If March was the month where much travel occurred, April was the month where I jumped back into my groove and dug myself deeper. Yes, readers, it was the return of the 10k.


I started March feeling all delicate and slow, and was doing 5 or 5.5k runs in about 30 mins. It felt like that distance was now my top line, and to push past it was too hard, I didn’t want to, where was my chair to sit down in going to make me too tired.


But then I returned to my running club, and my whole world changed. Well, the world that I’d created throughout March whereby it was ok to ease off the running. Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s ok to ease off the running, but sometimes my mind is split in two: one half shouting ‘come on get out there! Go get those endorphins!’ and the other whispering ‘or you could just stay here. In your armchair and your robe. It’s enough for you to reach over for more chocolate caramel shortbread’, and for some reason the whispering is louder than the shouting.


So when I rocked up one Wednesday and found the group who was now my pace, and they said they were doing 10k/6 miles, my heart fluttered a little bit. But I took it nice and steady, and before I knew it (well, actually after an hour and a few stops to catch my breath after the hills), the 10k had been smashed! And nothing bad happened: I didn’t get a stitch, the baby didn’t fall out, I didn’t fall down in a daze after 5.5kms. I did go home feeling like I’d run 10 miles not 10k and have to go to bed early.


There was a bit of distance between my running pal and I …. and the rest of the group!

There was a bit of distance between my running pal and I …. and the rest of the group!

So three days later I ran it again. Some of our friends were doing a charity event where they covered 200k in one day:  they did one 10k run followed by a 40k cycle, and then repeated it four times in total. So, like the heroes we are, SB and i joined in. For one 10k. Yep – I told ya: heroes 😉 Some other friends joined in for a run and cycle, or did all the cycling, and there was a core team of about 10 who did the whole day.


It was a really good day, despite the pouring rain the whole way around. The adrenaline and good will helped us all – those who were feeling tired because they were doing the second of  four 10k runs, and those who were (pregnant and) a little out of shape.


Running slower = easier for running selfies. #veryimportant

Running slower = easier for running selfies. #veryimportant

Since then the 10k has enthroned itself as the staple of my training again, and it feels gooooood.


And in other news, could this weekend be any more exciting?? An royal baby and The Fight of The Century. I mean, I for one couldn;t wait to get up at 5am to see the richest sportsman alive win more millions. As if I did: we recorded it, and when it came time to watch it the next day, I was banished from the living room because I talked too much. So I went and got me some cake.


But seriously, this weekend had something for everyone. Sports, rivalries, bright lights, pretty dresses, new babies, baby names, gambling, Royal Family, celebrity endorsements (for the fight anyway…). What a time to be alive.


Ellie B

Join the Club

This month Runner’s World UK are running an article featuring none other than my Wednesday night running club, Elvet Striders! Pretty exciting stuff for us Purplies.


Ahhhh exciting times for Striders.

Ahhhh exciting times for Striders.

On Wednesday I made it back to my running club for the first time since before Christmas. It felt so good to run with them again, and then when I saw the article celebrating running clubs, I wanted to copy join in the party and share my own running group propaganda.


I was very nervous about joining the club: what if they were too fast? What if it wasn’t for me? How do I run without my headphones? On my first night I introduced myself to a woman who made sure I was put into a suitable group, and we set off. I kept one earphone in because I had actually never run without music, and before I knew it, we had just run 11k on a Wednesday night.


On a Wednesday! Usually my mid-week runs were 6-8k, and I did a 10k at the weekend. But if I could do 11k on a Wednesday, why shouldn’t I aim for 13 or 14 on a weekend? And thus began my development as a runner.


Running with a running group made doing races much more accessible –  I chatted to people about different events, and started proudly wearing purple when racing. Every Strider who raced on the weekend was celebrated in a weekly roundup email, and every regular Wednesday run was something new: off-road, hill runs, track work, and road running.

Another club benefit: free running pics!

Another club benefit: free running pics!

With the support of the group, I have set and achieved lots of goals: my first half marathon, my half marathon PB, trained for my first marathon and fared better that I had hoped! There is nothing more inspiring than chatting with runners who are some 30 years older than me about the marathon they ran on the weekend. Plus my sappy little heart loves celebrating the success of everyone in the group: here is our 2014 yearbook…..


All clubs are different. Ours is about having a good time and doing your best on the day, and another local club focuses a lot more on times and league points. Some clubs have a coach who really work with everyone on their goals and technique, where as others are about like-minded people coming together. Gilly has achieved some amazing goals with her running club, and mine has gently encouraged me to identify my goals and work to smash them.


