I will run 500 miles

Over the Christmas holidays I received an email from Strava to say that two of my pairs of running trainers had reached the 500 mile guideline for miles that I should run in them.500 miles in your trainers warning from Strava

I do track my runs pretty religiously on Strava as I think it is a great tool.  I also still use Garmin Connect, as I think the times and paces displayed there are closer to what I am actually running.  For some reason, Strava always assumes that I want just the time I am running to be calculated, not any time spent walking, moving slowly or any rests at aid stations in a race.  All of which frequently happen as a trail/ultra runner.  Strava appears to be much better with the social side of running and it is easy to follow, like and runs my friends make.  Strava shows up whether or not any of my runs have been with other Strava users, and on the fly-by part of the site it also displays whether or not any other runners ran close by whilst I was out on my run.  Whether I saw them or not!  This makes for finding out some great new routes in my area!  I also think the shoe miles which you are able to log for each run is a great feature to have.Shoe mileage on Strava

Unfortunately, both pairs of running trainers I purchased/had bought for me this time last year have topped the mileage I’m supposed to safely run in them without incurring injury.Nimbus 16s after 500 milesYou can really see in that photo just how much the tread has worn town across the ball of my foot.

Fortunately, this, combined with the birthday money I was given specifically to put towards new running trainers back in October, meant that I had a great excuse to buy some new shoes over Christmas.Brand new Asics Nimbus 16sJust look at how super shiny they are in comparison.  And how much tread is on the bottom of those shoes.  I am always very wary about overusing my shoes and ending up injured.  When I first put my new pair on last Winter, I can remember them making my feet feel so springy out on a run.  Not so much after 544 miles though!  At least, if I am getting through my trainers at round-a-bout the same time each year, it means I will always be able to stick them on my Christmas list!  😉

My new trainers are the exact same model of shoe, in the exact same size.  (If something works, why change it?!)  The Asics Nimbus 16s.  I don’t understand how my old shoes appear so much smaller though?…Any suggestions?!  Did they shrink to fit my feet?  I do wear massive flipper-feet-sized shoes.  *cough* size 10.5 *cough*

Brand new Asics Nimbus 16sI like to have a couple of pairs of trainers which I can rotate, especially during the wet Winter months.  There have been a few days I’ve had to head back out on a run in still-soggy trainers, even when I’m rotating two pairs, and that is never nice!

I’m less strict about sticking to the 500 mile guideline when it comes to trail shoes, as I think often it is the impact of the tarmac surface which causes trainers to wear down quite as quickly as they do.  I shall continue to rotate my two current pairs of trail shoes for a little longer, even though the trail shoe sale at Sportsshoes has been calling me just lately…

I shall relegate my old Nimbus 16s for gym/cross-trainer work.  No longer fit for running on the road.

How often do you buy new running shoes?
How many pairs do you own?

A parkrun photographer once more

Yesterday morning I returned to Northampton parkrun as a photographer once more.

When I volunteered as photographer for the first time a fortnight ago, I was unhappy with my pictures, and vowed to return to do a better job.

I couldn’t make parkrun last week, as I was marshaling the Country to Capital race on the Saturday morning down in Wendover.  Annoyingly I’m very close to claiming my 50th parkrun t-shirt and really wanted to tot some runs up in the early months of this year.  Taking photographs which I was satisfied with was a higher priority this week though!  Although I’m fairly satisfied with the raw photo on my camera this time round, annoyingly once the photos were compressed to be sent over, and then uploaded to Facebook (compressing ever further), the images were much less sharp than the copies I have at home.  Still a learning process, but I will get there!  It is so satisfying to know that on a Saturday afternoon runners are eagerly awaiting the pictures I have taken that morning though.

The attendance record for Northampton parkrun was smashed this weekend, with 410 runners taking part on Saturday morning.  The event usually sees numbers hitting somewhere around the early 300s.  There was also a new course record set this week by Paul Pollock, who ran an incredible 15 minutes and 13 seconds.  The new record set by Paul included a slightly longer distance, as he missed a turning and ended up running past a marshal to take a 100 metre detour in the first half of the course!

I knew the front runners were fast.  The Northampton course consists of one and a half laps, and after standing near to the start so that I could get a few pictures as the run began, I remained in a similar position to try and catch the front runners coming by for their second, slightly shorter lap.  It seemed to be only minutes before I was setting my camera up for the first batch of runners that came through.  There was a guy on a bike ‘pacing’ the runner in second place, and he shouted ahead to the leading male to ‘turn left’ as he approached the turn off.  I realised afterwards that this was because Paul had missed the turnoff earlier on.

