

Not by way of an excuse but aside from my body sluggishness, the  weather today was a bit weird as the air temperature felt like August but the winds were more like those we get in November.

I am not training for any race and am in a bit of the doldrums training wise – even though I keep saying I don’t really need a race goal to keep running, and just want to run for running’s sake, it seems a struggle to keep training focused when there is no looming race deadline, or a run streak challenge to fulfil.

Earlier this year I contemplated signing up for a full marathon, but talked myself out of it – maybe next year. So then I thought I might just train for a marathon but not enter one – so was planning to start running  longer distances, to see how it felt to run beyond my furthest distance to date of  13.1 miles , but I have not managed to run beyond 10miles since my last race in March.

It seems my need for a deadline to succeed pervades my running as it does everything else.

Goals aside – I am back into a running groove of weekend runs mostly with Alison, and we have a new favourite route that takes us from our usual start point pretty much downhill all the way to Stockbridge. There we sometimes round the run off with a coffee and then Alison’s husband very kindly meets us and takes us home – to save the uphill return leg.

Although I am not quite achieving any running greatness in terms of performance improvements – be that increased speed or distance, it is nice to try out new routes and make more of the social aspects of running , now we are both largely free of weekend parental responsibilities.

While I do take satisfaction from running faster, getting fitter and do harbour a small ambition to run a marathon one day- mostly I love running for friendship and sociability – for the shared confidences, the listening and the laughter, and as today’s run demonstrated the wide and varied topics of conversation we somehow manage to cover as the miles whizz past.

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Black Rock 5 – sunshine and salty air but no sand dunes

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In amongst the big ticket marathons and the associated ‘tarantara’ of commercially organised running events there are still lots of community based races with a history and character to remind you of the simple joy and fun of running.

The Black Rock 5 is one of those. Each year on a May or June evening, and always on a Friday but at a time depending on the tides, the Black Rock 5 takes place. It is an out and back from the centre of Kinghorn to the Black Rock.

Despite its’ name The Black Rock 5 race is neither 5 miles nor 5 k in length. I am guessing at some point it may have been 5 miles and the route has changed or maybe just calling it the Black Rock 4 and a bit miles had less appeal – who knows and as it happens it does not really matter.

Whatever the history of the route length ( and it has been going for more than 25 years ), the Black Rock 5  is one of those races that manages to achieve the balance between creating the buzz of a special occasion while managing to remain anchored to the  local community and true to its roots.

Of course it helps that the race takes place in late spring in a beautiful seaside location where when nights are long and if weather is kind – Scotland is just the best place ever ( is it not always ; )  ?

How lovely and lucky we are to run in the evening in the East coast light of a long Scottish day.

It really is quite magical.

Weather earlier that day had been good and the temperature at 7 PM was still warm enough to wear a running vest as runners started to gather. As it was the third time I had taken part in the race,I knew what was ahead of me and was happy to enjoy the pre-race atmosphere.

The first time I did this race I remember being quite anxious, having heard from fellow runners how tough it was and so wondering if I could keep going until the end after the rigours of running on the beach. This year with two previous attempts as ballast – and not setting any time targets – I was just looking forward to taking part.

So the route is as follows : You start underneath the railway arches then run mostly downhill through the town for a mile towards the beach, then a mile out on the sand – at low tide towards the Black Rock where you circle the rocks serenaded by Scottish piper, then back towards the town. Simple you may say – save for running 2 miles on wet sand and the killer hill sprint finish .

Black Rock run - 1 (5)

This year I was feeling fit and in fine fettle – and  not under any pressure to better my time -I even stopped briefly on my way out to record the scene of the ribbon of runners heading out towards Black Rock. I was tempted to stop again a mile later at the rock to capture the image of the piper on the rock – but my running competitiveness and running rhythm won over my desire to capture the image – so one for my memory.

I did notice  a couple of fellow  runners recording the event – one with Go Pro strapped on his body and the other more cumbersomely holding a selfie stick aloft the whole way.

