Desperation to run the London marathon

There’s a marathon taking place in two weeks time.  There’s a good chance that even if you have no interest in running you will still know something about this one.

A couple of the (non-running related) big Youtubers I follow seem to be running the event this year, articles keep popping up online and even Radio 2 featured an interview with Paula Radcliffe earlier in the week.

I was lucky enough to gain a club ballot place at the London marathon back in 2014.  I had been interested in running the London marathon since I first started running in 2011.  However, unlike for some it wasn’t my dream race, or one I felt that I had to run.  I’d already run three marathons and an ultra marathon by the time I reached the VLM start line in April 2014.

VLM number

This didn’t stop the barrage of questions coming from non-running friends, family and work colleagues who knew that I would be running the London marathon that year though.  You’ll be surprised at how many people suddenly become interested when you drop into the conversation that it is London marathon that you will be running.  They’ve heard of that race.  That one is on TV.  The other marathons weren’t real marathons were they?Are they the same distance as the London marathon?…!

Last year for the first time, the Virgin Money London Marathon operated a new ballot entry system for entry to the event.  In previous years, the ballot opened on the Monday eight days following the race and remained open until 125,000 wannabe runners had entered their names into the metaphorical hat.  Last year though, the lottery system changed and the ballot entry system remained open for five whole days, meaning that in total, 247,069 wannabes were in the hat ready for the draw to take place months later for even less places in the race.  The VMLM website states that this change was made to reflect the large number of people previously unable to enter due to ‘religious holidays, shift work, family commitments and other reasons’.

In total, there are 50,000 places issued for the race each year.  (Apparently just 35,000 of this number make it to the start line on race day for one reason or another.)  This number is not made up purely of ballot entries though.  The number also accounts for the high number of charity entries, elites and the ever growing list of Good For Age (GFA) and Championship start runners.  Basically, your chances of getting in through the ballot are very small indeed.  Allegedly the quality of runners we have in the UK has increased substantially over recent years and so a few years back, the GFA guidelines were tightened further.  As a result, I would now need to achieve a separate marathon time of 3h 45m or faster in order to qualify for a GFA place in London.  Probably not entirely impossible.  I’m sure if I worked bloody hard and trained solely for one event I could cut my marathon times by a large margin, but I would very definitely have to sacrifice a lot to get there for my current starting point!

I won a 2014 place through my running club ballot.  Every affiliated running club in the UK is issued a number of ballot places dependent upon the number of runners in their club.  In the past, our club had always been allocated four places, but last year, despite membership numbers increasing, we were offered just three.  Each club seems to lay down their own rules when it comes to entering for a chance to win a place for London.  Our club grants one entry for each member who has been so for a minimum of a year, followed by a further entry if you marshal or run at our club Summer race, the Welly 5.  A third entry can be gained by running enough races to score for WDAC in the local series, the Northamptonshire Road Running League.  I like that our club reward for supporting the club events, and also showing that you are willing to compete for the club.

When you’ve been in the running world a little while, you can spot the runners that seem to get a place in the London marathon year after year.  They’re not fast enough for a GFA, don’t appear to be raising any money for charity, yet have taken an entry for several years in a row.

There’s an event near where I live called the Colworth Marathon Challenge.  I ran it for the first time last year and loved it.  The concept is that you run a marathon over the three days of the weekend.  Five miles of road on the Friday evening, a trail 8.1m on Saturday lunchtime and then topped off with a trail half marathon on the Sunday morning.  It’s a great event with fab support and several of our club take advantage of the free camping in the grounds for the weekend to turn it into a proper party event!

Colworth marathon challenge numbers

Results are published for all three events, but then also for the Marathon Challenge with a cumulative time.  Although not being an actual marathon, it seems that VMLM have been accepting these times for GFA entries unknowingly.  Although some of the route for Colworth is off-road and rutty, – running a marathon over three days, with time for rest, recovery and lots of food inbetween is in no way the same as gaining the same time as running a genuine marathon in one day.

Something that really winds me up is when people swap numbers for large events.  Lots of smaller events offer to let you transfer numbers, as Race Directors don’t want to see places go to waste.  Injuries, pregnancies, and all number of other things can happen between entering and race day.  It makes sense to allow runners to transfer numbers at smaller events, as long as updated ICE numbers and medical details are given.  In a balloted race though, this cannot be an option.  It would be unfair if you gained a place in the race just because you had fast (or lucky/unlucky!) friends.