I stood continuing to take photos of the runners coming through the first lap.  Again, it seemed to only be minutes before I saw the lead runners again, now lapping runners who would probably be about where I would be placing if I had chosen to run that day.  I’ve never been lapped on the Northampton parkrun course unless I have decided to pace or run with someone else.

Andrew Baddeley at Northampton parkrunThe guy in second position was Andrew Baddeley, the parkrun world record holder.  His 5k parkrun PB was set back in the Summer of 2012 with a time of 13:48!

Once the front runners had come through I rushed closer to the finish to try and capture as many finisher photos as I could as runners headed along the grass towards the finish funnel.

Mandy at Northampton parkrunOne guy came through in jeans, one child had gone back to drag his Mother over towards the finishing line and another poor kid lost his trainer on the finishing sprint, so nipped back for it before crossing the line.

Marshals at Northampton parkrunThe marshals, as always, were brilliant, and were there until the very last runner had completed the run.

Last week, Northampton parkrun had just one volunteer by the Friday evening.  A panicked message was sent out on social media, and luckily, enough volunteers stepped up to ensure that the event could go ahead.  It’s a shame that with so many runners there aren’t always enough people willing to give up their time so that the events may continue though.

Next week I am headed back to Norfolk to meet my friend’s new baby boy, so I shall be attending Sheringham parkrun once more.  The following week I will be running the Thames Trot 50 mile event down in London.  I couldn’t remember if I had mentioned this on the blog before now though?  I haven’t really spent a lot of time thinking about it just yet.  Give me another week…!

Looks like my 50 parkrun t-shirt is still a few weeks away…

What is the parkrun course record for your local course?

Some marshaling fun at Country to Capital!

Over the past few years I have worked at lots of Go Beyond race events.  Go Beyond put on a wide variety of events, from duathlons to 10ks to ultramarathons.  My absolute favourite of their events to work at though are the ultras.  There’s something about the relaxed atmosphere at an ultra…Runners about to head out for 45 or more miles just casually chatting about other upcoming events and greeting other runners that they have met a handful of times already, always at previous similar events.  I often end up learning quite a bit following conversations with ultrarunners who are milling around the race HQ on race day.

Last Saturday I marshaled at the Go Beyond Country to Capital 45 mile race.  It meant a pretty early get up time of just after 4am, as I was due to pick up Laura and her fiancé in Northampton at 5:15am, ready for our ‘shift’ to begin on the race registration desk at the Shoulder of Mutton pub in Wendover by 6:30am.  It didn’t take long before the first runners were headed our way to collect their race packs and we tried to get as many entrants as we could through the process before we were hit with the ‘train runners’.  The train runners were those who had traveled down by train to the race start and were then herded to the event HQ by Race Director, Steve Adams in a long and orderly fashion just fifteen minutes before the race began.

Me on the registration desk at Country to Capital 2016(Picture found on lozza113’s Instagram.  I’d like to think I looked much jollier than this in real life though.  Someone please confirm!)

Start line of the Country to Capital

I do love the start of ultra events; runners stood around chatting and at ease – no psyching themselves up and stood in silence like before a 10k.  Most of the runners seem to already know each other from previous events, and I recognised quite a few of them dotted about at the weekend.  Some from events I have run or marshaled at, and some from Twitter and Instagram accounts.  It was nice to finally meet @UltraBoyRuns and @ChilternDiva amongst others, who both came over to chat before the start.  Steve counted down from 10 and then the runners set off.

The #countrytocapital runners are off! Good luck all! #C2C #ultra #gobeyond

A video posted by Mary (@ahealthiermoo) on

The front runners sped down the hill outside the pub.  At the bottom of the road runners have to form a single file line to cross a gate, so it is first come, first served and a race to get there to beat the queues!  At the other extreme, some of the back runners walked down the hill and when Laura and I headed inside to clear up the mess left behind by 300 excitable ultrarunners, there were even a couple of runners sauntering out from the toilets, in no real rush to begin the race at all!

Once the pub was looking slightly more respectable again and there were no banana skins in sight, Laura, her fiancé Neil, and I headed to Checkpoint number two ready to set up our post.  It was fairly chilly until the sun came out so we made sure to wrap up warm and stay sat in the car for as long as absolutely possible before we had to get out and set up our station.  Our station was the one before the ‘feeding station’, so we just had a supply of Gu gels (I’m in love with these at the moment!), jelly babies and the famous Go Beyond fruit cake to hand out to runners.  And many, many bottles of water.Marshaling at CP2 of the Country to Capital

Alongside the three of us were two volunteers who lived nearby.  Neil worked with these two on the table itself – helping runners that stopped by for supplies.  Laura directed people towards the dibbing in stand, set up on the road a few metres before runners reached the supplies table.  As runners ran through, dibbing their chips into the tracking reader, she shouted their race numbers out to me, and I wrote them down alongside their time on my recording sheet.  Although not necessary for results, this process helps us to communicate between marshals at other checkpoints and ensure that we are aware if a runner loses their way or goes missing, potentially before we might otherwise have been alerted to this fact.

