2014 was a big year

I like to think that each of the last thirty years I have been knocking around on this planet I have filled to the brim with exciting activities and life events.  2014 was again another exciting year, not least because it included my wedding, thirtieth birthday and bashing out my 70 mile ultramarathon!  Here’s the run(!) down of my year…month by month…

January 2014

I kicked off the year with a trip to London with my friend Amanda.


I ran my first 5k multi-terrain race at Wellingborough and also snuck in a parkrun at Peterborough with my friend Vicki, who was wanting to lose weight and tone up before her wedding.WellyMT 5k

February 2014

In February I ran the Irchester Multi-terrain 10k distance, got another parkrun in with Vicki and also a parkrun in Northampton with Dan’s ushers.

February was also Vicki’s 30th birthday – and in fancy dress.

Daphne and Saw

I marshaled at the Thames Trot and got to meet a few people from Twitter in real life.

Sarah and Me - Thames Trot


After two months of waiting we had our offer accepted on a house (although the owners later changed their minds and we ended up not purchasing the house…very frustrating!)

March 2014

In March I helped Vicki get her 5k time down under 40 minutes and also ran a consistent but steady 20 mile race at Oakley 20.

This was also the month where Dan and I started to pass out our wedding invitations to people we might not see again before the wedding.Invitation

April 2014

One of my friends had a baby shower for the twins that she was expecting so I spent an afternoon celebrating with her in Stoke.Amy baby shower giftMy parents and brother visited and we put a lot of work into tidying up our house and garden.Finished garden

I ran a parkrun with Dan, as well as helping marshal a parkrun for the first time, the day before London marathon.

I visited the London marathon expo mid-week and then ran the Virgin London Marathon for the very first time and absolutely loved it.

Dan and I finishers VLM

I also marshaled at the Northampton Running Festival and went down to photograph and support at the Stanwick 10k.

May 2014

In May I ran two of the East Midlands Grand Prix races – the Rugby 6 and Blisworth 5.

I also ran 70k at the Conti 12 hour run on the Bank holiday weekend where I really badly salted up and hadn’t fueled efficiently.  I then went on to support at Milton Keynes marathon the following day.

Salt loss - Conti

I got to wear a silly hat and a bright yellow t-shirt depicting that it was my ‘Hen do‘ whilst celebrating with my closest friends.

My hen do - Norwich

June 2014

I had another go at Shires and Spires 35m although suffered badly with heatstroke on what was a very hot day.  Good job we spotted a shop for ice lollies on the way round!

Shires and Spires eating Calippos!

I also ran a further 2 races as part of the EMGP – Banbury 5 and Weedon 10k and slotted in two more parkruns with Vicki and became Aunt another time to Georgia Anne Pearson.

Baby Georgia Anne

One Sunday I headed to Coombe Abbey to marshal Go Beyond’s running festival on a very hot day and in beautiful grounds.

Go Beyond Coombe Abbey marshaling

July 2014

The final race for the EMGP series was Milton Keynes 10k and I was very happy with my race – just as the series finished!

I also spent a day marshaling at Pitsford Tri with Go Beyond…Go Beyond Pitsford tri marshal

My lovely bridesmaids organised another hen do for me with just my four bridesmaids and we spent the weekend glamping in Norwich.

Camping at Whitlingham

The same weekend I ran the Race for Life 5k with my Mum at Houghton Hall in Norfolk.

Houghton Hall Race4Life

July is also the month of my club’s annual road race – the Welly 5.  I ran the BBQ pre-race-run and marshaled on the day of the race.

W&DAC at the Welly 5 BBQ run

August 2014

On the very first day in August I ran and ran and ran, completing the Grim Reaper 70m race in Lincolnshire.  One of my greatest achievements to date.

Grim Reaper 70 medal

Then just seven days later I got to wear an ivory dress and marry my best friend in a little village in North Norfolk.

Dan and I walking down the aisle at our wedding

I then spent most of the rest of the month on honeymoon in the South of Italy.  Relaxing, enjoying gorgeous food and spending some time with my new hubby.

Me in Cilento on honeymoon

When I returned from honeymoon (and also, a little whilst I was away!) I helped organised my friend Zo’s hen do and spent a weekend in Norfolk chilling with old friends.

Zoe's hen do banner

September 2014

I ran my first trail half marathon in September and found that my body was still recovering from the Grim a month earlier.  I also slotted in another parkrun at Sheringham.

WDAC runners at Royston half marathon

Dan came with me to run our first obstacle race and I really surprised myself by enjoying it as much as I did.  (Although was a lot slower than expected with all of the obstacles to navigate!)