It’s a very photogenic race – but I could take a million pictures, videos or whatever – and none could convey the feeling you have as a runner. As you hit the sand from the road – the splishing and the sploshing – negotiating the unpredictable surface of ridged sand after the stability of the tarmac, that weird feeling as your feet get wet dashing though pools of sea water and best of all the salty sea tang you catch as you breathe.

This year – whether because my senses where heightened for some reason, or ozone was at an all time high – I felt acutely assaulted by the smell of the sea, of sea creatures and of an essence that it is hard to describe.

The salty air, the sploshing wet sand,the east coast light and the lung busting hill finish, makes this a race to remember.

And not forgetting – magnificent beer at the finish .

Black Rock 5 – Rock ON !

 

 

It’s all about the weather : days 22- 28 everydayinmay

Like many people who live in these meteorologically varied Isles – I spend a lot of time talking about the weather and I fully accept that I may be borderline nerd-like around the subject. I certainly tick a lot of boxes for a would be weather obsessive

1. I am British ✔️

2. I live in Scotland ✔️

3. I run a lot outside ✔️

all I need to complete the set is to take up gardening or farming !

Running or not, I enjoy weather watching and cloud spotting and am not just a fair weather friend of the weather if that makes sense. I love frosty mornings as much as sunny afternoons, get childishly excited when it snows and even like rain.

Harder to love is a grey flat sky, a north wind at a bus stop or a sneaky drop in temperature mid May when you have stuffed your opaque tights to the back of the drawer – but maybe these are just tests that the weather gods present me with to prove that my love is true. ❤

Last week while running every day I experienced a few weather contrasts – Sunday May 22 was spent running in glorious Spring sunshine in Cambridgeshire, Monday 23 and back home my evening run was in bright warm sunshine – lovely. Tuesday 24 I caught the best of the day with a very early run and sunrise capture, but by Wednesday 25 the sun had vanished and my run was a chilly downhill to the train station against a cold headwind. Thursday 26  was just wet and temperatures in single figures. So by Friday 27 I was girding my loins for more cold, grey, windy running but instead enjoyed a late lunchtime run in equable temperatures, no sunshine but  without a breath of wind –  taking me to Saturday 28 – Day 28 of running everydayinmay, where the weather was pleasantly mild, even some patches of blue sky but as I was running with my good companion Alison and  know I am just 3 days away from the finish – I would happily have run through a blizzard 🙂

Along with many others I am running everydayinmay to raise funds for Dimbleby Cancer Care, a charity that provides much appreciated practical and psychological support for cancer patients. If you would like to donate please visit Scout or Sally’s Just giving page. Thank You

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Day 22 – running everydayinmay… in May

I used to think the saying n’er cast a clout till is May is oot – meant you should keep wearing your vest until the end of May – and living in Scotland as I do that makes a lot of sense.

Then one cold May day, I was at some event or other and just chatting during a tea break to two very nice ladies and they kindly pointed out to me that the saying referred to May flowers – or the blossom of the hawthorn tree – which made more sense. Although of course as it happens, May blossom is often not fully out until the end of May certainly in Scotland, so I guess it works either way. There is a lot of folklore associated with the Hawthorn tree but folklore aside, May blossom in full bloom just so, so lovely.

This weekend I was visiting Cambridge and as I am running everydayinmay – on Sunday my day 22 run was a very enjoyable and easy trek along by the river Cam out of the city towards Fen Ditton and Horningsea following the towpath.

Although you can see and hear the motorway from some sections of the route, and now and then a glimpse of a train rattling along a couple of fields away, it feels very rural and pastoral and peaceful. I love how with running you can be just a few miles or minutes away from a city and yet be cast back in time and place and surrounded by nature.

It was a warm, sunny morning and my legs felt surprisingly fresh given that Sunday marked day 22 of consecutive running.  Surrounded by the heady fragrance of white hawthorn blossom, running everydayinmay in May – with a flat route, sunny skies, and a wonderful wildlife soundscape did put a spring in my step.

Everydayinmay May22 - 1 (20)

Day 22 Miles run 10 – total miles 99

Along with many others I am running everydayinmay to raise funds for Dimbleby Cancer Care, a charity that provides much appreciated practical and psychological support for cancer patients. If you would like to donate please visit Scout or Sally’s Just giving page. Thank You