London (Marathon) Baby!

I did it!! London Marathon – check! Blisters as big as my little toe – check! Inability to walk up/down stairs for three days – check! In short, it was a roaring success.

 

Not that it was easy. Oh no. It was one of the toughest runs I’ve done. But let’s start at the beginning. I was in the green starting section, which was for Good for Age entries (like me) and celebrities (unlike me). I only learned about the celebrities after the fact – which may be a good thing, or all my marathon energy would have gone on hunting down anyone remotely famous.

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The first mile took us out of Greenwich, and before it was up I had the first of many ‘moments’. We ran past an old stone church that had pink blossom growing in it’s yard, and I had the ‘a-ha!’ moment that I was actually running the London marathon! We had started, it had begun!

 

It was really hard to keep to my pace, and the first three miles were a minute faster than I wanted. At the time it felt fine, but I wondered if it would come back and bite me in the ass (spoiler alert: I think it did!). But the excitement and the pace and the crowds make you feel like you’re flying, and my ideal pace of 10:20 minute miles felt very slow in such an atmosphere.

Horseguard's Parade at the finish line

Horseguard’s Parade at the finish line

Miles 1-6 were very smooth, and at mile 7 I had a fabulous surprise: SB, Baby B, my brother-and-sister in law were there to cheer me on, complete with banner. In my excitement I screamed, and made Baby B cry. A lot. So…. great parenting there, scaring your child and running away.

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Ah mile 7 … when all was bright still!

The best bit for me was running over Tower Bridge. I was trudging through some nameless street, and all of a sudden we turned a corner and there it was, in all its bridgy glory. The sun chose to come out then to, a d I had the second moment of the marathon. Running over the bridge I was comparing the two marathons I have done: Edinburgh was fast and powerful, but lonely, and this one was slower but with my family there to cheer me on, along with what felt like the rest of London! It was gorgeous.

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My legs started to hurt at mile 12. Initially it was my right IT band, then it was my left, then it was my knee, then it was my adductors, and finally by the end my right IT band was very tight and sore. Most of the second half was spent trying to focus and keep my pace up, and ignoring the pain. It was a blur to be honest. I felt reasonably comfortable, but it was an effort to try and keep the pace right. I had the 4:30 pacer in my sights for 8 miles, which was encouraging, but then at mile 22 the wheels began to fall off.

 

Even though I had less than an hour to go, I decided to go to the loo which slowed me down for 3 minutes. Then, instead of being able to run more freely, I got the biggest stitch. The kind that won’t go away when you push it, and that makes you grunt like a pig. So I had to walk. And so I lost the 4:30 pacer.

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Then followed a really frustrating two miles of walking and running. At this point we were in central London, and the crowds were overwhelming in their support. They were all shouting ‘go on Ellie! Not much further, you’re doing so well!’ and while it was awesome, it was hard to focus. My lovely family were there at 23 miles again, and this time I was much quieter for Baby B.

 

I felt like a zombie for the last three miles, my feet felt heavy and all I could do was focus on the path ahead. And take photos thanks to the slow pace! I felt it was a shame that the most picturesque part of the route was at the very end when you’re just trying to get through, but there is nothing like running past the Thames, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace before turning down the Mall filled with Union Jacks to finish. Although I couldn’t enjoy it at the time, the memories are there and they are amazing.

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Buckingham Palace – I’m sure Queenie was cheering me on

I finished in 4:40, and my stubborn side is gutted that I didn’t make 4:30. But there’s another side which is just proud that I’ve finished it, even if it is 53 minutes slower than my last. I spent most of this race trying to ward off the pain, trying to keep up the pace, and telling myself that this is the last time I’ll run a marathon. Then I woke up on Monday and thought ‘yeah…. but I’ll do another one’.

 

I think I could have finished in 4:30 if I hadn’t started out so quickly, and if I hadn’t munched on mini Cheddars on my way round. Without the luxury of a few long runs in training, I hadn’t worked out a proper game plan. I’m annoyed that I had to use the loo, and hat I had to stop for a stitch, because I’ve never had to do that before. But the point of this event was to complete it, not to get any sort of time goal, so I need to remind myself of this!

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Gaaaah! Just before Buckingham Palace, not long to go!

I can’t believe I’ve actually done another marathon. This time the effort was different, my body wasn’t used to the distance but because of the slower pace, and because I’ve run Edinburgh, I knew I could at least do it. Edinburgh was scary as I’d not done one before, and I had an ambitious time goal. This one was scary because I felt very light on training, and because it’s not long after Baby B arrived. But it was worth all the anxiety, the cold weather running and the obsessing about postpartum training. I would love to run it again.

