Milton Keynes half marathon – the race for the cow

The weekend before last was a double whammy of races with the Rocket 5k on the Sunday, followed by the Milton Keynes half marathon on the Monday morning.

When I had signed up for the race several weeks earlier, I had agreed to run round with Laura, who was recovering from injury.  Laura at the time optimistically hoped for 10 minute miles, but I was doubtful she would return to full fitness in time for this, knowing also that I would no longer be able to run at 10mm pace for 13.1 miles, especially if the weather turned nice during the morning, as it seems to have done on all but the first of the Milton Keynes marathon days!

With limited long run training taking place beforehand, Laura opted for a run-walk technique for the race on the day with the aim of running for as long as possible before having to take walking breaks out on the course.

Having either raced or driven over for the race on each of the MK event days since 2012 when they first started up I knew just the sidestreet to park down so shared my insider information with Laura. Turns out though that the event organisers had shared my secret sidestreet in the race information booklet though and despite arriving with plenty of time to spare when we arrived there was no longer any spaces left!  Laura and I followed the convoy of cars which eventually led into a business estate, a short walk from the stadium start.

The weather did end up being ridiculously warm on race morning  and I was glad that shorts and a t-shirt had been my chosen race outfit.  I would have preferred just a vest rather than having to wear my club vest over my chosen t-shirt, but it wasn’t to be!  I had thought ahead, knowing that my regular fitted ladies club vest was getting rather snug over my growing pregnancy belly and boobs.  It was fine for purpose for the 5k on the Sunday but for longer distances I knew it would a) not look very attractive and b) potentially start to rub under my arms.  Therefore, I purchased a new male vest the week before the race.  The male vests have larger arm holes and are less fitted around the stomach.  I was hoping it would allow me to run without having to wear a top underneath, but on testing my new piece of race kit out a few days before the half marathon I realised that I would not be able to wear the vest on it’s own – unless I wanted the world to see the majority of my bright blue bra!

T-shirt underneath required!  I figured that with the run-walk strategy I probably wouldn’t overheat anyway, so would be fine with two layers.

We hung around for quite a while at the start.  Usually there are lots of Wellingborough runners at the Milton Keynes marathon/half, but it seems that quite a few of the regular MK runners had managed to get a slot at London instead this time round, so our numbers were much less this year.

Yasmin, Laura and Me at MK half marathonWe seemed to wait at the start for quite a while before crossing the line.  (Looking at my official start time it apparently took nearly 13 minutes!)  The advice had been to start queuing a half hour before the race start, but Laura and I cut it closer to the start time before heading over.Waiting to start Milton Keynes half marathon

The route had changed again for 2016, and whereas in previous years the first six miles were a series of out and backs along parts of dual carriageway, this section was largely condensed for the fifth year.  The heat was tough though and I was feeling the power of the sun.  If only I had remembered to lather on some suncream before setting off!

Laura set off at a fair pace and I reminded her a couple of times to slow down as she had been running at the pace of some of her most recent parkruns!  In previous weeks the furthest she had run non-stop was just over 4 miles and the furthest distance she had covered (using a run-walk technique) was the 10k of the Stanwick route we had run on Easter Monday.  Her initial aim was to try and run continuously for longer than she had done since returning from injury.  After passing the 4mile mark her target was upped to running the first 10k distance.

At mile 5 I could feel that my trainers were too tight over the top of my foot.  Something I’ve never experienced with my running trainers before, despite having super wide feet.  I told Laura to carry on and I would just nip off to the side to loosen the lace before jogging to catch her up.  Loosening the laces seemed to help, but I had to leap off the track a few miles further up the road to do the same thing again.

Laura started to drop off after getting past the 10k mark.  She was quite good at setting herself targets to get running again though, so after every walk break she would declare the next visual marker along the path where we were going to begin running again and that’s where we would break into another jog.  I favour this technique when I am finding long races tough too.

At roughly mile 8 Laura began to struggle a little, so we took a walking mile, snapping a few pics along the way.  Something you don’t often get the chance to do during a half marathon race!