In one of the Facebook blogger groups I’m a member of, a link was recently shared to a post talking about an American blogger who has been banned from Boston following an initial donation of her race bib to a friend and then using her friend’s time to qualify for Boston the following year.  Have a read and let me know what you think.  I had a place for the Great North Run (another balloted event) back in 2013 which I wasn’t able to run as it conflicted with a race scheduled as part of my Women’s Running magazine win.  A friend asked if he could have the place and although the place was just going to go to waste otherwise, I was worried that something might happen, or that both him and I would lose our right to be able to enter future British road races, as threatened in the race pack.  I lost my place in the end.
At a recent local event, a runner known to our club had passed on their place to another runner, who then happened to win a prize for coming in 3rd in his age category, when in fact the person who had run in his place was not in that age category at all.  The poor person who thought they had just been pipped to the post and crossed the line in 4th should have gone home with a prize instead.

Anyway, back to London…

Cons – Having to apply a year in advance and, for the majority of runners, not finding out for another six months whether or not you have been issued with a place.  An expensive event when you total everything up, it also requires great planning by yourself and any supporters for race day to navigate where you and they should be and when.  You have to attend the race expo (or nominate a friend to head down with your ID) in the four days before race day, meaning that if you don’t live in London you will be spending a lot of that week out that way!  Also, if you don’t like feeling trapped, this probably isn’t the race for you as for several miles your pace will be dictated by those around you.  The streets will be littered with unseen water bottles that you are often unable to miss, potentially causing injury and wiping you out in the very beginning.Half way VLM

Pros – The atmosphere is amazing, the support line the streets for the entire course and there is a good chance that you will be able to spot some of the elites out on the course as the route snakes back on itself at halfway.  The race has ‘status’ from non-runners who will most likely spend the morning trying to look out for you (amongst the other 34,999 runners) on TV!  There are pacers available for a wide variety of finish times and the organisation is spot on.Mo at London

Although I loved running the London marathon and would love to run it again one day, if I don’t gain a place in the ballot for 2017 when places are issued in October, I won’t be too upset and I won’t be going about an ‘illegal’ entry method to gain a place.  I am very excited to go down and support for a second year on the 24th April and I feel very lucky that I have been able to run the race when many others are still waiting for their lucky entry.  But there are so many other fantastic marathons out there for me to go and try.  Some for just a fraction of the cost and hassle that come with running London!

What has been your favourite marathon?
Have you run the London marathon?
Would you ever be untruthful in order to gain a place for a race?

A much needed break over Easter

So as a teacher I get two weeks off for Easter.  Dan also had the first of my two weeks off, and so I decided to take a complete break from work for that week.  This week I’m slotting in a class of coursework marking each day (about 5-6 hours worth).  Broken down into little doses helps to make me feel like I’m still on top of things!

It was lovely to have a complete week without work last week though.  It gave me lots of opportunities to run, blog, catch up with friends and spend time with Dan.  It feels very unnatural to allow myself to put work completely out of mind for a while, but I enjoyed it!  I’m already looking forward to later this year when my workload will be decreasing immensely.  More to come on that soon!

Anyway, last Saturday was parkrun #49.  50th one coming up next weekend!

As has become the norm recently, I ran with Laura around the Northampton course.  For a change though last week Dan joined us, although ran slightly ahead of Laura and I.

Dan and Me at parkrunIt was chilly when we arrived so hoodies stayed on until the last possible minute, before tossing them under the tree.

It has been really nice running at a casual chatty pace for the past few parkruns.  Although the pace was still easy on Saturday it felt like something was really pushing down at the base of my stomach which made it a little uncomfortable for the first couple of miles.  I carried on running and chatting though and the uncomfortable feeling had eased by the end.

Dan had had no real aim for the parkrun, having not run one since last Summer.  He ended up trotting round in 30:59, slightly ahead of Laura and I.

Official time: 32:36
Position: 288/383
Gender position: 86/149
Age grading position: 13/22

I am really missing the build up for marathon race day this year.  Since starting running in the Summer of 2011 this will be the first Spring where I’m not running a marathon and it feels really surreal to still be reading statuses from friends about how their 20 mile runs are going.  I do have London marathon spectating to look forward to in a fortnight though which I’m so excited about.  The atmosphere at that race is like no other and the London Marathon theme music really gives me the chills.