 

Ellie B

Brampton to Carlisle Race Recap

Well hello there! Yep – I’m back. Did you miss me? Yeah, I bet you did.

 

It’s been more than a week since my last post, and the only excuse I have is that I have been busy working hard and playing hard. So…. that’s a crap excuse, and I’m sorry guys. But fear not: here is a race recap from the 10 mile Brampton to Carlisle race I did two Sundays ago!

 

Thanks to a confusion in dates, resulting in a late night bus home from Newcastle the night before, and a certain time of the month (sorry guys, TMI?), I woke up on Sunday morning feeling like crap less than enthused about this race. The good thing was that, as it is about 2 hours from Durham, my running group organised a bus to take everyone there and back. So all I had to do that morning was get to the bus stop on time, which I could manage, and then chill out. Plus, I do love a good team bus trip.

 

The day itself was perfect for running. The morning started with low fog which draped itself just below the trees, but the sun soon burned it off to leave only a crisp and chilly day covered by blue skies. The race was very low key, which suited me fine: we were kind of ushered into the road, and a tape sort of penned us in, a gun went off, and we all started running – there was no ‘official’ start line that I could see.

 

Not sure if bus photos really convey what it actually looked like...

Not sure if bus photos really convey what it actually looked like…

I had heard this route was great for personal bests, and even though I hadn’t woken up in a race-day mindset, I forced myself into one as soon as we started. The route started in a small town called Brampton and took us to Carlisle by way of A-roads (did the race name Brampton to Carlisle give that away?). I must say, for a road race, this route was gorgeous. The roads weren’t too wide, and led us through the country side where there were plenty green fields, black tree trunks with golden Autumn leaves, and lots of sheep. I love running by sheep! They look so bemused at seeing hundreds of humans running past them aimlessly. Kind of like how we look when we see them run.

For some reason I love starting line pics. Please enjoy the starting line for the Brampton to Carlisle race!

For some reason I love starting line pics. Please enjoy the starting line for the Brampton to Carlisle race!

 

For the most part, the route was flat or downhill, and I running a steady average pace of 7:30 min/mile. Towards the end, there were some gentle inclines up, and by that time I was tiring. I hit low points at mile 4 and mile 8 when I was thinking ‘what the hell am I doing? How did I ever think this was fun? Is this really what I have chosen to do on a Sunday morning?’.

 

But in miles 3, 6,7, 9 and 10 I was thinking ‘This is amazing. Amazing! Look at that countryside! Look at those sheep! How fast am I running? Good, I can keep this pace up. Keep it up. This is the last race of the year, finish strong. Strong, I tell you! You’re an independent woman running to Carlisle on a Sunday morning for fun, Goddammit, and you’re proud!’ So, the conclusion from this little personal journey is that the highs outweigh the lows (again), and I’ll be running more races in the near future.

 

This is what it was like. Absolutely gorgeous running conditions.

This is what it was like. Absolutely gorgeous running conditions.

 

The end was fantastic because, after what felt like a never-ending gentle incline (the cruellest of inclines) there was a fabulous downhill where you could really pick up speed. By the start of mile 10, my calf muscles were crying and it was hard to push to go faster, so it was ace to have that downhill and finish feeling like a hero.  I finished in 1:15:15, the second lady from my club, and got a PB not only for the 10 mile but for the 10k distance too.

 

I want to give a special shout out to one lady in our club: she fell over in mile 1, and really badly grazed both her knees and hands to the point that blood was pouring down her legs. Mile 1! Wouldn’t you be heartbroken? The race stewards told her there were medics at the end, and that they could either give her a lift or she could run there. And what did she choose? She ran. She ran the rest of the race – pretty much the whole 10 miles – whilst injured. I cannot imagine what strength that must have needed. To top it off, she finished with a smile, and didn’t stop smiling even when she admitted she was in loads of pain on the way home. Full respect to her – the real hero of the day!

 

And the best bit was that afterwards, we all got back on our bus and stopped off for lunch on the way home. We had a huge roast dinner, complete with chocolate cake, eton mess and berries for desert. It was my first proper team outing of this kind with the Elvet Striders (who do the bus + lunch combo a lot for races), and it was so nice to speak with people I’ve not met before and get to know them.

 

This race was a fabulous way to end my 2014 races (unless I sign up for another sneaky event). It had beauty, speed, good company, good food, a team bus trip and heroes. Can you really ask for more from a race?!

 

Ellie B

Helvellyn 10k Trail Race Report

There’s really only one thing to do now that the days are short, the temperature has dropped, and it’s raining more often than not. Do a 10k trail race in the Lake District, obviously.

