Bushfire Relief Run

Sometimes you just need a reason. Kath signed us up to the Relief Run – the bushfire fundraiser with all the money going to the Australian Red Cross. She signed us up to do the half marathon distance as a team so running together we needed to cover 6.55 miles. That’s a pretty long way on my current (total lack of) form.

It was really frosty this morning and there was no way I was heading out on the slippery roads and towpath. Just no. I may be a wimp but I am a wimp with all limbs intact! So we postponed our run til later and went for a walk at Harlow Carr Gardens instead to have a look at the Japanese Art exhibition. We decided we would run when we got back. When we got back we both felt hungry and a little flakey so we decided we would run once we had eaten and let our lunch settle… our day had all the hallmarks of never quite making it out the door. I felt really tired and like a nap might help…

Eventually we got our act together, decided that this was important, it meant something, it was an actual reason to run that was beyond the ‘it’ll be good for us’ stuff. So we wrapped up warm and headed out. Intervals were set for 30secs/30secs to keep me vaguely honest. I was ok-ish for mile 1, ready to pack it in throughout mile 2. Having a reason and not wanting to let Team Dopey down kept me going to about 2.5 miles when I settled a little more and it all seemed ok until about 4.2 miles. Then we walked a little extra to let my tummy settle – it was just having a funny minute or two.

We walked up what was the golf course and then didn’t run much more really. I made myself run down the trail from the wood just to practice the terrain and then we run/walked until we met chocolate labrador puppy Buddy and his humans. Kath had met him before and told me all about him. After a puppy cuddle we carried on but mostly walking as my feet were a bit achey and then on the last downhill bit my left calf tightened loads. We walked from there and it turned out we had actually calculated distance pretty much spot on and didn’t have to walk/run laps round our estate!

I found this run hard. I didn’t want to be out there. I went out because there was a reason to, a good reason, a reason that matters more than me. I am glad I went. I had a recovery drink after and have been curled up in front of the log fire but somehow the run has left me emotional and tired and I’ve also not been warm since we got back – although I wasn’t cold on the run. I’m having a bath next which will hopefully warm me up. Well, it’s 6.55 miles. I got there. It wasn’t pretty but I got off the sofa and did something.

Yep, starting again?

What do you do when you are struggling to get back into running, struggling to run a mile and generally struggling with being heavier and far less fit than you were? Well naturally you sign up for a hilly half marathon. Of course you do. Never mind that it seems totally unrealistic and undoable, you just decide that in 5 months time you will run 13.1 miles most of which are on upward flat sections. Yep. That’s what you do. Yes.

So having established that this is the done thing, I am delighted to tell you that Kath and I have now signed up for the Suzuki Midnight Sun Run in Reykjavik on the 25th June. The elevation profile looks like this:

So I should probably give you a running update and tell you how much progress I have made since the beginning of January. Yes, well, about that. I ran on the 5th January – dragged my butt 6 miles to go have breakfast. And then I carried my running gear across Europe for a few days while I popped in to see Dad in Hamburg and then went to a workshop/conference in Osnabrück. I meant to go run while I was over there. I am normally quite good at running when away from home like that but somehow it just never quite happened. The workshop was pretty intense and they were long days with late dinners and even though I was awake early enough every morning, I felt too full still and it was still dark and I had no real idea of where to run… excuses excuses excuses.

Torture Device!

So then I got back and started marking and that was that. I basically didn’t move until I was finished (I still have extensions and paperwork but mostly I am done) and here we are another week disappeared. On Thursday I had a strength and conditioning session. The first one since I gave up sometime in December because everything just felt impossible. I was in two minds of whether to go back but actually I didn’t hate the session. I found it hard but it was good to be doing.

Wonky headband!

Yesterday I finished marking and didn’t really do anything else other than the odd stretch every 3 or 4 scripts. At some point though, I sort of realised, I am actually going to have to stop thinking about running and actually run. So in glorious sunshine I headed out late morning today to run the sheep loop and pop in and see Mum at the end. It was lovely out. I ran the first half mile or so, then put in a 30 second walk break and then continued on running for a bit. As the ground got more uneven and muddy I dropped into 30 sec/30 sec intervals to protect my calf muscles and feet. That seemed fine.