Marshaling at CP2 of the Country to Capital

Before the front runner (James Elson from Centurion Running) made his way through our checkpoint we had received a call from the marshal on checkpoint one to let us know the time James had gone through their station, so we were able to prepare ourselves with an approximate arrival time of the front runners.

James Elson actually went on to win the 45 mile event in under five hours.  A time it took me ten attempts to break for a marathon – almost half the distance!

We also received a text when the marshals had broken down the first checkpoint.  The text contained the race numbers of the final few runners that had made their way through the first station so if again, if we were left waiting for just one or two runners, we would be able to potentially identify who they were much quicker.

By mile eighteen at an ultra event the runners have spaced out pretty well and other than the front pack of runners who come through at high speed, (usually without stopping) the rest of the runners trickle through and there is plenty of time to get organised.  For future reference though runners, please don’t display your race number on your back.  It’s hard to record when a batch of ten runners come through at once!  If you must pin it to your back (surely it’s easier to pin to your front where you can see what you are doing?!) then please have it memorised to shout out to us as you pass!Marshaling at CP2 of the Country to Capital

The last runner through our checkpoint came in long before the cutoff times, so we were able to pack up and clear down early.  John and Jo had already arrived with the Go Beyond van to collect our supplies, table and chip dibber, so then we were free to treat ourselves to a burger at the pub that so many of the supporters had already found their way to.

Food after the Country to Capital

We had left Wendover by mid afternoon and so I was home in plenty of time for tea and to pack my bag ready for a nice snowy trail run the following day, but I’ll blog about that in another post now…

On a completely separate matter, A Healthier Moo has been voted as one of the top five blogs in the ‘running’ category of the Trespass Blog Awards!
Voting is now down to the final five, and the blog in each category with the most votes will win their category, receive a Trespass Prize Pack and access to a range of offers and perks throughout the year so please vote for me! :)

Trespass Blog Awards NomineeDue to a larger workload from school this term I haven’t been able to be quite so active in the blogging community just lately, so it was lovely to receive an email last week informing me that I had been shortlisted for this award.

Are you an early morning riser at the weekend?
Do you prefer office work or working outdoors?

A parkrun photographer

…but not a very good one I’m afraid!

I had a look at the parkrun volunteering rota for Northampton on Friday morning.  I’d established by that point that I would leave parkrun alone last week to help my toe fully recover ready for my upcoming 50 mile race!  On the way into work I realised just how much better my toe felt than it had done though.  I had whacked on some large boots on Thursday evening and headed out for a walk around town before tea and this must have loosened things up a little.
When I was looking on the volunteering rota I was actually really checking to see if the tail runner position had already been filled.  At Northampton, the last runners often take more than 50 minutes, a speed that I felt I would be able to comfortably walk the distance in, perhaps jogging occasionally along at the back.  I still want my 50 parkrun t-shirt!

The tail runner position had already been filled, but they were after a timekeeper for the morning.  I headed to the Northampton parkrun Facebook page to volunteer my services, but somebody had beaten me to it.  :(  The photographer role was still up for grabs though, so I decided to stick my name down for that instead.

The rain poured down throughout the whole drive over to Northampton.  I left early – around 8am, hoping to find a parking spot at the Racecourse easily, but the car infront of me took the last one.  It was OK, I know where all of the parking spots on surrounding roads are.  Many a mad dash from car to start has taken place on a Saturday morning before!

I stood talking to other runners in the rain a little longer than I perhaps should have done before legging it over to my chosen spot on the other side of the park – halfway up the only hill on the course.  I managed to run okay in my boots, despite my broken toe!

I made it just in time before the lead runners came bombing past.  I had been really worried about the lack of light, as the sky was still very dark.  I was worried about missing anyone, cutting vital body parts out of the shots or producing sub standard photos.  I love heading to local races I’m not running in and taking photos of the runners on their way to the finish, but there is no pressure there as I never tell anyone I am going to show up beforehand.  Nobody expects me to be out taking photos or looks for the photos online after finishing the race, as most of the time they dodn’t even realise I’m there on the side of the road.

