Coombe Abbey Running Festival as a marshal

Yesterday I woke up super early, got a vegetarian style version of full English breakfast in me and headed out at 6:15am to Coombe Abbey, ready to marshal at the Running Festival.

Breakfast of pitta, tomato, mushrooms and egg

I must say that brekkie kept me going all day until the point where I got my mitts on a few jelly babies at the water stations whilst the last marathoners were coming over the line.

I started off on the registration desk with a few other runners from my club checking people off as they came to collect their numbers and t-shirts for the event.  I think the first runner turned up at 8am, and the race didn’t start until 10:00, 10:05 or 10:10am (10k, half marathon and marathon respectively)  Good job we got there early!
Go Beyond Coombe Abbey t-shirts

I do love working on the registration desk, recognising runners I’ve either seen at events I’ve run myself, or from other Go Beyond events I’ve worked at and having a natter about all things running with a variety of different people.  I love anything organisation based too, so it’s great having lists, ticking names off and getting things into some sort of order first thing in the morning!

A little before 10am I was sent off to my marshaling spot.  I was at marshal point 4.

Go Beyond Coombe Abbey marshal point

Marshal point 4 was about a 15 minute walk from the start line (for me as I walked straight across the long grass in the field, not for the runners who had to go the long way round!)  When John, the Race Director for the day pointed me in the general direction of the gate I was supposed to guard and said I should be able to find it OK, then told me there would be the possibility I would have to direct sheep and sent me on my way ten minutes before the 10k runners set off I will admit I became a little worried!
– 1 – That I wouldn’t actually find the correct gate and would be steering runners into a lake or field without an exit and angry runners would soon be heading back in my direction threatening all kinds of horrible things.  (Never get on the wrong side of a runner aiming for a PB!)
– 2 – That I would lose some sheep into a different field, or lake, or have to jump the gate in order to escape as they charged towards me.

Coombe Abbey Go Beyond marshal signs

Luckily there was the nice big M4 sprayed onto the ground where I needed to stand and some big arrows on the gate itself informing the runners which way to head.  The sheep were a little way away, although when the first 10k runners started storming through the field the sheep legged it up the track as well…full pelt…Then all the way back down to the other end.  No direct charging at me, but I did worry for my fellow marshals at the end point gate!  Luckily all sheep were settled and accounted for within 15 minutes or so.  Sheep panic over!
Go Beyond Coombe Abbey course sheep

There are three Go Beyond running festivals.  Northampton, which I worked earlier in the year, Coombe Abbey and Brentwood, which doesn’t happen until October.  All three events consist of a lap of about 3.5k, which is run 3 times if you are completing the 10k race, six times for the half marathon and twelve times for full marathon distance.

I knew with the possibility of standing out on the course for upto six hours or more my hands would not survive clapping for the entire time so as runners came past I instead shouted out “Well Done”, or to mix it up, “Well done guys/ladies” everytime a large clump of runners came through together.  Hope I wasn’t too repetitive!  It’s hard to get inventive with new lines when you only see people for a second each time they pass and some people just prefer to run in peace!  I chatted to those I knew and some runners had some great banter back for me.  One guy told me a new cheesy line each time he passed and several let me know when they were on their final lap and thanked me for my support out on the course.  As runners ran through my gate there was a downhill section, so they were usually pretty happy and upbeat by the time they reached me!Go Beyond Coombe Abbey course

After the all of the 10k runners had finished and some of the half marathoners had begun to make it through the line the lines of people coming through my marshal point became a bit more sporadic and I had time for a quick marshaling selfie.  It was such a beautiful day.

Go Beyond Coombe Abbey marshaling

I had to keep alternating between taking my hoodie off and rolling my jeans up, to quickly throwing my hoodie back on and pushing my jean turn-ups back down again.  The sun was lovely, but there was also a strong breeze.  Nice weather for the runners at least and the sun made the grounds of the Abbey look absolutely stunning.  I wish I’d had more of a chance to look round.  I had been tempted to throw on my Garmin and take a run whilst I was up there, but in the end I gave somebody else a lift from my town and didn’t get a chance to.  My legs had had enough by the end of the day anyway though.