I walked for a couple of minutes towards the bottom of the former golf course – I have never liked the bit where it switches from muddy path to tarmac and I always feel like it’s damp an slippery so rather than tensing up and making my feet hurt, I just walked through that. Along the canal I stuck to 30/30 again and it wasn’t until right at the end that my feet started niggling a bit. Overall it felt good to be out and positive to actually be moving and doing something.

I was having fun really!

So, work towards the midnight sun run starts here I guess. I’m mad.

Which 2021 Disney Distance?

This is my birthday present! How awesome is this. But now I have to decide which of the races to do – Mickey’s marathon, Donald’s half or both for the Goofy or do I add the 5k and 10k in too and make it Dopey number 3? My heart is of course saying Dopey. Dopey is my thing, my impossible, it’s Dopey. Even having done it twice three years apart I can’t actually believe I have done it. Dopey is something special and of course I want to do it again. So now would be a really good time to remind myself why, after the last time, I said I was (probably) done with Dopey. I think this is maybe one of those occasions where I need to be more sensible. The getting up early and waiting around wasn’t fun and the 4 day challenge took an awful lot out of us and also out of our holiday. We either go to do Dopey or we go for a Disney holiday – I’m not sure both works.

So that leaves the Goofy challenge but I was also pretty categorical about not wanting to do another road marathon. Ok so for the Disney marathon I wouldn’t be doing it alone. Kath would be with me and there is something absolutely fab about running through each of the theme parks but there are long long stretches which are on pretty boring roads. So if I am not actually doing Dopey then I see no point in running 26.2 miles at all. I’m not bothered about Goofy. If I am going to train to run a half and full marathon back to back I might as well add a 5k and 10k… So

Well really that means decision made – half marathon it is. It is my favourite race distance. It’s a proper challenge. You have to respect the distance – well I do anyway – you can’t just go and run it but training for it doesn’t take over your life and running the race doesn’t take over the holiday – or even the day of the race – we will be done before breakfast. This sounds like the sensible plan, the thing to do, the thing that will actually be most fun all round – for training, for running, for playing in the parks… but there is a tiny bit of me that will always have my heart set on Dopey, those 6 medals and that feeling of just having achieved the impossible.

Marathons from the other side of the drinks station

I spent the last day of my leave (well until Wednesday) doing one of the drinks station for the Baht’at Trail Half and Full Marathon. It felt good to do something positive because I have been struggling since we got back. Yesterday was horrible. I was barely awake and when I was I couldn’t really be bothered to be. Maybe I was just really tired because after another full night’s sleep I felt much better when I woke up this morning.

There is something about volunteering and cheering people on that is exhilarating and fun. The course they were doing is pretty brutal! The elevation is just silly! Or as they say in the course description, it’s a tad hilly. Well yes it is, it’s basically just under a mile of flat and then just over three of fairly relentless up – then I am not quite sure of the Ilkley Moor loop they do but it involves very little flat. Marathon runners do the entire thing twice.

We set up the drinks station and then waited for the marathon runners to come through. They were looking good and strong but one or two admitted they had underestimated the hills – I’m not surprised, I live here, I have run those hills, they always seem utterly unreasonable! The views however are stunning. Not long after the marathoners the half marathoners, the sane people in this lot, started coming through. And then the first lot started coming back down…

I enjoyed cheering people on, filling up their drinks, encouraging, handing out sweets, having a quick chat, being part of it for a split second and sometimes a few minutes. There were a few things that struck me about this event in particular

