The day after the weeks before

 

For the last two weeks I’ve been …. plain stinkin lazy a little more unproductive on the running side. There were reasons for the break, but I didn’t expect a two week hiatus!

 

Even when you have the most valid of reasons not to run, sometimes not going can feel like a cop out, or like you’re cheating. Even thoughthis was a semi-planned break for me, I found myself going on a bit of a ‘runners journey’ which I will detail here for your pleasure:

 

  • Days 1-3: decided to rest knee after Stampede. Felt good about my choice, and mature that I knew when to put my body first. Running positive rating: 4/5
  • Days 4-7: focused on cross training. Got some serious pole, metafit & abs action in. Kept my running crave happy via reading blogs, Born to Run and Runners World. Running positive rating: 4/5
  • Days 8-10: traveled with work (read early mornings, delayed trains, late dinners). Came down with a cold, and experienced knee pain after two days in high heels. Read my running stuff, felt frustrated for not going running. Consoled myself with KFC and cupcakes. r Running positive rating: 2/5. Comfort food satisfaction: 5/5
  • Days 11-13: got over cold, and mum came for the weekend (mothers make everything better). Started to wonder how I fitted running into my days. Read my running stuff for interest, knew I had to be careful not to lose the mojo in a serious way! Running positive rating: 3/5
  • Day 14: Went for a run! Did a small run with my dance/running group. It blew away the cobwebs, and …. SUCCESS! My knee didn’t ache. It wasn’t long way, or amazingly fast, but it was a pain-free run for the first time in months. Celebrated with some foam rolling and dinner out. Running positive rating: 4/5

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As you can see, it was deep stuff. I was pretty hard on myself when I couldn’t run, and started playing the comparison game (comparing yourself to every single runner who is faster/stronger/better than you). Believe me, it’s not a great game to play! As soon as I started running yesterday, my mojo came back. It reminded me of the pleasures to be had from running that weren’t related to your maintaining goal-pace, or trying to make up for lost training time: fresh air, those fabulous endorphin highs, and the knowledge that I can eat more cupcakes.

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I’m going on a run tomorrow to make the most of this gorgeous Autumn weather. It won’t be a long one, or a fast one, but hopefully another pain free one……

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And finally, if you get the UK Runner’s World magazine this month, you may see someone familiar….. only my good pal George Nicholson!!

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SB has recorded The Shining and keeps trying to put it on. This is the third time he’s tried ….. I am going to see how long I can watch before I huge scaredy cat and run upstairs to watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians. A different type of scary family.

 

Great North Run Race Recap

The Great North Run was on Sunday, and signalled the end of my manic half-marathon week. This was my first half marathon last year, and the night before I was sick with nerves! This year I was looking forward to running it since I am now a half marathon veteran. 😉

All week the weather forecast was showing rain, rain, rain for Sunday so I was preparing for a wet run. Plus my left knee was still sore from my fall last week. So my plan was to take this one slow and chill the frick out. SB heard that it was the wettest GNR on record.

Our club arranges a bus to take us there since we’re local, and it always gets there with loads of time to spare – and most importantly, before the toilet queues grow enormous! After posing for the all-important club photo, we all dispersed to their different starting points. I had my photo with George in front of luggage buses, showing off my high waist tracksuit pants. Jealous? Then George left to go mingle with Sporty Spice and the rest of Team North, so I had some time to munch bananas and stretch my poor left leg out.

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One of the highlights for me at the starting point is the massive group warm up: each year 86,000 people are led through a warm up from the big screen. This year they tried to get us to do Gangnam Style too, but it didn’t really work. I have a suspicion that no one really knows the dance. It’s all a big publicity stunt.

As soon as we crossed the timing mats, my knee started to ache. I was worried: I haven’t ever this much pain this early on, and really didn’t want to drop out. So I slowed right down, and it seemed to be ok. Some friendly faces from my club ran past with words of encouragement, and I felt better. In fact, it was only my knee which hurt if I pushed myself, so when I was chugging along I really had to resist the temptation to speed up!

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The Great North Run is the friendliest run I have ever done. Ever. There’s camaraderie and friendly banter between all the runners. Both times I’ve done it, the red arrows have flown over just as I’ve run over the Tyne Bridge – amazing (FYI – the Tyne Bridge is Newcastle’s Sydney’s Harbour Bridge). The whole 13.1 mile course is lined with people clapping and cheering – the whole course. Not only that, but people have taken the time to cut up oranges, buy jelly babies and biscuits, and freeze ice pops for the runners. As I was taking it slower, I definitely had way more than my fair share of all this nice, free food!

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I had to be really careful with my tread: if it landed in the wrong way, my knee  almost gave way. That was pretty scary. I was trying to take a comedic selfie of me with an orange in my mouth when it happened the first time, and so after that there were no more selfie attempts. Sorry guys! If it landed ok it didn’t hurt, and I saw after 10k that I was on track for a 1:45 time. So I put the phone away and didn’t look at it again – my knee would inevitably get more sore, and I didn’t need extra time pressure!

The course itself is a good one. It’s not the most picturesque, but the crowds definitely make up for that. There are a few gradual inclines, but no major hills. The best bit is when you turn a corner, and see the 12 mile marker and the sea at the same time. It’s a great feeling! There are so many people in this event that it would be hard to get a PB. But that doesn’t matter because this race isn’t about the PB so much as the participation.