At about 2pm ish I was relieved from my spot at the far end of the course and brought back to the start/finish line to help provide water, gels and jelly babies to the runners.  After a morning out on my own it was nice to be able to have a bit of banter with some of the other marshals and to cheer runners through as they were making their final push towards the finish.

Each time a runner came through the line they were given a hair scrunchie so that they could keep track of which lap they were currently running (although they were also chip timed).  The standard way of keeping hold of the scrunchies is around your wrist but here are marshals Phoebe and Ashley modelling how you could wear your scrunchies to provide entertainment between laps!

Coombe Abbey alternative use for hair scrunchies

It was incredibly lovely when the third place lady in the marathon came over the line then made her way over to me to tell me she reads my blog!  Lovely to meet you.  I hope you enjoyed the race.  :)

The last runner came through in 6hours 10mins and then we began a full shut down of the course and started to load up the van.  With so many of us there and all hands on deck it didn’t take long and it wasn’t much after 5pm by the time we left Coombe Abbey to return home.

I’m marshaling again at Pitsford Triathlon in a fortnight’s time with much of the same crew.  Come and hunt me out to say hi if you’re there!

When I got home I was tempted to make tea for Dan and I whilst sat down at the kitchen table, but in the end I did convince my legs to stand for long enough to make some honey chicken with spaghetti peas and mushrooms for us both.  The mushrooms just for me, not for Dan.  He won’t even touch one to cook for me!
Dinner of spaghetti, honey chicken, peas and mushrooms

Ever had to leap a gate to escape sheep before or had to do some impromptu herding of farm animals?!

Six things Saturday

…because I was too tired to think of five things on Friday!

#1. Sports Day Thursday followed by an all-day dance day at school on Friday has left me feeling exhausted this week!
Teaching 4 and 5 year olds how to play rounders is incredibly difficult.  (We used a tennis racquet, not a rounders bat, but still!)  When the tenth child has managed to hit the ball and then goes running after the ball rather than to first base, you do have to control your voice as the rules are explained once more!
I actually took a nap when I arrived home from work last night.  The housework has gone to pot this week and my sink is currently looking rather full of dirty dishes…!  :S  We have a busy weekend ahead so I’m hoping to catch up finally by Monday.  Until then, no-one come round my house!

School sports kit


(Me in my school sports kit realising I should probably cover up the school badge at the last second!)

#2. School for me finishes this coming Friday at 12pm.
…and I cannot wait!  This is the first year I’ve worked in a private school and those extra two weeks holiday will really come in handy in the build up to my wedding in August.  Just six weeks to go now, and I’ll feel like I can really start getting into final planning stages and finishing touches once school is over for the year.

End of term in calendar

#3. I’m marshaling at the Go Beyond Coombe Abbey Running Festival on Sunday.
So if you are running it, come say hi!  I’m working on the registration desk in the morning and then I’ll be out on the course.  It means an early start tomorrow morning for me though, as I have to have left home by 6:30am to get there before the runners arrive.Go Beyond logo

#4. I’m currently trying to pencil a training plan into my diary.
A plan for the remainder of the time before my 70 miler, and then leading up to Mablethorpe marathon which is now only 14 weeks away.  Hopefully I’ll have something together to share on the blog over the next couple of days.
I messaged one of the runners from club last night asking what was the furthest distance he went up to before running the 70 last year.  Apparently only 20 miles, so I’m feeling slightly less worried about my race (in five weeks) now.  I’ve run a marathon, a handful of runs in the 30s and several runs in the 20s over the past couple of months.  My mileage has been hovering around at least the 50 miles per week mark since the start of the year so I’ll be going into the race off the back of some strong mileage weeks.

#5. Dan and I ran Peterborough parkrun again this morning with our friend Vicki.
This was Vicki’s fifth parkrun, and she took more than two minutes off her time from last week, finishing in 40:29.  Not a PB, but a nice big chunk off for her to be proud of!  There was lots of whinging this week and a few “I hate parkrun!” strops, but as soon as she crossed the line she was all smiles and looking forward to the next one!  I probably talked non-stop for the first 3k…I’m getting much better at distracting her from the pain of running!  I’m sure the people around us each week are getting fed up of my random drivel about work, wedding and honeymoon though!