On Wednesday, we did a 4k warm up, hill repeats, and then a 3k cool down. Apparently my secret is not-so-secret anymore, and I was told that  I was ‘carrying a bit of extra weight, so we did wonder’. And this is the other best bit about running clubs: everyone was soooooooo nice during the run, and even though I only ran up half the hill  (it’s a bloody steep hill), everyone called out ‘well done!’, even though they ran up the whole thing. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you do your best in the moment!


So, if you’re a bit intimidated about joining a club, or you’re wanting to make running more established in your routine, or you’re looking for a way to push yourself to the next step, I cannot recommend joining a club enough. You can usually try it out for a couple of weeks before you commit to joining, so what is there to lose?


And on a completely un-related topic, last night I found my dream car. Forget Lamborghinis, this one had disco lights, a karaoke machine, copious champagne, and a pole. Ladies and gentlemen, it turns out that my dream car is the Birmingham Fun Bus, which we rode on the way to a restaurant for a friend’s birthday. It was a huge shame that I couldn’t join in either the champagne or the pole. But I have bookmarked it for later. I think it’s appropriate transportation for a christening, right?


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

Elvet Striders Clamber: Let’s Run Up Some Hills on a Hot Day!

I’m part of a running club in Durham called the Elvet Striders, which is a huge club that meets every Monday and Wednesday. And sometimes in between. And often in the pub. This week, a few of our more enterprising members organised a trail race called the Clamber. It was a regular in the Striders calendar until a hiatus last year. This year it was back with a vengeance, and a new-improved-just-over-5-mile route.


This isn't even half of us!

This isn’t even half of us!

I signed up as I’ve not done any trail races this year, and I probably won’t be able to get to any more til next year. If you are wondering why trail running is the bees knees, here are the top three reasons:

  1. You are fully immersed in the countryside and get some uh-ma-zing views
  2. You don’t have to worry about being hit by a car. On the other hand, you do have to worry about tripping over a tree-root
  3. Muscles that have been asleep since the day you were born are suddenly put into action, much to their chagrin


Here is my favourite view from a trail run (or at least a trail run where I happened to have my camera):

Coniston Trail

Thank you, Lake District.

So, back to the Clamber. I arrived with about a minute to spare to pick up my number. I was kind of chilled about this race – in my mind it was just like a typical Wednesday run. Until I put my number on and saw everyone else: then my determination kicked in, and I realised that I was going to push with everything I had.


It was a challenge to pace: I didn’t know the route, and my race-day-zone only started 10 minutes before the race started. To be honest, I can’t give an accurate route description, but here’s my best effort: we went up some hills in the woods, down some hills in a field, steadily up some hills in the wilderness (what do you call it if it’s not a field?), steadily down some hills in a field, up some hills in the woods, down them again, and then there’s the finish. Can you picture it? 😉


Apparently we passed the Wicker man, but I didn't see him.

Apparently we passed the Wicker man, but I didn’t see him.


As we passed the marshals, they told me what position female I was in – if I didn’t have my game face on before, I certainly did then!  My strength was in running up the hills:  I could power up them, and that where I did most of my over-taking (although my over-taking was pretty modest). On the flats less brutal hills, I really felt the effort of keeping my pace, and needed to really suck it up mentally. As I felt more tired, my footing wasn’t as confident which in turn required more concentration. It was a tough race.


Sweaty smiles!

Don’t be fooled by the smile. There was pain going on. Look into my eyes.

For the last three miles I had another girl in my sights, and I made it my goal to overtake her to take my mind off my legs, which were shocked at working this intensely. She was always about 300 metres ahead: I’d see her just up ahead, and then we’d turn a corner and she’d taken off. I’d see her walking up a hill, but by the time I ran to the top, she’d taken off (I’m terrified of running downhill, so I reckon I lost some time there).


Once I knew there were no more hills, and there was about a mile left, I found the energy to really sprint. You know in cartoons when you see their legs pinwheel into a blur? That’s what my legs always feel like at the end – they’re so tired and light, but it feels like they’re at their most powerful. I feel like I’m flying.


But enough indulgent contemplation on the sprint. I finished in 42:24. And did I catch the girl in front? No. But I did finish 4th female overall, and 2nd female in our club, so I’m mighty pleased with that. :)


I want to say a huge thanks to Flip & his team for organising it – I really, really enjoyed running in a local race, and loved seeing the different local running groups. And it was a real treat to run a race where the marshals knew you and supported you with genuine enthusiasm. Elvet Striders – where everybody knows your name.


Ellie B