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Bupa have their organisation down to a fine art with this race. There were loads of volunteers, LOADS of safety pins at the start, medical help every half mile, water in bottles (not cups) along the way, and a 10 mile boost zone of loud music and jelly babies to keep you going. At the end, we got a goody bag with a t-shirt, snacks and our medals inside. Plus, they offered free massages to runners as well. I didn’t take them up on that – I headed to the buses to go home and get dry.

A really nice touch was that every overpass we ran under had different messages to keep you focused and inspired. Things like “My 13.1 miles is made up of every race I said would be my last”. My personal fave was “My 13.1 miles is made up of all the friends I never knew I had”. I know it’s totes corny, but this was particularly true for this race. People actually chose to spend their time, money, and rainy Sunday morning offering us food/drink to keep us going. The final mile is along the seaside, and the crowds are 3-4 people deep cheering and clapping, and they even have the army stationed at the end to welcome you to the finish line. So thank you to the residents of Newcastle and South Shields who stood in the rain clapping us on. It really helps!

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I would definitely recommend this run to everyone I know. It was my first half marathon last year, and the support you receive on the way around really helps you through. Plus, there’s about 362 days to train for it now……

I finished with a time of 1:52:30, which I am happy with given I was slower than usual. Even though I knew I had to take it easy, my stupid competitive side still thought ‘if only I had pushed a little more….’. On the other hand, it was also my most fun half marathon, without the pressure of times, and without the pain of a stitch or getting tired I could listen to my tunes and soak it all up. Literally. It rained a lot.

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In other news, our dance school had a Showcase on Saturday night where the different dance styles and students performed their stuff. All the students were fantastic!! I led a performance for the beginners/intermediates, was in another routine, and was the compere of the night. I actually fell over the stage and lost my shoe right in front of everyone. Luckily the lights were down, but I made a huge bang! Balance isn’t my strong suit this week….

 

What has everyone been up to this week? Any stories of running and/or falling like a klutz?

 

Ellie B

 

 

Introducing…. George Nicholson!

Today I’d like to introduce you to my friend George Nicholson, who I met at my running club. Long distance runner, and general legend, he has been running for almost sixty years, starting when he came first in his school sports day aged 7 in 1955!  Currently he’s part of Mel C’s Team North in the Vodafone JustGiving challenge. He’s been a real inspiration to me since I joined the club, and here are just three reasons why:

  1. I have honestly never seen him without a smile on his face
  2. He has run every single Great North Run since it started in 1981
  3. He was selected as an Olympic torch carrier when it passed through County Durham

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Most recently, George undertook a challenge to run 8 park runs in one day in an effort to raise money for the Acorn’s Children Hospice in the West Midlands. He’s raised over £10,000 for this organisation after they did a wonderful job in caring for his granddaughter in 2006.

8 park runs in 1 day seems like a huge challenge to me: negotiating the traffic to get to each one would be bad enough (nightmare in Birmingham!), but you have to psych yourself up for 8 different short runs.

It sounded like one long day of interval training to me. Which, to be honest, isn’t my ideal way to spend a Saturday. He was kind enough to answer some of the questions I had about the whole affair….

8 park runs in one day – that’s a lot! Why did you want to do this?

For a while I wanted to do something in the area where Acorns is located, and park runs were a great choice as they involve the local running communities too. Plus, Acorns is celebrating it’s 25th anniversary, and 8 park runs is 25 miles. It seemed like the perfect way to commemorate!

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How do you train for something like this?

A few weeks before the big day I started doing 5ks during the day with at least one hour break between them. I gradually built up to 6 one day, and then finally did 8:

  • 2 early runs around the Durham park run route at 7 & 8am
  • The official Durham park run at 9
  • Repeated this at 10.30 and 11.30!
  • Three final routes of my village at 2.30, 3.30 and 5.30pm

On the day itself, what was the biggest challenge/highlight

The biggest challenge was trying to avoid leg cramps and nausea on the final two runs.

The biggest highlight was that at every park run, I was met with friendly faces and support from local runners. People I’d never met before came out especially to run their park run route with me – that was really special. And, of course, the best moment was crossing the finish line of the final run at Canon Hill, Coventry!

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Tell us about the Vodafone Just Giving competition, and being on Mel C’s team! 

Vodafone teamed up with JustGiving to help raise money for a number of charities rather than choosing just one charity to support. Plus it makes giving to charity easier: people donate by text. Vodafone pays the cost of the text, and there’s the added bonus of 25% gift aid.

Team North is headed by Mel C, and so far has raised £6,461 for their chosen charities, with Team South currently on £1,894 (of course it doesn’t matter who wins really!)*.

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As part of being in Team North, George did a training session with Mel C, who is training for her first half marathon in two weeks at the Great North Run. I think this makes George sportier than Sporty Spice!

What I love about this story is the creativity, the stamina needed, and the good will of all the local communities coming out to support George. Running connects people, and this is a great example of the kindness that’s part of the sport. Plus the added banter of ‘So, what Spice does that make you, George?’ is fun too 😉

George’s JustGiving page can be found here if you want to learn more, and I know in two weeks time at his 33rd Great North Run he’ll do everyone proud!! Onya George!

Ellie B

*George is very good natured, and I think would hate for the competitive element to overshadow the point of the thing. But… I’m a little competitive, and I say “Come on #TeamNorth!!!!!!!” 😉