#6. Dan and I then raided Peterborough Primark for honeymoon bits.
It’s been ages since Dan or I bought any new clothes.  Our honeymoon is now just 44 days away and we really need to start getting organised for it!  Our Primark adventure this morning got us well on the way.

Primark bag

Dan purchased two new pairs of shorts for the honeymoon and I picked up some shorts, three dresses, two underwear sets, some flipflops, some sandals, a top and some hairbands.  The grand total for both shopping baskets came to £67.  About what it would have cost to buy just a dress and underwear set from anywhere else!Clothes haul from PrimarkI’m loving this stripy dress for £5.  Stripes are really in at the moment, and it’s a really flattering cut – nice and floaty.  £5?  You can’t go wrong for £5!Stripy dress from Primark

School sports day…love it or hate it?
How often do you treat yourself to new clothes?

Weedon 10k and a trail run

This week we were down to the last two races in the East Midlands Grand Prix Summer season.  Weedon 10k and Milton Keynes 10k.

I’d not raced a 10k properly since October 2011-not long after I’d started running, when I ran the Bakers & Larners 10k in a time of 58m 35s.  A time I was very happy with after somebody in my beginners group randomly mentioned that all 10ks should be under the hour (Rubbish, by the way!  But that’s a post for another day.)

I did run an off-road multi-terrain 10k in February through lots of mud, finishing in just over the hour, but knew I wasn’t in the same sort of shape for a decent time on Tuesday night.  Especially when there was a rumour flying round about a large hill on the course.  “4k” Neil said.  “…then it’s all downhill to the finish.
There was a large hill at 4k, but there was what felt like an even larger hill at 4.5miles!  By mile 4 I was in the process of enjoying a lovely long downhill which I hoped really did go right through to the finish.  A really nice, long, rolling downhill.  One where I was tempted to let my arms go out to my sides like an aeroplane and fly down.  Then…I looked across the fields to the road we would be ‘running’ back up to see the hill at mile 4.5!  I decided to allow myself a little walk up it and made the instant decision to throw myself down the remainder of the hill as quickly as possible to make up some of the time I would lose walking the uphill section!

Weedon 10kAccording to the elevation on my Garmin the hill at 4k was steeper and longer.  I swear the second hill looked longer and much steeper though!

Every week at the EMGP races so far there has been a guy sat 100metres behind me for the entire race…until the final 100 metres where he puts a spurt on and zooms past me to take a place infront of me at the finish.  For the first time ever on Tuesday I came over the line a good 30 seconds or so infront of him and when he crossed the line he high fived me in my position on the floor before joining me for a lie down in the cool grass.  It was a tough course with a lot of hills so it was good just to sit and chill for a few minutes before going back out to my teammates to cheer the last of our runners over the line.

Time: 64:50
Gender: 30/36
Age category: 13/16

Probably my worst ever placing!  10 places before the last person.  :(  I have to remember at these races though that they don’t include ‘fun runners’ and tend to be made up of the quicker runners from local surrounding clubs.  There was no-one representing our bottom group at club, and only three others from my group.  I loved the race, despite the hills and had always planned on taking it relatively easy after running my long run the day before and already having a lot of miles in my legs from the past few days.  I didn’t want to stress over times or paces and a combination of putting my Garmin on the wrong arm, on the underside and upside-down helped me achieve that!

Upside-down wrong arm Garmin

I completely forgot to take any cash with me for the race.  Everyone had been raving about the Weedon 10k cake stall at the race HQ for the past few weeks.  I’m pretty sure that was the main reason we had as many supporters as we did on Tuesday!  I had to watch on enviously as everyone else loaded up their cars with cake for after the race.  Next year, I will remember!

I just had a quick search on Google for Weedon 10k cakes, and my search didn’t return any results.  :(  I don’t understand why there would be NO pictures of the amazing display of cakes that were on offer!  My search did, however return a few parkrun cakes…which prompted me to search for those instead.  Check out some of these beauties!

parkrun cakes


I think this one is my favourite.

Parramatta parkrun cake


Parramata parkrun in Australia’s first birthday cake.  Just Wow!  I love all the little details on it like the birds, trees and the parkrun flags!

