The National Running Show

The weekend before last was the first National Running Show – something I had been looking forward to for quite a while.  I hadn’t bought anything running related in what felt like ages, so I was ready to see what gizmos and gadgets shouted out at me at the NEC last week, taking along the remainder of my Christmas money.

The National Running Show

The show ran for both days of the weekend and originally I had planned on heading down on the Sunday with my friend Laura.  I knew things would be a little touch and go when it came to staying awake on the Sunday, as I was originally due to work Friday, Saturday and Sunday night of that weekend (all 10pm-7am).  I would have Oscar on my own all day Saturday, making more sense for me to head down childfree the following day.  A few days before the event I was told that I no longer needed to work on the Friday night though, then making much more sense to head down to Birmingham on the Saturday.  I hoped that Dan’s Mum would be able to take Oscar for the few hours I visited, but she was unfortunately busy so Oscar joined me for the show instead and Dan dropped us off that morning on the way through to watch the footy at Wolverhampton.

Most of the people I knew who were headed over to the show were heading down the following day, but I did get to have a lovely catch up with Anna, who had ticked ‘K’ off her parkrun alphabet challenge list that morning and was buzzing about her upcoming marathon in Dubai later in the week.

I also spoke to Faisal, who I hadn’t met or talked to before, but who is also a member of the UK Fitness Bloggers community and had recognised me from my profile picture on there.  He is working towards 12 marathons in 12 months for charity during 2018.  Definitely making me feel like I need to up my marathon game this year!

Another part of my decision to head to the show on the Saturday rather than the Sunday had been due to the speakers on the program that day.  I really wanted to listen to Jo Pavey and also Susie Chan.  And I ended up listening to several others throughout the day as well.  The exhibition was much smaller than I was expecting it to be and I had seen pretty much everything to the extent I wanted to look at it by the time I settled down to catch Jo Pavey just after 10am which was rather disappointing.

I had hoped that the show would be at least a similar size to the expo at London Marathon, but this wasn’t the case.  I also found that several of the exhibitors I wanted to question directed me to email them via their website to find out the information I was after, which wasn’t really ideal, as I thought I was asking fairly basic, common questions that someone representing the product should have been able to answer.

I had taken Oscar along in his running buggy, as I find it much more lightweight than his original buggy.  We tend to use his running buggy for day to day use now and have done since he turned six months old pretty much.  Several people stopped to ask me about it, and the lady on the Thule stand even used my turning technique as a demo to a number of couples on the few occasions I drove it past!  I’m writing a post about Oscar’s running buggy at the moment, – it has definitely been a game changer when it comes to fitting runs in around everything else this year.  So check back hopefully later this week if you are interested in hearing more about that.

I quite fancied getting myself some nice headphones at the show as mine are forever falling out of my ears.  I have been using my mp3 player regularly since Dan bought it for me for my birthday last October but it’s just so frustrating when my earphones go flying out all the time!  The guys on the Aftershokz stand didn’t seem to want to know though and on coming home I’ve found I can order them for much cheaper online, so that’s probably what I’ll do at some point in the next couple of weeks.

My best find of the day were these fabulous Pace Pockets pace bands, which I picked up in 4h 30m and 4h 15m timings as I hope to fall somewhere between the two at Milton Keynes in May.

Pace pockets - pacer band

The fabric folds over at the top to enable you to hold a key safely inside and they’re completely washable, so it will no longer be sweat-soaked paper pacing bands which I’ve printed from the internet and wrapped in sellotape strapped to my wrist!  They were £5 each – a real bargain!

Pace pockets - pacer band

I also picked up a marathon card for a friend who is running her first marathon this year, but I won’t share that on here, as she often drops by my blog.

I had put together a pack up for the day including lots of snacks for Oscar, and loaded a selection of books and toy cars into the bottom of the buggy.  He was in a lovely mood for the whole morning, and when I let him out to explore along the right of the main stage area he bum shuffled over to those sat around us, desperate for a new friend to play cars with or to read him a book that he carried over!  He was very good, and never strayed too many shuffles away – always coming back for another piece of his snack!  I did manage to listen to the whole Jo Pavey talk, which was very inspiring, and when the lady who had been sat next to me on the floor got up at the end to leave she crouched down next to me and said “You may not think it, but he has been really good!”  (Talking about Oscar.)  “My son would never have let me listen to all of that!”  (Her partner had headed off with their baby in his buggy near the very beginning of the talk.  It was a lovely thing for her to say and I felt very proud of Oscar for being so good.