I checked on the camera screen as best I could inbetween runners and the images appeared to be coming out OK thankfully, so I carried on snapping away from my vantage point near the top of the hill.  The rain came in stages, but I had my camera lens tucked inside a plastic bag, with a hole for the end of it to stick out.  Real professional, me! 😉

These guys were wearing a fabulous set of t-shirts!  Front and back!

We love parkrun, oh yes we do! t-shirtsThe Northampton parkrun course is run over one and a half laps of the Racecourse so I saw each of the runners twice.  There were a few sparser moments where runners were running with nobody else or very few people around them, and it gave me a chance to play with my shot setups a little, taking a few closeups.

Andy at Northampton parkrunBob at Northampton parkrunThese didn’t come out too badly.  Whenever I head to a race to take photos I tend to take shots of individuals, – runners from my running club.  I’m used to hunting out one person from within a group and focusing on taking many shots of that person as they run past.  At parkrun on Saturday I was desperately trying to ensure I got shots of everybody and unfortunately the quality of my photos paid the price for this.  See below as an example.

9th January at Northampton parkrunBlurry and unfocused.  I don’t know if it was the light, the 300ml lens I had chosen to shoot with, not picking clear subjects, an unsteady, cold hand?  But I was so disappointed to look through the pictures when I returned home again.  I approved 93 out of over 300 photos for uploading.  Good job I took plenty to choose from to begin with!

If you have been reading my blog for any length of time at all you will have come to realise how much of a perfectionist I am and how I like everything I deliver to be absolutely perfect.  I felt rather embarrassed not to be delivering a complete set of photos to the parkrun RD later that day.  Completely irrational as it was something I had volunteered to do.  No-one made me take the photographs, and had I not volunteered to head over with my camera, they wouldn’t have had any photos at all!

Northampton parkrun – Hi. I’ve got 93 photos so far. Shall I expect more to come?
Mary P – I took a couple of hundred photos but to be honest the light was pretty rubbish this morning and along with the rain they didn’t make the best shots. I’ll try editing some of the others now to see if I can improve them any and then add them to those in the dropbox. I’m rather annoyed at how they came out. :( Sorry.
Northampton parkrun – Sorry? For what exactly? :) Thanks for taking the photos in the first place!
Just let me know when you think you are finished and I will upload them. No rush, and don’t overdo it. Remember, you won’t get a bonus or anything. lol. :)
I know, the light can be pretty rubbish, I tend to struggle with it myself when I do it.
Mary P – Thanks. Just didn’t want to let anyone down as lots of people seemed to play up for camera today!
Northampton parkrun – I know what you mean, I felt so guilty for every bad photo I had to throw away, but now I think they understand we are not professional photographers – I am certainly not, I assume you aren’t either – and they are happy with whatever they get. Also, if you do it a few more times you will get better and better. I did anyway, learned a lot, yet it won’t stop me messing it up every now and then. haha. :) Come and do it again next week, I’m sure you will be more pleased with the results! (especially if there is more light. ;))
We struggle to find a photographer more often than not, and the runners love the photos, but I can’t do it next week as I am RD.
Mary Pearson – I’ve added another 39 images to the folder now, although I’m not very happy with the quality. :(
I can’t make next week I’m afraid as I am marshaling at the Country 2 Capital race, but if I could come along to take some photos the week after I would be grateful. I have unfinished business now! I think I might be better off trying the start/finish line rather than trying to get everyone in at once from under the trees where there is no light.
Thank you for your kind words.
Northampton parkrun – That’s the spirit! :) (Just how I felt after the first time haha)
Thanks for the photos, I’ve got a total of 132 now. I’ll start uploading them in a few minutes.
Yep, finding the right location is important. I like it near the finish. Runners putting in that last bit of effort tend to make really good photos! I think I’m RD on that week too, so I’ll probably see you on the 23rd!
And please, feel free to come any other week, it seems if I’m not doing it (and I can’t always, even when I’m not RD) no one does, and the runners love the photos!
Thanks again.

Sometimes all it takes for me to relax and not stress over silly little things is a few kind words from somebody else.  I felt much better after a Facebook chat with the Race Director.

I happened to be on the Northampton parkrun Facebook page this evening and caught sight of all of the comments and likes my photos received…

Northampton parkrun photos…and I relaxed even more.

The running community is a fabulous one.  The photos weren’t my best, but I shall do better next time.  Reading the appreciative messages about the photos (from people who didn’t know how much I had stressed!) on the parkrun page was very rewarding. In fact, it made me want to put myself through it all over again next weekend! 😉
I shall be back Northampton, and I will have worked on those photography skills!

Do you take many photos?
Any top photography tips you want to share with me?
Have you ever volunteered to take photos at an event before?
If you have volunteered at parkrun before, what is your favourite role?