Race Report: London Winter Run 2016

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If I could only pick one word to sum up this year’s London Winter Run, I would choose ‘wet’. From the moment I woke up the rain was relentless, which isn’t really what you would want for your first race of the year. Nor for your best friend’s first race, ever. I had dreams of glorious sunshine on a crisp winter’s morning, much like last year. The inclement weather unfortunately meant that there were very few people out cheering the runners on which is always a bit of a shame – luckily we kept ourselves amused by talking throughout the entire run, and we took it nice and easy and focussed on enjoying ourselves. I think it’s safe to say that we both had a brilliant time, and certainly appreciated a post-race biskie from Cutter & Squidge.

Human Race events are always superbly organised and I have no complaints with their planning for this race. I experienced the bag drop for the first time, and sailed through within 20 seconds (although this may have been because we were late getting to the race and so the majority of runners had already done their queuing in the rain) before making our way to the start line, pausing briefly for a quick photo to prove that we were in fact still going to run. The starting pen is always a bit annoying, there’s just a little too much waiting around for my liking, although it was much quicker than last year – I suspect this again may be because we were starting later (it seems like it pays to be late to a Human Race event!). Once we crossed the start line we settled into an easy rhythm and soon found a nice gentle pace. It felt like the rain was getting harder by this point and we were both complaining of soggy running shoes. About half way we passed the drinks station and collected a bottle – I drank half of mine and then threw it away as I didn’t want to be carrying it for the rest of the race. Unfortunately when I threw it to the side of the road I lost concentration momentarily and stepped in a giant puddle – not so great for my neon Ultra Boosts, and unfortunately left me with a very heavy running shoe and rather cold toes post-race. The route had changed from last year too and whilst I missed running along the Thames, I certainly appreciated not having to run through the tunnel this time round.

The only negative experience during the race was from a spectator – a boy of about 12 years old with his family was stood on the side of the road and kicked a bottle at a fellow runner who was just in front of us. We were absolutely outraged by this behaviour and wanted to tell the boy off as his parents really didn’t seem concerned at all. We really did feel for the poor lady the bottle hit as she was a lone runner and something like that could so easily break your spirits. She seemed to recover well though and continued at speed without letting it bother her too much.

The KMs seemed to fly past and before we knew it we were approaching the finish line, the finish was again a seamless process. In true race style we held hands and ran the last 100m side by side with our arms in the air. And just as we collected our medals, Sahdya said she couldn’t wait to run this race again next year – much to my delight!

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Advent Running: 100 in 25

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I am sure most of my readers will already be aware of the Advent Running team, and in particular of super cool co-founder, Claudia Schroegel, who manages to make running ultra marathons look like oodles of fun.

In addition to all of the great work AR does throughout the year, come Christmas time, things are turned up a notch and they work to get as many people running for 25 days from 1st December as possible. Although of course, if you cannot run every day, then there’s no pressure – it’s an incredibly supportive community and they celebrate every success, no matter how big or small. They also really encourage those new to running to give the activity a go during December – especially as it could get you into some great habits ready for the start of a new year.

This year, I intend to take part in #AdventRunning, but will also be setting an additional target of running 100K within those 25 days – averaging out at 4K per day. At the moment, despite my persistent injuries (sorry for constantly moaning about those!), I feel fairly confident that this is a target I can meet and will really help me in my preparation for my first race of next year; the London Winter Run on 31st January. Realistically I doubt that I will run for 25 consecutive days; my body certainly benefits from a rest day each week – which is precisely why I have set my 100K challenge to run alongside Advent Running. The two complement each other quite nicely and will suit my training needs as it means each of my sessions will be longer than 4K.

I also find this kind of challenge lends itself to benefits outside of just general fitness as it helps to give me peace of mind that I can indulge in festive sweet treats in the lead up to Christmas, knowing that I am doing an adequate amount of exercise each day to lessen the guilt. And, as I think I have mentioned before – running in the winter is actually a huge amount of fun. There’s nothing I enjoy more than being bundled up in layers and hats, tackling the elements.

I highly recommend you look into Advent Running if you haven’t already – they also have an incredibly active and supportive Facebook group which is worth joining if you decide to take on the challenge.

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Next Year’s Races

I always find this time of year particularly fun as this is the time to be booking onto next year’s races. I currently have 5 that I have registered for, in addition to a few more in the pipeline. Whilst it is incredibly exciting to think of next year’s races, I am of course riddled with a few injuries at the moment which is affecting my ability to train in the way that I would like to. Despite this inconvenience, I am still trying to run three times a week as my first race is rapidly approaching.

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London Winter Run

(31st January)

It’s no secret that I love the London Winter Run (read last year’s race report here), and in 2016 I get to run it with my best friend. This is an exceptionally well-organised event by Human Race and is the perfect race for anyone new to running as it certainly isn’t a fast course. I am ridiculously excited to have this as my first event of the year as hopefully it will give me a decent running time to then aim towards beating in the rest of my races throughout the year. I would highly recommend signing up to this one if you haven’t competed in an organised event before – especially as training throughout winter is actually very pleasant.

