Half hearted, full pace

Harewood half: British Heart Foundation cross county race, Feb 2016


It’s definitely time to take on a full marathon.

I don’t want to admit it, because it creates more work. But 13 miles is starting to seem like just another run in the park. Not a particularly graceful, elegant or fast run in the park, but my legs aren’t as stiff afterwards as they should be.

However, being a wuss, rather than jump in to a full marathon straight away, I decided to see if going cross-country made any difference. I did so at the Harewood House half marathon, which I would say was a medium-difficulty course set to the backdrop of a beautiful countryside mansion in the Yorkshire dales.

It was a nice day out, and I enjoyed the atmosphere a lot. It was a well-organised race with a good atmosphere, and cookies at the finish (always helps). There were also the penguins at the manner house bird enclosure to visit afterwards. Knowing that I was running towards sugar and my favourite type of bird probably helped my time, but it was here that I also discovered I’m pretty good at running up hills.

This was a good confidence boost. I’ve never been the spindly runner built for speedy long flat courses, but having a cyclist’s bum helps in different ways. Those Land’s End to John O’Groats thighs might be a hinderance on the flat, but when everyone else was slowing down for the steep, muddy climbs, I was tearing on up. A bit like a mountain bike, though, I was caught on the downhills by the road racers – at least I know what I need to improve on.

However, distract myself with bird life, gingerbread hearts and confidence boosts on the uphills as I might, there’s no denying it. I just have to bite the bullet(/cookie) and book myself in for the long haul. No more half measures.

26-mile run training buddy, anyone…?


Cancer Research Winter Run

Here follows a straightforward report of my second 10k of the year. This run definitely struck a deeper chord than a countdown of kilometres, however, and much more reflective one on the same run is to follow… sometime. 

One of the many landmarks behind me, and one of the many freebies on my head… A green… thing.

This run wasn’t intentionally one of my 12 challenges for the year. However, having enjoyed the Serpentine 10k so much, I decided another run in London wouldn’t be a bad idea.

In comparison to the Serpentine, however, this run proved to be a completely different kettle of penguins. Taking place on New Year’s Day, the Serpentine 10k was a mix of very decent runners and hardcore New Year’s Resolutionists. The Winter Run series by Cancer Research are designed to be good fun – or at least as good fun as running 10 kilometres in freezing rain can be. This is why, a month or so before the race, I signed up. Two weeks later, I got an email back saying I had been placed in the first wave as I had indicated that I was “a faster runner”. With my training schedule being frequently interrupted with festivities, weather-based excuses and lazyitis, I didn’t want to think about what time I might have predicted to have finished the course in.

But fun it was. There were penguins playing tambourines, reggae bands, and snow machines along the way. There were lots of freebies and a great communal atmosphere at the start, and a big hug from a polar bear at the finish. There were many of London’s top land marks to see en-route. It got me out on the streets of London early on a Sunday morning to see the sights from a car-free viewpoint; not many can say they’ve seen London in that way. By 10.30, I had justified a thousand calorie breakfast. And I was surrounded by polar bears and penguins: pretty perfect Sunday.

The penguins and bands certainly helped to distract me from the cramps and stitches I felt by kilometre 7. I didn’t notice any of the landmarks, however, as I was concentrating on the running.

At the Serpentine race, I had finished in 48 minutes, and hoped to shave at least a minute off this.  I had a fantastic first two kilometres, but started too quickly, and quickly regretted having coffee at breakfast. I struggled through the next 6 kilometres at an uneven pace as a result. Seeing the 8 kilometre marker, I knew I had to push myself to have a change of beating 48. I struggled to get into a rhythm, but kept reminding myself to keep pace, and held it until the finish line. Although I know I could have paced myself a lot better, it was the first time after a race I’ve felt like I should feel after my best effort –  I had to sit down before I was sick.

A very happy 45-minute 10k runner.

I hadn’t seen the clock at the finish line, so wanted to believe I had achieved 47 minutes – on the basis of 4 good kilometres I would have thought so, but on the basis of the crampy, stitchy, coffee-stomached  6 middle kilometres thought I might as well start blaming the weather for my defeat. Still, it was 10k more than most people had run that Sunday morning. I met my brother on Brick Lane to go to the marvellous Cereal Killer cereal café as a well earned breakfast.

On Brick Lane, I got the results text to say I’d run 10 kilometres in 45:46.

In other words: I AM NOW A 45 MINUTE 10K RUNNER.

I danced all the way down Brick Lane. Perhaps that “faster runner” category wasn’t so horribly ludicrous after all…