  • It is incredibly friendly. Maybe that’s easier because it’s small. 30 odd marathon starters and 80 odd for the half. It made it easier to really care about people and for them to be more than just a race number. I felt a little bit invested in each of their runs.
  • The course really tested everyone and stretched out the field. I loved how everyone was just running their race; some taking it seriously and going for it; others stopping for a good chat every time they came to see us; others taking their drink and fuel and giving us a nod. #TheirRunTheirRules and it was fabulous to see.
  • The event was as plastic free as possible. There was almost no rubbish at all really. The picture is the total rubbish from our drinks station and most of that was stuff we picked up in the lay-by as we set up – we left it cleaner than we found it!
  • All runners were great about the no plastic cups. One lost his hydra cup on the way somewhere (I hope he found it or could get another) so he got a plastic one which he then took with him to use at the other stations and there was one other occasion where the cup was too tangled up so we used a plastic one to save time. Yes it takes a few seconds longer but it makes a huge difference and I think all events should think about this!
  • The no plastic etc seemed to have a really positive impact on how runners dealt with their own rubbish. Everyone seemed to keep hold of their gel packs and other wrappers etc and use the bins at the drinks stations. We had to pick almost nothing up and those bits we did were dropped sweets and things falling out of pockets.
  • The last runner got the same experience as the first. We were the last as well as the first drinks station and we did not pack up anything until we knew he was safely through and had what he needed to complete. There was no way we were running out of anything and the same was available to the back of the pack as for the front runners. That’s important to me – obviously as a back of the pack runner – but it was nice that the whole event had that same ethos.
  • I kinda want to run it. Just the half mind, there is no way I could persuade my brain to get my legs to go back up the hills if I made it round the first loop!
  • This is my sort of event. I felt like I belonged, like I was part of something. I know I wasn’t running so there was no pressure on me to move but still. It was such a contrast to London. It was what running should be about – being out doing your thing in beautiful countryside.

So it’s been a good day. I had a great time watching people conquer the course (even where they felt a little defeated by it!) and also watching swallows, the cows in the field opposite, red kites, some farm cats and a kestrel. So for those of you who run or those of you who don’t – volunteer. It’s such a good way to get involved. It’s such a great way to be inspired and see people achieve great things. If you want to redefine possible – and watch determination, a special sort of humour and just pure awesomeness, volunteer at a half and/or full marathon! It’s great to see it all from the other side!

For those of you who ran it: Thank you for doing it. Well done. You rock! I hope your tomorrow is a gentle one without stairs and without hills and with cake, lots of cake!

Harewood House Half Marathon

So remember last year, my DNF at the Harewood House Half Marathon? I said I’d be back and today I was. I have been looking forward to it and I wasn’t really nervous until this morning when I suddenly started feeling really anxious about the whole thing. The course is tough, I’m not.

Anyway I had been thinking about the race and in particular how I would manage to stick to #MyRunMyRules. I knew from last year that my pace would put me at the back of the pack even on a good day. I therefore spent some time really thinking about how I would feel if I was last and how I would feel running last for a considerable chunk of the race. How would I keep myself motivated and moving forward with the tail marker right behind me and the feeling of people waiting for me. I don’t like to keep people waiting.

Honestly I am absolutely fine with actually coming last, what I think I’d find more difficult is having to run last for most of the race, particularly if I lost touch with the pack or runners in front and there was an obvious big gap that would mean I was holding people up. Maybe that’s where some of the anxiety came from this morning. But anyway, we had our porridge, got sorted and set off. We parked, went to the loo, picked up our t-shirts, went to the loo, met one of our fellow #Run1000Mile challengers, went to the loo (nothing like nervous peeing!) and then we were ready to start.

We set off. For the first few hundred metres all I really had was people streaming past me. I smiled. It is quite hard to keep smiling as everyone keeps over taking you. I tried not to mind and I tried not to speed up. Very soon I was last. I could hear the back marker on his bike behind me and I could hear the marshals’ radio conversations which were quite entertaining. Ok, I thought, well, I’ll be doing all of this right from the back. I felt surprisingly ok about that and settled in.

I hadn’t really looked at pace since an early glance which told me that at 11.20 minutes per mile I was going way way way too fast. I thought I’d slowed a fair bit but at the 1 mile beep I was at 12.08. Too fast. I tried to consciously slow down but already being last made that quite hard somehow. I was gaining on a woman in front of me who had been pulling away but by 1.5 miles she looked like she was struggling and I went past her. I hope she kept going – she must have done for quite a while at least because the back marker didn’t catch up to me and I didn’t see him again.