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MonacoRun – Monte Carlo 10K

(13th March)

I was really tempted with the French Riviera 23.8K race which takes place on the same weekend as part of the MonacoRun Festival, however I spent a lot of my childhood and teenage year in Monaco as my family lives there and when I started to think about how long the car journeys felt when travelling along the Côte d’Azur I thought it was perhaps best to keep to a manageable 10K this time round. My uncle usually runs this race and I have somehow managed to convince my run-hating husband to give it a go too, so it should be a really great event and will probably be the highlight of my running calendar. Here’s hoping for lovely sunshine on the day.

Canterbury 10K

(20th March)

A slightly less glamorous location a week after running around Monaco, but I suspect this one will be quite enjoyable. I hadn’t planned on doing two races on back to back weekends, but the Canterbury 10K is a convenient one for me and I suspect a few friends will probably run it too, so I didn’t want to miss out on the fun. Another huge benefit of this run is that it is traffic-free.

Canterbury Sprint Triathlon 

(3rd July)

I haven’t taken part in this triathlon before but know the area well and thought as the entire event is sprint-only it would be a good practice run for Hever (and potentially the Whitstable Triathlon which I am still waiting on for registration to open). I’m not used to pool based triathlons so that will be a lesson in itself, but I suspect the bike and run will be incredibly picturesque as it takes you out into the Kent countryside which really is lovely in the summertime.

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Hever Castle Triathlon

(24th-25th September)

Hever is my ‘A race’ for 2016 and one which I am yearning for. I love Hever Castle and their triathlon series is so well organised and just a pleasure to take part in – the course is not the easiest, but it’s probably the most beautiful and that more than makes up for the suffering you put yourself through in order to get to the finish line. I probably shouldn’t say this out loud but I’m even looking forward to the mania on the start line of the swim.

 

Of course, the above is by no means my completed race schedule for the year. I am still waiting on registrations to open for a few events, but others on my radar include the RideLondon100 (ballot dependent), Whitstable Triathlon, the Royal Parks Half Marathon (ballot dependent) and a few other London 10Ks over the summer if I can make them fit in with our summer vacation plans.

The Disappointment of London

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Ah yes, the inevitable has happened – once again, I did not get a place in the London Marathon through the ballot. I knew the odds and was prepared for failure, but deep down had fingers and toes tightly crossed in the hope that this year would be my year. My year to run London.

For as long as I can remember I have wanted to run the London Marathon, it was one of those events that I would go to year on year so I could line the streets cheering everybody on. This year was particularly special, I shouted and waved from the sidelines as Paula Radcliffe ran her last ever London Marathon, and then once the elites ran past I was able to focus my attention on cheering every single other runner on – including my brother-in-law, which was lovely. For me, the London Marathon has always been one of those events where emotions run high – perhaps it’s because I love the city with all my heart and have so many wonderful memories made there. There is just something about London that really makes you want to shout your love for it from the rooftops, and that is precisely why I want to run London.

Others have told me to run Paris marathon instead, another city close to my heart, but for some reason it just doesn’t have that same appeal. If I am honest, I have no intentions to become a marathon runner (although I have also been tempted by Venice) – I have an uncle who runs ultras so he well and truly has that covered. But London is different. London is the one marathon where I would give it my all and make myself proud. Some have suggested I apply for a charity place, and I completely understand why that would suit them, but as selfish as it may sound, running London isn’t something I want to do for someone else or with the added pressure of raising a particular sum of money – no, running London is something I need to do for myself, without anyone else.

So whilst 2016 will not be my London Marathon year, I will keep fingers crossed that soon my time will come.

Race Report: London Winter Run 2015

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**Disclaimer: This is a race recap from my old blog, however I am intending to run this race again as my first race of 2016 along with Sahdya, and so it only seems right to have this year’s race report on the blog too! Besides, I really do miss winter training…running in hot weather is not easy!**

A few weekends ago I took part in my first race of the year, the London Winter Run, with my cousin, B. It was a gloriously sunny morning with blue skies, though utterly freezing temperatures, but we were raring to go come race morning. Both of us had been suffering with various injuries leading up to the event so it was touch and go as to whether we would compete, but after agreeing that we would just run the 10K for fun and whilst trying to listen to our bodies throughout, we decided to just go for it and enjoy. We took a rather laissez-faire approach on race morning, waking up in Marylebone about an hour before our wave was due to start in Westminster, which is incredibly unlike our usual control-freak personalities, though still allowed time for a quick bowl of porridge before hopping on the tube to the start line (first time in my life that I have ever been glad to catch the toasty Bakerloo line!).