Mile 8 of Milton Keynes half marathonI took advantage of the water bottles handed out every three miles and stayed well hydrated the whole way round.  This, combined with an eighteen week pregnancy bladder meant that I needed the loo by the final water station though, so again, told Laura to continue without me and that I would catch her up.  There wasn’t a queue for the portaloos so I nipped in, squirting a generous dollop of what I thought was hand sanitiser onto my hands before exiting the cubicle.  Only it wasn’t hand sanitiser.  It was very thick, gloopy soap, and there seemed to be no water left in the cubicle taps.  I had to waste most of my remaining water bottle washing off my hands before they became too itchy from the unwashed soap!

Laura was adamant that she was going to run the stadium for the finish and I convinced her that she also needed to run the car park as there would be lots of people out here cheering us round still.  Convinced, she did run from entering the car park the rest of the way to the finish line.

There was music blaring out in the car park and several people out cheering.  The atmosphere was fab and it’s not often I feel as fresh as I did at the end of 13.1miles, so I definitely picked my pace up unintentionally here.  It really made me want to run another race properly again soon.

As we entered the stadium we heard a few ‘Go Wellingborough!’ cheers and enjoyed our lap of honour before the crowds started to get really loud as we reached the finish line.  Certain the cheering was no longer for us, I turned immediately on crossing the line to be able to cheer the winning marathon lady over the finish.

Although the half marathon was by far the slowest I’ve run, it was nice for a race to feel super easy, to take several pictures and to have someone to chat to the whole way round!  Up until race day I had unofficially decided not to run another distance of more than a half marathon again before having the baby at the start of October.  Following the MK half though I was ready to sign up to another straight away and see what I could actually still run.  I’d like to think I would probably run somewhere around a 2:20-2:30 mark fairly comfortably, although time obviously isn’t important at the moment.  I just really miss the feeling of racing!

Gun time: 3:03:34
Chip time:
Official position:
Gender position:
Age category position:

MK medals

Not only did I get the awesome green half marathon medal for running the race, I also got the fantastic blue cow medal for having run the 5k the day before followed by the half.  Definitely worth two days of running!  :)

Not quite the same, but did you ever decide that you were just going to run one half marathon/marathon but then decide to enter a few more?!
Any portaloo disasters before?  I think I’ve been fairly lucky to be honest!

The Milton Keynes Rocket 5k

Dan has spent the last two weekends away from home.  Two weeks ago it was the Stafford Uni reunion, something he has attended each year since we moved away from the area back in 2010.  Then last week, it was the stag of one of his best friends.  I spent most of the first weekend incredibly bored and lonely, despite having a million things to do.  Luckily though, for the bank holiday weekend I had already booked up to run the Milton Keynes 5k on the Sunday morning, followed by the half marathon on the Monday.

In the last four years of running I have only entered four 5k races in total.  I tend to get my 5k fix from parkrun on a Saturday morning instead.  This time though, the medals were too good to pass up…

MK marathon medalsThe medal on the left is for running the 5k on the Sunday, the medal in the middle is for the half marathon on the Monday and the cow medal on the right is for people that ran both of the events!

We didn’t have huge numbers from our club heading over for the 5k, but having introduced me to the beautiful medals originally, Laura was heading over for the race, along with Pete, a runner from her office.  Because the race was point to point, and Laura and I were running the half marathon the following day, Pete the full, we decided not to walk back to the cars at the start line following the race.  Instead, we planned to meet up beforehand at the stadium (finish), leaving my car at the stadium so that following the race we would be able to jump in for instant warmth on the chilly morning, before driving back to pick up Laura’s car which we would drive to the start line.  Precision planning.  We even each brought two hoodies along – one for each car!

The route to the start line was an almost straight 5k distance away to the local Wetherspoons.  Only interrupted by the many, many roundabouts and turn-off just before reaching the pub.

Milton Keynes 5k route

To be fair, the conditions were raceday perfect.  The weather was chilly enough to wear a t-shirt underneath my club vest, but to still feel comfortable in shorts.  My ideal raceday outfit!  We had arrived fairly early, but there was still a large queue for the toilets.  Luckily we had anticipated this so headed over quite early before returning to the warmth of the car to fill out the emergency details on our race numbers, which were also pretty awesome!  Laura and Pete came up with witty ‘Pilot names’ but it was too early in the morning for me to feel inspired!