The Gladiator Games - Finish

We also met Dawn French after seeing her show Thirty Million Minutes in Milton Keynes one evening.

Dawn French with Dan and I in Milton Keynes

October 2014

I started the month off by being bridesmaid at one of my best friend’s weddings…

Dan and I at Zo and Snipe's wedding

…grabbing a few hours kip at the end of the night before an early start to my second marathon of the year, Mablethorpe marathon.  Not a PB but I was very happy with my determination and consistency at the race.

Mablethorpe Marathon medal

I gave Dusk ’til Dawn 50 another good go, this time with friends, and learnt even more about my running strengths and weaknesses.  Coming away with a ridiculous injury from the weekend though!

The Dusk 'til Dawn W&DAC crew

October finished by me celebrating (not sure that’s quite the right word!) turning 30 and buying a new car.

I turned 30!

November 2014

I started at a new job in a state school one day a week alongside my existing job, which in January will become a full-time position.

The Three Counties Cross-Country season started for me at Wootton – as I had been away for the first home race the previous month.


I also went away with a large amount of other runners from my club to Gower for the weekend to run a trail marathon (my third marathon of the year) and loved every second.

Gower marathon crew

December 2014

Working at two schools alongside each other got very, very busy and December became rather hectic.  I made two club Runner of the Year videos and made it to the club Christmas meal and presentations evening, where I picked up the Group 5 Runner of the Year award.

Group 5 winnerI slotted in North Herts cross-country the week before Christmas and also snuck in a parkrun at Sheringham on Christmas day with Dan before heading home to a Christmas day feast at my parents’.

Christmas dinner


After spending Boxing Day at home, we spent two days with Dan’s parents in Wolverhampton where they had all of the family round…including seven kids under the age of seven (four nieces, a nephew and two children from next door).  Dan and I acted as child entertainers for the best part of six hours, and made the most of when the kids were quiet (whilst eating!)

Nieces and nephew at Christmas

We spent yesterday afternoon watching Pinocchio the panto in Wellingborough where one of the children I teach is part of the chorus and today we are off to the shops for a few things before a nice meal out and a relaxing start to 2015!

Dan and Me at Panto

An incredibly busy year!!!  How was your 2014?…

Festive running and eating

I’ll start off with the festive running.

Every Christmas, our running club holds it’s annual Christmas Eve Run at our local park.  We all meet up sporting an array of Christmas-themed hats and tinsel by 9:30am, run in small groups for up to an hour before returning to the park cafe where the club pays for a bacon/sausage/veggie roll and hot chocolate/tea/coffee for each member as a Christmas gift.

Christmas Eve club runI’m second from left in blue doing my hair…always seems to be the case in group photos lately!

I thought I was going to have to miss it to be honest.  I woke up on Tuesday morning feeling rubbish – typical sore throat, cold, bad headache, feeling sick…I really didn’t want to eat anything and when I woke up several times through the night unable to breath and coughing so hard I thought I was going to be sick, I genuinely didn’t think I would be able to make the run the following morning.
When I woke though I felt a little better, so ‘manned up’ and headed out before I could change my mind.  Glad I did obviously!

For the social runs like this, we don’t split into formal groups, but instead run with who we choose.  As per the last couple of years I opted for Kev’s ‘Mud and Mayhem’ tour of the park.  And there was very definitely mud!!!

Mud and mayhem on the Christmas Eve run - Tom and MeAs always, I got picked on by the boys.  I made sure to give as good as I got though!

There was also a bit of mayhem…

Mud and mayhem on the Christmas Eve run - hills

…those hills were pretty steep!

Gutted to find that all sausage baps had been eaten by the time we returned.  I don’t like bacon, so opted for veggie sausage instead and to be honest, couldn’t taste the difference.Mud and mayhem on the Christmas Eve runThe next issue was that I had to convince my friend Hayley to let me get in her car, as she’d given me a lift to the park.  Another runner took pity on me and we were lent some old blankets so I sat on those – problem solved!

I think we only ran about 2.5 miles in total but they were a fun and chatty 2.5 miles.

After the run and a (very muddy) bath Dan and I packed up the car and headed to my parents’ for the evening.  I felt a little like Santa once we’d loaded the boot of our car up!