 

Last Saturday SB and I traversed the North of England to run a 10k trail run at Helvellyn. When people heard we were running there, their responses weren’t great: they’d grimace a bit and say “Really? You’re running Helvellyn?”. Since it was only 10k, I was fairly confident that we weren’t running up and down the whole mountain , but something manageable for my short, little legs.

 

A brief moment of sun

A brief moment of sun

As with all of the runs in this Lake District series, the route takes you out of whatever village you start in and up the hill pretty quickly. It’s been a year since I have done a proper trail race like this, and I had forgotten just. how. hard. it. is.

 

I entered with a false sense of security that it’d be a breeze, a lovely way to spend a Saturday, and it might be rainy and cold, but heck, we were out in nature, man, keeping fit and being at one with the trees and the birds. I had imagined some kind of Wordsworthian experience, and what I got were wet feet, sore ankles and stitches in my shoulders.

 

The route climbed for approximately 4.5 kms, ran level-ish for about 1.5km, and then back down again. As I ran up the hill, it felt like my legs were magnets and wanted to stick to the ground. Try as I might I couldn’t get them to move faster. SB, with his strong legs, is great at hill running. He alternated between powering ahead and waiting for me to catch up. I felt like the Little Engine that Could, and every corner turned brought more climb!

 

Why do hills never look as steep in pics?

Why do hills never look as steep in pics?

Finally, we reached the top. I say top – of course, there’s the whole rest of the mountain, but who cares about that right now? As we ran along the peak, there was the most beautiful view of Glenridding village with Ullswater stretching before it. The good thing about my current running leggings is that my phone is very accessible for action photos.

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Along the peak I found my stride, and was able to pick up the pace quite a bit. That’s when it became fun. I had completely forgotten how much mental energy trail running uses: you have to look at every single step and find where’s best to place your feet. If not, you’ll trip and fall. We ran over stones, rocks, through streams & mud, and in fields with hidden potholes. But there’s always time for a selfie – especially when I was in front!

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Running downhill was the scariest for me. The path has all stones sticking up at different angles, and I could hear someone treading really loudly and heavily behind me. If he slipped, he’d definitely have taken us both down. And landing face first in a pile of rocks was not what I had imagined for this run. Luckily, he passed and sprinted off into madness and down the hill.

 

I had no idea how fast I had run when I finished. I had thought the descent might have made up for my slow ascent, but who can say?

 

Well I’ll tell you who: the Timing Chip. Hurrah for Timing Chips! I found out that SB finished in 50:10, and I finished in 50:56. We placed 39th and 51st respectively out of 250 runners. And the event has free photos for you to download as well:

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This series is one of my favourites. They’re not too big, the route is always beautiful, and they’re pretty cheap for what you get. Plus, it’s always great to have an excuse to go to the Lake District.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

Ellie B

The Neon Run: Race Recap

A week ago I ran the Neon Run in Sunderland with some friends. The Neon Run is in a similar category to the Color Run – I’m pretty sure it’s a for-profit 5k event that is based around a theme or gimmick. In this case, it was running in the dark with neon lights.

 

I am not against events like this at all. Some people I’ve spoken with take issue with the fact that they’re for-profit, but I think they’re really fun. And here’s why:

  1. They are a really great way to spend time with your friends that’s not in a pub or a restaurant, but out doing something active
  2. There are many people there who I would say don’t exercise on a regular basis, so this would be a new experience at an event that’s completely non-threatening
  3. These events are not about how fast you run, or how far you run, but how much fun you have on the route. That counts for a lot, but is often forgotten.
  4. There’s not many opportunities for grown adults to run around a playground that’s designed purely for their fun and enjoyment

 

The Neon Run started at 6.45pm when the sun had well and truly gone down. It was a particularly windy evening, and the race took place in some kind of park (not being the driver, I actually don’t know where it was held!). We were pretty bloody cold as we waited, and so took the advice of the guy on the speaker: we got ourselves a pint before we started. Now, this is my kind of event.

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The Neon Run gives you a flashing wrist band to wear throughout the run, and as the sun went down and the DJ played some tunes, people started dancing. I’m guessing it was as much to keep warm as it was because they were caught up in the moment, but it was awesome to see all the flashing lights shine in the darkness.

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That’s what I loved about the Neon Run. Once we set off, we soon left the noise of the race village, and we were running in the dark. Even though there were lots of people there, the atmosphere was calm and quiet, kind of like when it snows. As we ran down the path, all we could see were flashing blue and green lights from the wrist bands, like a trail of glow worms lighting the way.

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There were two music stands along the way – they had intended four, but the wind prevented this. This broke the quiet, and suddenly everyone was dancing again. I learned that running on a path that’s lit up with a rotating disco ball will make you feel car sick, so that’s an important life lesson if ever there’s one.