Almost every Wednesday for the past six months I’ve joined in with an informal trail run.  It’s mainly made up of runners from our running club, although as it is not an official club run, there are a few partners/friends that join in from time to time.  Last night as I was getting ready to head out on the run Dan asked how far I was going.  I replied with “Why?  Do you want to come?”  He explained that he had actually wondered what time I’d make it back home but that he had been planning a little run that night anyway.  (I think after his slower time on Saturday he’s eager not to let his parkrun times slip back again.)  After a little persuasion, I managed to get him to agree to run with us and so we arrived at the pub just before 7pm, along with thirteen other runners.  Trail running is really becoming popular at the moment!

He actually did really well and said he thoroughly enjoyed it so hopefully he’ll be joining us for a few more runs over the Summer.  I think our way of running really suited him – much more stop and start out on a trail with that number of people.  He is comfortable with stop and start running – that’s how footballers are used to running!  There were several gates to climb (or jump if you were one of the boys!…How do they do that?!) and lots of overgrown bridges with nettles.  I am NOT a nettle fan!  There was one large field filled with rape which is now at the point of all being tangled together-a nightmare to run through.  I actually made it to the other side bleeding in several places from where the rape whipped me across my legs!

Starting and finishing at a pub does have it’s perks and we enjoyed a pint at the end of our tough 7.3 mile run.  (Whoops…I told Dan it would only be 6!)  The perfect finish to the day!  :)

Dan and I at the pub after a trail run

Does your partner run out with you?  Ever finish a run at the pub/cakeshop?!  (If not, why not?!)
Do you ever walk during races or is walking a big no-no?  I used to never let myself walk, but I’ve gotten a lot more lax about it since I’ve started running more long distance events.

Send a cow Cleopatra VII!

So two weeks ago I told you that I would be trying out some breakfasts of the greats as found in the Send a Cow The Most Important Meal of Their Lives ebook.

It all started with Jane Austen, then last week it was all about Winston Churchill.  Today, I’ll be creating the breakfast of Cleopatra VII! – Ancient Egyptian loaf of bread.

“Cleopatra VII was the last Pharoah of Ancient Egypt, and presented herself as the reincarnation of the Egyptian Goddess, Isis. As a personification of incredible beauty and power, Cleopatra has always been a popular figure in Western culture.
An understanding of what she might have dined on for breakfast can be gained from the remains of ancient surviving tombs. Typically, bread sweetened with honey, figs and other fruits would have been eaten, which would have of course been prepared and served in luxurious ways.

Now, I’m not a fan of dried fruit, and neither is Dan, so I skipped the sultanas when making the bread.  The mixture was incredibly sticky, and so I ended up dowsing my fingers in oil to mould the bread shapes out onto the tray.  They were supposed to be nice neat triangular shapes…

Cleopatra bread


My first three shapes (on the right hand side of the above tray) were an OKish, smooth shape, but after that I gave up making them look pretty otherwise I would never have gotten to work on time!  Any shape went!  Isn’t this how you make rock cakes?!

Cleopatra bread


Despite their messy appearance on the tray, they didn’t turn out too badly, and like all bread smelt amazing coming fresh out of the oven!Cleopatra bread

VERDICT:  The rolls actually ended up much tastier than I thought they would.  I sliced a couple open and spread some butter inside whilst they were still nice and warm.  With the slight sweetness from the honey they almost tasted like scones.  I’m not sure they will keep me full right through to lunchtime though as there isn’t any real protein in them, but they hit the spot this morning for breakfast.

The free ebook has been launched by charity Send a Cow as part of its new ‘Break… Fast’ appeal and features the breakfasts eaten by the likes of Einstein, Edison, Parks, Mother Theresa and the Apollo 11 crew.  It has been created to raise awareness of the importance of breakfast in helping children in the poorest parts of Africa achieve their true potential.  In addition to vital donations, which will be doubled by the UK government, the appeal aims to raise awareness of the importance of a nutritious breakfast in helping children in the poorest parts of Africa achieve their true potential.

To read more about the Send a Cow Break…Fast appeal and how you can help support African children please visit my first post, or head to the website directly