As well as having last week off, Dan had also booked the Tuesday of this week off so that we could go and watch the Wolves game in Milton Keynes stadium.  Not really my thing, but as Dan pointed out, I have been to several games now, you could almost class me as a fan!  I even wore my Wolves top for the game!

After I had got a little work done in the morning, and we had demolished some sandwiches for lunch, we drove over to Milton Keynes to have a little look around a couple of the shops.  We also headed over to Bletchley Park for a couple of hours as it was somewhere that Dan wanted to visit.  There was a lot of reading required and I was feeling quite tired by the end of the time there.  The admission price is actually for a pass for the full year though, so perhaps we shall visit again in the Summer.

Me and Dan at Bletchley Park

As we’re still hunting for a few pieces of furniture we then finished up in Ikea, sampling their famous meatballs for tea.  We didn’t make any purchases, as we had already parked up by the football ground, walking over to Ikea, but Dan now has a list of things to buy next time he heads back home to Wolverhampton past the Wednesbury store.

Wolves playing at MK Stadium

It was very odd sitting up in the tiered seating at MK Dons.  I’ve visited several times before, all to run in or support at the marathon though.  We ended up behind a bunch of proper loud, gobby teenagers who decided to stand and shout for the entire match, meaning that we also had to stand in order to see any of the game.  My legs were exhausted by the time we headed for home a few hours later.  Standing up all day is a lot more tiring on the legs than it is running all day! 😛

In food news, I am LOVING watermelon right now.  Good job, as I bought this GIANT watermelon from Tesco the other day without really thinking about how long it would take to get through.  Dan won’t touch watermelon so I’m in this one on my own.  I started on Tuesday and I’m still going strong at the moment!

GIANT watermelon(The pen is there as a size comparison!)

I think it’s something about the warmer weather and knowing that Summer is on the way.  Having said that though, I’ve recently gone back to my beloved porridge bowls in the morning.  I’d gone off porridge for most of the Winter, and all of a sudden it’s back on my radar again.

Porridge with blueberries

Are you a football fan?
Did you do anything special to mark your 50th parkrun?
Do you eat differently during the Summer/Winter?

A parkrun April Fools

So it turns out that parkrun organisers enjoy April Fool’s Day more than most.  Last year I enjoyed statuses on several of my local parkrun Facebook pages.  This year I decided to see if there were any other parkrun event organisers who had also got their imaginative thinking caps on for Friday.

Here is what I found…!

Bracknell parkrun

Chelmsford parkrunCleethorpes parkrunCorby parkrunGedling parkrunHatfield Forest parkrunHuntingdon parkrun

Link to the Lirpa Loof video on YouTube.Kesgrave parkrunKillerton parkrunKingsway parkrunMaidstone parkrunMarket Harborough parkrunOakwell Hall parkrunPeterborough parkrunSwansea Bay parkrun

Which is your favourite from the above?
Did your local parkrun take part?

What are some of the best April Fool’s Day pranks you’ve heard?  (parkrun or otherwise)

Easter weekend

It was gorgeous weather last Friday, the first day of the Easter holidays, so Dan and I decided to head over to a local National Trust park and enjoy our first icecream of 2016.  Obviously it’s all about the Feast icecream in Summer.First icecream of the yearThe staff in the cafe were clearly out of practice at serving after a quiet and wet Winter, as despite there only being three people in the queue ahead of us, and three members of staff on, it took nearly 15 minutes to purchase our icecreams(!) so I swapped them just before we bought them as they had begun to melt in the warm cafe queue.

After icecream we decided to head out on a wander around the grounds.  I wore my boots, but should have swapped to my trail shoes which I’d left in the back of the car as it was still pretty muddy in the wooded areas where the sun hadn’t yet reached.First icecream of the year

The following morning was parkrun number 48 for me.  (Just two to go now!)  I decided to head back to Northampton again and run with Laura.  With the road works on the A45 having caused me to sprint to the start a few weeks back and then miss the start completely last time I ran the Northampton course, I decided to leave super early at 7:50am.  Because this is me, this then meant that the road works ended up not even happening last week and so I arrived super early, although only just early enough to nab the last remaining parking space at the Racecourse venue.

Arriving at parkrun super early

Laura’s aim was to beat her time from our last visit to parkrun (33:43), hopefully achieving a sub 33 minute run.