Christmas presents in the boot of the car

Christmas morning and I woke up a very reluctant Dan to head to Sheringham parkrun.  As soon as we arrived he began whinging about the cold and how early it was.  I made the decision there and then not to run with him and avoid hearing about it for another 3.1 miles!  Haha!  Only joking – we decided on the way down to run our own races.  Despite still feeling nowhere near 100% I know my running has gotten stronger just lately and was hoping to beat my time from the last time I had run Sheringham parkrun back in September (31:44).  The course is a tough one and includes a lot of hills, with a killer hill 300 metres from the finish (the parkrun director is mean!)

Neither of us had spare parkrun barcodes with us so we printed them off in the morning on my Dad’s printer.  I was happy to see that the barcodes now include an in-case of emergency number on.  Very handy in case something does go wrong, as a parkrunner will always be carrying their barcode on their run.

parkrun ICE number

There was a fantastic turnout of 99 runners on Christmas morning and a lot of friendly banter and Merry Christmas wishes from all.  Hopefully I can make Christmas morning parkrun a tradition for future years…?

There is a five minute walk from the meeting point to the start line and we were set off pretty much as soon as we arrived.  The wind was very strong and it was rather chilly out.  I overtook quite a lot of people early on – the start of the course is filled with lovely downhills and uphills you barely notice.  Then it gets tougher as you turn into the wood and a few more hills pop up!  The first mile was easy and enjoyable – I completed it in just under 9minutes.  The plan had always been to positive split the run – I think it would be hard not to on a course like this with downhills at the beginning and steep hills at the end!

I did allow myself to walk up two of the bigger hills towards the end.  I was never intending on ‘racing’ it as such – so chatted to other runners around me at this point and regained my breath from all the coughing!

I was happy to see a 29:xx on the watch as I came up Heartbreak Hill at the finish though and sprinted through the funnel to grab a 30:38 finish.Sheringham parkrun timeTaking over a minute off from September, on a tough course and when I was ill.  I’ll take that!  My PB on the Sheringham course is 29:40 and that was when I was in under 27minute shape on a flat course, so there is about a 3 minute difference due to the terrain.

Dan came in at 33:45 – happy to have run a consistent race and all the way up Heartbreak Hill as well!

Then it was home and time for power washing the cars before lunch.  Not a Christmas tradition, but it might well become one.  My car looks so much better for it.

As usual, (and along with almost every other family I am sure) there was a lot of food to be had at Christmas!  There were six of us round the table – my parents, brother, Dan and my Great Aunt Mary.  I’m sure my parents still cooked as though there were the 10+ family members we used to have for dinner when we were younger though.

Mark and Mum at ChristmasWhen I was younger I hated Christmas food.  I don’t still don’t like mince pies, Christmas cake or Christmas pudding but at least I like the main course now.  For years I used to eat one chipolata sausage, a spoonful of sweetcorn and a raw carrot my Mum would save me!  This year my plate looked a lot fuller…

Christmas dinnerIt’s tradition in our family that no presents are opened until the afternoon when all washing up has been done and the Queen’s speech is over and then presents are dished out from under the tree.  I’ll write a separate post about gifts later on in the week, as this post is already pretty long, and about the food and running!

For tea it’s always been an afternoon tea – style tea for as long as I can remember.  And as much as I used to dislike Christmas dinner, I love Christmas tea.

Christmas teaChristmas tea roll

And of course all the desserts.  There was actually enough for one each this year – had we decided to thoroughly pig out!

Christmas cake made by Mum…

Christmas cakeBlack forest gateaux made by Aunt Mary…Black forest gateuxChocolate and vanilla sponge made by Dad…Christmas sponge cake Cranberry cheesecake made by Mum…Christmas cranberry cheesecake Jam tart also made by Mum…Jam tartThere was rumours of a chocolate Christmas log as well, although we really didn’t need it.  There was more than enough food for everyone and Dan and I have brought back a tin of food for our meals back at home today!

How was your Christmas?
Did you get any runs/workouts in?
What was the Christmas food like in your house?

Christmas traditions

This is the eighth Christmas season that Dan and I have been together, and our first as a married couple.  It felt rather weird buying a ‘Husband’ Christmas card from Clintons earlier today.

Over the past eight years our own Christmassy traditions have formed and Christmas just wouldn’t feel right without them.
One of my favourites is our trip to the local ice skating rink near to our house.

Skating at Beckworth Emporium

I am aware that I look rather special here.  Sometimes I’m not sure why Dan wants to take photos with me in at all!

Having never really been ice skating before we got together, and only going once a year since, I always start off a little rusty and holding on to the edge, but by the end of our time on the rink I’m happy skating round on my own (although tensing up anytime a small child whizzes infront of me gripping their small penguin stabiliser.)