IMG_20160501_190228The race started on time, although we weren’t aware of the actual start happening, just of people moving gradually forward towards the start line.  Laura and I had agreed beforehand that we would run our own races.  I wanted to see what my 18 week pregnant body was capable of running a 5k in and Laura was hoping for a post-injury PB.

The first road up until the turn was rather congested, and I found myself battling to pass several people.  Used to running 5ks at Northampton racecourse for the parkrun, I tend to be able to work out where to place myself, now being familiar with many of the runners who turn up week after week.  Travelling that little bit further over to Milton Keynes, I barely recognised anybody.  Although not a narrow road, the road was much narrower than when we turned and I found myself having to keep jumping up onto the pavement to be able to stretch my legs in the way they wanted to run.  Having been sold as a ‘downhill race’, the first section was very definitely uphill as well!

After the turn the road became wider, the field of runners spread out and I was able to settle into my stride a little better.  I’ve mentioned it before on the blog but when the baby is lying in a certain position it is rather uncomfortable to run and this was the case last Sunday morning.  Not painful, just, it makes me very aware that I am carrying a baby!  After about a mile and a half it must have moved though, because I felt much more relaxed and comfortable again.

The first mile went by in 9:13.  I had worried initially after seeing Laura shoot off at the start.  I wanted to think I was still capable of a fairly comfortable sub 30min 5k time, something Laura hadn’t yet achieved since her injury, but she soon disappeared into the distance.  I guessed she must have been feeling good though, and I could only run what I could run comfortably.  I had no intention of pushing things at his stage.

The second mile went by in 9:36, having slowed slightly at the beginning so I could prod my belly to try and make the baby move into a more comfortable position!  It was at the end of this mile that I realised Laura was now just in front of me, and I slowly closed the gap until I went past her.  She said she had gone out too quickly and was now just holding on.

Mile three and things were fully comfortable again by now so I was able to pick the pace back up again, passing lots of runners and finishing the mile in 9:14.  I still had a fair amount of energy and so decided to pick the pace up for a sprint finish to the finish line upon reaching the car park.  As I turned in off from the main road I let my legs extend further and increased turnover to run the final 0.15m at 7:57mm pace.

Milton Keynes Rocket 5k

Garmin time: 29:15
Gun time: 30:51
Chip time: 29:09
Position: 807/1244
Category position: 163/322

Literally as I crossed the finish line I realised that my car keys were hidden on the floor of Laura’s car…all the way back at the start! Oops!  Best laid plans and all that!

Laura finished less than a minute behind me, giving her her first sub 30min 5k since injury last year.  Pete also PBd, so at least everyone was in a fairly good mood when I told them that I had carefully tucked my keys under one of Laura’s shoes in her car so that no passers-by would be able to see them!

We hunted around for other runners from our club to see if we could beg a lift, but after cheering us over the line, they had all headed home and the runners from Pete’s club all intended on running back to their cars left at the start, some of them, whilst carrying winning trophies!  In the end, we bravely stepped towards members of another local club and they took pity on us, taking Laura with them to go collect her car, and my keys!

Have you ever had race logistics problems?!
Ever lost/forgot your keys whilst out on a run?  
This event wasn’t unusual for me!  :(


Running at 18 weeks pregnant

It’s been nice over the last few weeks to have some of my energy levels returning.  I was completely wiped out during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy and barely made it out of the house for runs as all I wanted to do in the evenings after work was sleep.

Now that things have started to vaguely return to normal – sickness and tiredness wise – I’m eager to get back out again.  More specifically, out on the trails whilst I’m still able to do so.  Over the past few weeks my staple runs have included the Wednesday night club trail run and parkrun on a Saturday.  I am so, so grateful that I have been able to continue running as I know that many are unable to do so.  Two runs a week isn’t enough to keep me sane though, so I’ve started to gradually introduce more runs again now, although I’ve been keeping the majority of my runs under 10k in distance.

After I run my belly seems to ‘pop out’ and be more noticeable.  Maybe just because I’m tired and can no longer hold my upper body together?!

Running at 16w 4d pregnantThis was me at 16w 4d pregnant following a 4 mile run.

Since returning to school following the Easter holidays at the start of April, none of my school trousers have fitted, neither have the shirts that I used to wear daily for work.  I’ve purchased a few new maternity tops to wear to get round this.