 

We ran the route twice, making 5k in total, and as we finished, we were met by some Neon Warriors. These guys seemed to have a little more dignity than their equivalent at the Color Run, who were covered in coloured feathers and face paint. These guys could kick your ass and no mistake. But they also kindly posed for photos and cheered us as we finished.

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I had a really good time at this event! It was expensive, and thanks to the cold, we left pretty much straight after we finished and didn’t make the most of the after-party. But the whole thing had an atmosphere of excitement, and I loved running in the dark. Plus, my friends and I just love any excuse to dress up and paint our faces. That’s what we’re about :)

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Ellie B

First Fell Race: Arncliffe Village Fete

Oh, hi Yorkshire Dales, looking all gorgeous and sunny, with your sheep and cowes and yellow Tour de France decorations. What’s that, you say? You have a fell race? Why, count me in!!

 

And that pretty much sums up my weekend.

 

SB and I went to the Yorkshire Dales to visit friends of ours, and it was very nicely timed with the village fete. Cue lots of cake, ice cream and cider, with a strong man competition thrown in for good measure.

 

Whilst there, I also ran my first ever fell race.: the Arncliffe Gala Fell Race It was 1.9 miles, so the distance wasn’t too intimidating even if the hills were. Where better to test out my fell-legs than in one of the most beautiful parts of the world?

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It soon transpired that this little event would bring almost as many nerves as the marathon, and before the start I was all sweaty and quiet. It came down to three things:

  1. This was a local race, in an area overrun by farmers and people who run up the fells every day as part of their everyday work. Their calf muscles alone told me how familiar they were with this landscape. How would this city slicker do in comparison?
  2. I had no idea how to pace the race. 1.9 miles – you should be able to sprint that pretty quickly. But how do you tackle the giant hill? What about running down? Do you pelt it down, and risk breaking your ankle in a rabbit hole?
  3. There were only about 80 competitors, plus my friends were watching. I’m used to the anonymity of bigger races, where I feel like I can fade into the fabric of the other runners, and this felt much more exposed. This issue was 100% a matter of pride 😉

 

So. We lined up in the village green, after children of all ages ran their races in spectacular style (I’ve never seen so many kids in running club vests). The compere confirmed that we should start on the whistle and not the count of three, and then we were off to literally run up hill and down dale.

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We left the village and entered one of the fields, where for the next ¾ of a mile we ‘ran’ up the side of one of the dales.  Except no one ran, apart from maybe the people in front. Most people were walking, with their hands on their quads pushing their weight through their legs. It was so steep, with so many hidden holes and rocks, that I don’t actually think you could run.

 

The view from the top. Not taken mid-race!

The view of the village from the top. The hill fell steeply away beyond that stone wall… Not taken mid-race!

The next section took us across the ridge of the hill, where there were some fantastic views if we’d have been able to look. All I could do was watch where my feet were going, and try to keep up speed without losing my footing. More than once I stumbled, and eventually found it easier to run with my arms out for balance. I like to think I was channeling Mo Farah’s winning pose, but I think in reality I showed myself as a novice.

 

Not me.

Not me.

Going down was what scared me. Instead of trying to keep a good running posture, I leaned back, spread my hands out in front of me, and took tiny steps. I totally copied this style from a woman who overtook me on the slope.

 

And then before I knew it, we were back on the flat and I pelted the last section. I was able to overtake the woman whose style I copied (competitive much?), and finished in 16:52. I was eighth woman in, out of eighteen, with the first woman coming back in 13:32. It was a different running experience: I never ran at full capacity until the end, because the landscape demanded special care where I placed my feet. This took more concentration, as well as a strong core, to make sure I didn’t tumble down the hill and really expose myself as a novice. I really enjoyed the whole thing: participating in a local event, running in some gorgeous scenery, and not being too sweaty at the end for my friends!!

 

Another fete activity: count the sheep.

Another fete activity: count the sheep.

The other highlight of the day was seeing my 18 month old goddaughter win second prize in the children’s fancy dress competition. She was a sheep, and if I do say so myself, was the cutest sheep in all the land. She’s no fool – she knew when the judges were there, and went ‘baaaaa’ as they walked past. I see a bright future for her in politics or on the stage with those crowd-pleasing public speaking skills at such a young age.

 

Ah, and we also watched the Strongman Competition and Tug-of-War in the afternoon sun! This weekend had so many highlights, and Arncliffe has set a very high standard for how a village fete should be run. It’s not hard: have a strongman competition, running races, and lots of cake.

Tug of War! Serious stuff!

Tug of War! Serious stuff!

 

Ellie B