Skating at Beckworth Emporium

Three years ago we were in New York for New Year and our skating session was at the Central Park rink – very magical and worth the queue!Skating in New YorkUsually though we head to the rink at the Beckworth Emporium, a Garden Centre which also has a fantastic gift shop and cafe attached.  (Don’t all garden centres?!)

Obviously we made sure to visit during a meal time and I enjoyed their Roast Parsnip Soup for lunch with a couple of slices of really soft bread.

Roast parnsip soup at Beckworth EmporiumDan munched through a chicken burger.  One of the best things about going out to dinner with Dan is that he doesn’t eat any of the veg or salad with a meal, so obviously I got my pickings as a side to my soup.  :)

Chicken burger at Beckworth EmporiumTo top it all though I had one of the best hot chocolates I’ve had in a long while (and I’ve drunk A LOT of hot chocolate lately!) Real cream and flakes of chocolate – Dan was rather envious of this beauty as he sipped on his Coke.

Hot chocolate at Beckworth Emporium

Can you ice skate?  Do you go skating at this time of year?

A new XC course

Yesterday I traveled down to Letchworth for the fourth cross-country race of the Three Counties Cross Country series.

As always I left it to the last minute to leave, but impressed myself when I arrived 20 minutes before the start and had time to queue for the portaloos before the gun.  I took a gentle jog up the track towards the field we would be starting in and chatted to others from my club stood around me.  Then the Club Chairman collared me – announcing that I wasn’t wearing a barcode.  A what now?!  Apparently the club were trialing barcodes on the race numbers for easy scanning at the finish.  All of a sudden I had everyone bustling around me trying to find the correct barcode to match my number before the race start a few minutes later.
Barcode found in time and stuck in place.  Phew!

Barcode race number

The field (of runners) seemed much smaller than at the last cross-country race and I realised early on there was a good chance I’d end up near the back when I spotted nobody from Groups 5 or 6 from our club (having just moved up to Group 4).  The problem is it’s so close to Christmas that people are super busy this time of year, or they’ve already fallen ill with Christmas flu.

I set off feeling quite strong and ran my first mile in 9m 22s.  The course had started out a little boring to be honest – we ran half way round the edge of a field before cutting through to some hard standing track which seemed to go on forever.  I vaguely remembered spotting that spikes were advised on the website but couldn’t understand why at this point as it hadn’t been muddy or soft ground at all.

I started to get the beginnings of a stitch after a mile and knew I needed to drop the pace.  Luckily the terrain here helped me to do so – swapping to a narrow track between trees and down into a small drop with water then back up the other side.  There was a short hill going up the edge of a field and a lot more muddy stretches along here.  It was a really windy morning – and there were only a few points that the wind was pushing us along from behind.  It seemed to be coming at us from the sides the majority of the time and trying to get me into the hedge.

Three runners from my club passed me in the next three miles – leaving me as the back marker for our club.  I’ve never come in last for the club before at a cross-country.  I had managed to get rid of my stitch by this point and my running had stayed fairly rhythmic for a little while, so I upped the pace slightly again and stayed on the tail of the club runner that had passed me most recently.  I finished a few seconds behind, but was not overly unhappy with my race, as I felt I had done a good job of recovering from a poor start.

Position: 280/300
Gender position:

At the end of each cross-country race the hosting club puts on a selection of rolls and cakes as well as a hot drink for each runner.  This year it was Christmas themed and we could choose from turkey and cranberry rolls, ham and mustard, salmon or cheese and pickle.  There were also stacks and stacks of mince pies but not being a fan of those I went for a sparkly-decorated Christmassy bun instead to accompany my ham and mustard roll.

As I returned to my car following the race I had to help several others push their vehicles through the mud tracks that had appeared in the car park field.  Cars were sliding everywhere!  I’m glad I was able to get away soonish before things got too muddy and anyone bashed into my car!

When I got home it was time to wrap up in my dressing gown with my hands around my hot chocolate to keep warm.  I’m loving hot chocolates at the moment.

Hot chocolate time

I uploaded my stats from my watch whilst sipping on my hot chocolate.  I’m really struggling to get my head around the difference in figures between Garmin Connect and Strava.  I’ve religiously logged my runs in GC since I got my first Garmin at the end of 2011 and never had any problems with it.  A few people have pushed for me to link my account to Strava and so for the last month my runs have been uploaded to both.  This is how my run uploaded into each program…

Garmin >>

Letchworth Garmin

Strava >>Letchworth StravaIt’s very frustrating how different the two are.

Do you use more than one device to track your runs/fitness progress?  If so, do you find that they display similar information?