It was a little after this that Anna stopped by for a chat and Oscar was beginning to get restless as he was so tired by now.  I gave him an apple and loaded him into the buggy but he only managed a few bites before freezing mid-mouthful as he fell asleep still gripping tightly onto his apple!  I managed to get round a few stalls with him like this before deciding to park the buggy up again ready for the afternoon speakers.

I managed to catch Steve Edwards who had some great stories to share.  Steve has run over 800 marathons with an average finishing time of 3h 18m and I really enjoyed listening to his tales of mad rushes around the world to fit in extra marathons!  His talk felt a little wooden in places, as he was reading it from cards, but he needn’t have worried, as he had such a passion for the sport that I know he would have captivated the audience had he not been reading his notes.

The National Running Show - Steve Edwards

After quickly nipping out to change Oscar, Susie Chan – ultramarathoner extraordinaire – was next and I wasn’t disappointed.  Her talk was filled with tales of jungles, long distance races and her story of how she just fell into running in the first place.  I found it quite amusing that the nutritionist who had been talking on stage earlier that morning settled down into position near me at the front just as Susie went on to talk about her feasts of pizza on runs!

The National Running Show - Susie Chan

I wandered round some more stands to kill a little time, although a lot of stands had now sold out and were looking slightly bedraggled by this point.  A friend messaged to say that she was coming over to the NEC for an event later that evening, so Oscar and I went and grabbed dinner with her and her boyfriend over at Las Iguanas before Dan arrived to pick us up and head for home where I fitted in a quick nap before work.

Verdict: I’m really glad I went – there were some fantastic speakers with really inspiring stories.  If I hadn’t had Oscar with me I could have sat and listened to the talks all day.  Twice I headed up to ask questions – Jo Pavey and Susie Chan – and both times Oscar became fidgety with waiting and I had to leave again, so no celebrity selfies for me.  :(  I heard on the grapevine that next year The Running Show has signed up Paula Radcliffe, who I’m sure will be a fantastic head for the event.  She’s definitely somebody who I have always admired.  The event will also be moving to larger premises, so hopefully more exhibitors will be able to get on board to help provide more of a day out.

Did you go to The Running Show?
Who would you like to see provide a talk at a running event?

The good, the bad and marshaling fun

*Touch wood* but the start of my marathon/ultra training has been going really well.

I was never a big fan of speed sessions when I used to run them with my running club.  That’s no criticism.  I know it must be difficult to try and arrange a session each week to suit 10 or more runners, all training for different events.  But, I am finding it so, so satisfying ticking off speedwork sessions on my own.  I find that I can really focus on each mile whilst I am running it and am buzzing by the time I arrive back home, eager to share my consistent split times with Dan.  (Who couldn’t care less!)

Last week I had a set of 400s on my marathon race plan.  A one mile warm up followed by 400 metres at 8:20-8:40mm pace, with a 400m recovery as part of each set (repeat 12 times) and then a one mile cool down.  I was chuffed with my splits, and the session felt very manageable. (Strava workout link)

400s speedwork pace chart

My splits read as 8:30, 8:34, 8:28, 8:30, 8:22, 8:37, 8:29, 8:28, 8:35, 8:35, 8:32, 8:30.  All within the range they should have been, and leaving me feeling me so excited about my training – I struggled to get to sleep that night.

Wednesday night was the club trail run and I ran out on a slightly soggy but enjoyable 10k run with friends.

The rough pattern my training is going to fall into over the coming weeks is as follows:

Monday – rest day (off the back of 2, possibly 3 nights of work a rest day is required!)
Tuesday – speedwork (session will vary each week).
Wednesday – buggy run during the day (To get Oscar to sleep.  O goes to an afternoon group I’d like him to stay awake for when he would normally nap, and he falls asleep during a buggy run!) and trail run in the evening.
Thursday – tempo run (hopefully at running club as often as I can manage).
Friday – long run (Oscar is in nursery all day).
Saturday – parkrun/easy run.
Sunday – mid-length run (10 miles +).

This should fit nicely into my schedule, the only times I might have to change things around being when Dan works away from home during the week, resulting in me being unable to get a speed session or tempo run in as I will have no break from Oscar.
I also intend to keep up with my core work and physio sessions during as many days of the week as I can manage/remember/make time for.