We set out at a fairly easy (for me) pace which Laura maintained pretty consistently for the whole 5k.  And we still managed to get a bit of a gossip in too!

Mile 1: 10:05, Mile 2: 10:11, Mile 3: 10:04, Nubbin (0.16m): 9:41 pace.

Garmin time: 31:51
Official time:
Position: 254/333
Gender position: 79/138
Age category position: 12/23

Laura easily beat her 33 minute target.  Obviously a trip to Northampton parkrun with Laura isn’t complete without following it up with a trip to Magee’s, where my regular salted caramel tart came with a piece of honeycomb so large it covered the tart itself!  I was still picking at the honeycomb by the time Laura had finished her food and was sipping on the dregs of her hot chocolate!

Salted caramel tart from Magee's in NorthamptonThe Magee’s trip was followed up with a long bubble bath whilst watching the Cardiff half marathon on my iPad.  What a finish for the guys out on that course.  They had it pretty tough towards the end.
Perfect Saturday!

Sunday, of course, was Easter.  Dan presented me with this Galaxy Easter egg whilst still in bed on Sunday morning.  It didn’t come with my favourite salted caramel bar so he wrapped one with ribbon around the top of the egg.  I married a goodun!Galaxy easter egg with added salted caramel

Turns out Bella thought she would like some of my Easter egg and this picture has been making me laugh ever since I took it!

Bella with her tongue out

With just five weeks before Milton Keynes half marathon, Laura was anxious to prove to herself that she could still run further than the 5k distance, and so we stuck to our tradition of running the Stanwick 10k route an hour and a half before the race on Easter Monday before then cheering the rest of our club out on the course.

2013 supporting * 2014 supporting * 2015 supporting

One of our coaches lives on a farm out on the course and every year always puts this sign up outside  It’s about 3-4 miles into the course so just as the runners will be needing a little boost.

Supporting WDAC on the Stanwick 10kAs you can probably see from the photo, it was so wet and windy out on the course on Monday morning.  There were parts where it felt like we were actually running backwards because the wind was pushing against us that hard.  I wore a cap out on the run so that I didn’t get rain in my contacts, but the cap blew off my head completely three times!  The wind and rain had kept me up most of the night.  I’m such a light sleeper normally anyway, but I could hear bins being overturned outside and the wind and rain hitting the window was so loud that when I woke at 5:25am I didn’t bother even trying to go back to sleep!  Laura and I were hi-vised up as part of the 10k route runs along the side of the A6 dual carriageway.  It’s all cordoned off with cones along the side of the road and there weren’t very many cars when we ran along at 8:30 in the morning.  I wouldn’t want to head that way on a busy day though!

Just after we turned off the A6 the wind caught our backs and we had a much quicker mile as we were almost pushed down the rolling hill.  I’ve always thought Stanwick 10k was quite hilly, but having run the course for the third year in a row now I’ve changed my mind and think the course could quite suit me with the rolling hills.  Perhaps I shall actually race it next year instead…although that would be breaking tradition!

As you enter the village of Chelveston you come to a ford crossing.  In previous year, the runners have just run straight through the ford, but after all the rain from the previous evening it was looking rather deep in the middle and Laura and I decided not to chance it so took the wimpy way across the little footbridge instead.  It was rather slippy when we headed across though, and it turns out even the front runners headed over the footbridge so I don’t know how muddy and slippery it must have been by the end!
Flooded in Chelveston on the Stanwick 10kWe got back in time to quickly change, meet up with a few other Wellingborough supporters, and see the runners off.

Startline at Stanwick 10kOur club colours do tend to dominate this race rather, as it is so local to us, but it is Corby who always win the top prizes.

After the runners set off, the rain had started up again, so we escaped to the pub over the road for hot drinks and to warm up for half an hour with some other guys from our club before returning back outside to cheer the runners through the finish.  As well as lots of runners in the event, we also have lots of cheer support and that final corner can get pretty loud when a green vest is spotted running round the corner!

I got a lift home and couldn’t stop shivering as I’d been out so long since my run earlier that morning.  I wrapped up in blankets whilst waiting for my bubble bath to run!

Very wet and soggy after the Stanwick 10k

What’s your favourite icecream?
Did you get any Easter eggs this year?
Any runs in the wind and rain?