I was still trying to slow down as I saw deer on my left and red kites in the sky. I couldn’t help but smile. I actually saw loads of deer, loads of kites and tons of smaller birds and an odd squirrel or two. I am utterly rubbish at remembering the route or what was where on it so this may be in the wrong order, possibly totally jumbled. Anyway, I settled into what felt like a comfortable pace. I could see a woman in front of me running a stunningly smooth even pace and I tried to keep with her. I was fine on the flat but she had far more power up the hills. Eventually I stopped focusing on the pink of her jacket, did the sensible thing and let her go. She stayed in view for a long time but eventually she was gone. I was alone. It was bliss.

Coming up to 3 and a half miles I had the first walk as I made my way along the edge of a grassy field heading towards the first steep downhill. I sipped some Tailwind and I tried to keep marching and saw two women ahead of me. I was easily catching up with them. We had a quick chat just before the downhill and then I kept going carefully jogging down the uneven and quite steep track. The marshal sent me diagonally down the hill and that seemed like the route most people took judging by the muddy path. However, the actual route seemed to go straight down to hit the 4 miles marker and then turn left. This is probably the main reason the course measured short.

I think we next turned up into the woods and I walked the hills. I was feeling the too fast start and very briefly it crossed my mind that maybe I was totally screwed but that thought went as fast as it came. I saw some more deer and then at some point I saw some lovely looking Jacob sheep – they looked familiar and then I remembered that the flock we got ours from also had some going to the Harewood estate so it could well be the same blood line. That made me smile and reminisce for a while.

I enjoyed the course and I enjoyed being on my own for so much of it. Around mile 6 I realised I was falling in with the pace of two blokes in front. They were running slightly faster but walking more slowly. I caught up with them for a chat just after the mile 8 water station. We marched up the hill together and then met Susan who was struggling a little. Me and her walked and jogged together for a mile ish leaving the two blokes behind us but then I was walking faster again so I powered up the hill and jogged down the other side to the Mile 10 marker.

I felt ok. I slowly jogged along the track trying to stay out of the way of dog walkers. I was gaining on the aid station where I had called it a day last time and was smiling because I knew I was going beyond. I heard a runner coming at some considerable pace behind me. I wondered whether Susan had maybe found her running legs again but it wasn’t her. It was someone just out running I think and she was fast! As she came past me she touched my shoulder and told me I was amazing. It nearly made me cry but it also gave me a boost and I jogged on and turned left back into the woods. Less than 3 miles left. I slowly jogged most of those last miles with just a few little walks thrown in to reassure myself that I had enough left in the tank. As I plodded past the 11 mile marker I had the rest of my Tailwind feeling pretty happy about my fuelling. Although later on I wished I’d saved just a little bit for the last push.

I’m fairly sure the mile markers were out by quite a bit. Mile 13 was, if I got my numbers right, nearly 1.25 miles long and the Mile 13 sign was definitely more than .1 of a mile away from the finish. The last bit is brutal. It’s not a steep climb but it’s one hell of a pull. I walked up the track, passed another woman and tried to encourage her on, then I turned left into the field. I could see the finish now and willed my legs to start running again. They did, slowly and now feeling really heavy but run they did. I saw Kath coming towards me and she jogged a bit at the side of me when I got to her. She had finished in 2 hours 19 minutes and had nearly been taken out by some deer which had decided to split the runners and cross their path. She said she felt them come past behind her. Wowsers.

The nice thing about coming in at the end and in space is that the announcers at the finish have time to tell the world you’ve done it. Of course most of the world has already gone home but it was still nice to hear my name and a well done and a comment on my ‘big smile’ which was actually more a sort of Cheshire Cat grimace. I got my medal and bottle of water and a hug from Kath. We headed to the car and I stripped down to my bra to change out of my sweaty top and into something warm and dry. I felt awesome. Tired. But awesome. I sipped my tailwind recovery drink and nibbled a cheese sarnie in the car. My time: 3 hours and 58 seconds. So those 58 seconds are annoying. I’m going to have to go back and try again to conquer these rather ridiculous looking squiggles on a map!