17w 1d pregnantThis was during the middle of changing into sports kit for a run!  So – maternity top teamed with running shorts!  Taken at 17w 1d pregnant.

My saviour for work though has been a set of two belly bands I bought from Mothercare the week following the Easter break.

Belly band at 17w 4d pregnant(Picture taken at 17w 4d pregnant)

Basically, you wear the band over your undone-because-they-no-longer-do-up trousers which a) hides the fact you are unable to do your trousers up and b) helps them to stay in place!  A long top over the top hides the button silhouette poking through the band and the effect is kind of like when you wear a vest top as an extra layer underneath your main top.  These bands have been a lifesaver!  It was only a tenner for two.  You can see through this white band how far away my button is from doing up now!

My pregnancy weight seems to be all bump really at the moment.  I hope that baby isn’t getting too big in there!  Nice small baby please!  The bump has actually begun to make sitting upright on the sofa a little uncomfortable after a while now, and I have to put the car seat back slightly on long car journeys.  Oh, and travel sickness was not a fun pregnancy symptom to add to the list earlier this week.  I have a 45 minute commute to work each way!

I seem to have good days and not-so-good days with running now.  Although, as a friend pointed out at the weekend, this is always the case as a runner anyway.  A couple of weeks back I was really lagging behind on the trail run, with runners two club groups below me storming off up ahead on the hills.  Last week though I was passing people from the group I had been running with before falling pregnant.  I think it makes a difference the way the baby is laying, even though it is incredibly small still.  Well, not baby-sized yet anyway.  It’s still more than 14cms from head to bum and the size of a sweet potato.  Some days running feels just like it did before pregnancy and other days I am really conscious of something being in there!

One of the parts of a run I struggle with most is actually the downhills.  If I lean too far back, I think perhaps with my hips thrusted forwards the pressure is all on baby and it’s very uncomfortable.  I’ve had to walk a few downhills over the past fortnight which was rather mortifying to begin with, especially when I would then be fine running the uphill the other side again!

I’m not too worried about my speed at the moment.  Most of my running buddies now know that I am pregnant so I have a ready-made-reason as to why my pace drops off on some days.  I did run a trail run a few days back where the runners were much quicker though.  None of the usual crowd I run with turned up, and so the pace was much faster than I have been running.  I stressed myself out in the first couple of miles worrying that I was holding people up but in the end I could only run what felt comfortable to me and so I made sure to concentrate on what felt comfortable instead.

Normally, I would have raced at least five or six times by this point in the year.  I am missing the race atmosphere and the buzz that comes with crossing the finish line, although I have booked in to the Milton Keynes 5k and half marathon this weekend.  Tomorrow’s half marathon is the furthest I plan on running during pregnancy, and this will be at a fairly sedate pace.  I’m hoping there will still be plenty of time for races post October though.  I’m already debating which my first marathon back will be!  (Although too scared to book anything until after the birth.)

The weather is perfect for evening running at the moment.  Still nice and warm and as we haven’t had too much rain just lately the ground is fairly mud-free.  I know I won’t be able to run trail right the way through until the end, as there is more chance of falling on the uneven ground, so I am trying to get in as much trail as possible now.Spring trail run in the rape field

Lots and lots of people have recommended getting a bump band for running just lately, but when I spoke to the midwife about it at my appointment last week she couldn’t really give me much information about them.  If anyone has one that they recommend, please let me know.  I don’t feel like I’m lacking support too much at the moment, but I’m sure that will change soon.

I had my second midwife appointment at 17w 2d so got to hear the heartbeat for the first time then which was quite surreal.  I’d been feeling the baby for about a week, so I knew that my midwife would be able to find a heartbeat but I still held my breath until we could hear the regular rhythm beating away.  This actually ended up taking quite some time as the baby was wriggling around everywhere.  Every time the midwife found the heartbeat, the baby would squirm and move away to a different spot!  I have supervised six hours of Computing mock exams this past week at school and it seemed that every time I would say the line ‘You may open your paper now’ to the students, the baby would start to wriggle, which made me smile.  Having to sit really still and quietly for the exams meant that I was much more aware of any movements taking place.

I have my next scan booked in for 23rd May when Dan and I will get to see the baby for one last time before it arrives sometime in October.  May until October seems like a really long time!

You can read all of my previous pregnancy posts here.