My first impression of the race was that it was incredibly well-organised with plenty of enthusiastic helpers ready to point you in the right direction. Hardly surprising considering Human Race were the organisers. My second thought was that there were so many competitors, and so it was clearly not going to be a fast race or one for a PB – I think approximately 15,000 people took part. B and I decided to run together throughout, which was the first time we had competed together since the London Triathlon in 2010 (which was quite frankly a disastrous race for me), and meant we could be our own support crew as our partners were occupied with other things.

And so there we were, in the starting pen, surrounded by hundreds of other really enthusiastic runners and with music blaring and various warm up exercises happening around us. Whilst this was all very nice, we just wanted to get running as I was struggling with the freezing temperatures at this point. We gradually made our way closer and closer to the start line, expecting to start – only to be stopped once again and then having to wait another 5 minutes before they finally allowed our wave to cross the start line.

The start was slow…very, very slow. We seemed to be mixed in with a complete range of abilities, some people were choosing to walk right from the very start, and some resorted to walking after 1K. All well and good, however it would have been nice if they had moved to the side to allow a clear path for those of us who were running. Unfortunately the entire race was a case of people-dodging, but this really was the only downside. At about the 6K mark I could feel a few niggles creeping in but I was expecting this to happen and it wasn’t anything significant enough to make me want to slow down or stop, in fact, all I could think of throughout the entire run was how great my body felt. I suspect it had something to do with the epic carb-loading session we had the evening beforehand…usually my downfall is the fact that I struggle to fuel my body properly for mid-distances. We ran through a few snow zones, which were fun in terms of the gimmick-factor, but not so fun when you ended up with a mouthful of snow. The race seemed to go incredibly quickly, although that perhaps had something to do with the fact that we were enjoying talking to each other throughout the entire route.

Soon enough we were at 8K which was the furthest I had run in training (I adopted the marathon approach by not actually running my full distance, and even stopped running entirely for the 7 days before race day due to aches and pains) and I still felt very strong. Then the 9K marker appeared and a huge feeling of pride came over me as I knew that my legs had plenty more miles in them and that I was nearly at the finish line. As the finish line came into view, B grabbed hold of my hand and we went in for our usual sprint finish, and my gosh, it felt spectacular. Our time was 1hr 3mins (I technically came in a fraction of a second before B, which sufficiently fuelled our ‘sibling rivalry’) and we were incredibly satisfied with that.

My aim was to run a solid 10K whilst enjoying every moment, and that is precisely what I did. Placing that medal around my neck made me realise just how far my running and frame of mind has come and I knew that I could have easily pushed myself to run a sub-1hr run if I had really wanted to.

 Shortly after crossing the finish line, we met our ultramarathon runner uncle in Trafalgar Square who treated us to a hot chocolate to help warm up. And then we headed back to Marylebone for a shower before indulging in the most wonderful brunch at Daisy Green’s – we both opted for The Bondi, which was utterly delicious.

All in all, a fantastic race, and one which I intend to run again in 2016.

The Inaugural

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To add some context to this first post I should say that I have been running regularly for many years, generally keeping to 5/10K distances, but have had the life-long dream of running the London Marathon – I hope this blog will encourage me to achieve that dream, no matter how long it takes. Sahdya has been running on-and-off over the past few years, and a few weekend’s ago marked her first post-Ramadan venture back into the world of running.

I wanted the day to be as run-filled as possible so spent my morning running solo around the quiet streets of London in the glorious sunshine, eventually stopping at Daisy Green’s in Marble Arch for lunch with my super-triathlete friend, Anne. Anne is a great source of inspiration and knowledge for all things fitness and nutrition and by the time we had finished sharing the banana bread sandwich she had somehow convinced me that I had the ability to get a ‘good for age’ qualifier for the marathon. Everyone needs a friend who can convince you that you are invincible.

After lunch I ran to Regent’s Park to meet Sahdya for ‘the inaugural’. We used to live together a few years ago and became the best of friends. Now, I sprung this run on Sahdya at the last minute – I think I gave her 48 hours notice and she had told me she was nervous as this was the first time we had run together. With this in mind, we would be taking it easy, but not too easy. I had my Garmin so could track our stats and by the time we had finished and were stretching back in Marylebone we had covered 4 miles. To say I was proud would be an understatement, Sahdya absolutely aced her first post-Ramadan run and with me being a usual-solitary runner, I was rather pleased to have found someone I was happy to run alongside.

Now, both of us are fairly careful with our nutrition and would not necessarily condone rewarding yourself with a sweet treat just for completing a run (although I am increasingly becoming a #willrunforcake kind of runner…), however it was a truly lovely day and the first time we had seen each other for a little while so we decided to pop into The Natural Kitchen on Marylebone High Street to try their new frozen yoghurt bar. It felt like a real treat as we sat indulging in our fro-yo in the park, watching the world go by.

All in all, a spectacular Sunday.