Last week my training was a little out of sync as we ended up in A&E with Oscar in the early hours of Wednesday morning.  Both Dan and Oscar had been rather poorly since the weekend and Dan and I woke to Oscar having convulsions in the middle of the night which was incredibly scary, for both us, and him.  We spoke to 111 who advised us to give Calpol, a drink and to strip O down to cool him off.  The convulsions did stop after half an hour and we were able to put him back to bed, but when they began again an hour later we made the decision to rush him into A&E for a check over.  The doctor who saw him put the seizures down to Oscar having picked up a virus and then no longer being able to regulate his temperature – severely overheating and causing his body to go into shock.  He prescribed a mix of Ibuprofen and Calpol throughout the following day to help keep his temperature low and for us to keep an eye on him over the next couple of days.
It did take a couple of days, but luckily Oscar is fully back to his usual cheeky self again now.

So last week I moved my planned buggy run from the Wednesday to the Thursday and ran Oscar down for a little play in the park to cheer him up.  He loved it and was desperate to climb up and slide down the slide over and over again.  He started to kick up a bit of a fuss when I went to put him back in the buggy for the return journey until he saw that we would be passing dogs along the way.  (Oscar is obsessed with dogs, ducks and cows at the moment!)

Running Oscar to the park

When I woke on Friday I knew that I had whatever it was that the boys had had earlier in the week.  My throat hurt and I couldn’t stop coughing.  I had a 13 mile run on the plan for the day, and with Fridays being my only child-free day I was desperate to get out and run those miles.  I should have stayed home and written off the run for the day but I didn’t.  I was too stubborn and went out anyway.

It was a horrible run.  Despite barely being able to touch my lunch, (leaving most of it plated up in the fridge for another day) I felt nauseous and needed the toilet from the end of mile one.  The route I had planned ran past a toilet at mile 3 so I continued, but I knew a fair while before I got there that I would only be running as far as the Visitor Centre at the local lakes and back that day.

Rubbish run

An awful, awful run, but I did actually feel better for getting out at least and added 6 miles to my total for the week.

I headed to bed early on Friday night, as Saturday was going to be a busy one for me.

At 6:40am on Saturday morning another runner from my club – James, arrived to pick me up for the drive down to Uxbridge where we were due to marshal at the Country to Capital ultra for Go Beyond, along with two other runners from our club who we collected along the way.

James has also signed up for the South Downs Way 100 this year, so there was lots of training talk going on during the drive down!

Cassiobury parkrun

(Picture from the Cassiobury parkrun facebook page)

A week earlier James had suggested that we set off for our checkpoint a little earlier so that we may take in a parkrun on the way down.  Both Sally and I jumped at the chance to add to our parkrun tourism total, even though Sally currently has her arm in a sling!

Sally and I at Cassiobury parkrun

The course at Cassiobury parkrun was lovely and flat.  It consisted of two and a half laps around the park.  Marshals were super vigilant about keeping runners out of the cycle lane, as the park was a busy one and there had been reports of runners/cyclists getting knocked during the event in the past.  Even so, there were several runners who insisted on staying in the cycle lane, despite being shouted at, which was a shame.

Cassiobury parkrun

(Picture from the Cassiobury parkrun facebook page)

I felt a fair bit better than I had done the previous afternoon but still hadn’t dared to eat anything before leaving that morning, just in case it made me a) sick b) need to rush to the loo or c) both of the above.  I decided to just jog my way around the parkrun and enjoy a new course.  In actual fact I was fine with food again by Saturday though.

Cassiobury parkrun

(Picture from the Cassiobury parkrun facebook page)

Official time: 28:26
Position: 192/421
Gender position: 38/177
Age category position: 8/17

I had decided to wear my Country to Capital top from 2016 seeing as I would be marshaling the event later on that morning and ended up running the parkrun just behind a man pushing a double buggy who was wearing a Country to Capital top from 2017!  After getting my barcode scanned, I made my way over for a chat about C2C and future races we both had planned for this year.  He told me of the ‘Last Man Standing’ race he had entered.  An event of laps where you must complete each lap within an hour, or be timed out from the race.  The laps continue until you are the ‘last man standing’, with all other entrants timed out.  It sounded good!

Cassiobury parkrun was the 20th different parkrun event I have run (Bedford, Blickling, Corby, Daventry, Huntingdon, Ketterin, Kings Lynn, Linford Wood, Ludlow, March, Market Harborough, Milton Keynes, Northampton, Peterborough, Rugby, Rushmere, Sheringham, Wimpole Estate and Wolverhampton being the other 19!)  This means that I am now officially on the parkrun tourism table of fame*!  :)
* not it’s official title!!!

Once James, myself and Sally had all finished the parkrun we collected Paul from the sidelines (who had decided to sit this one out) and drove over to checkpoint three of the Country to Capital.  Country to Capital is a 45 mile race run along trails and the canal path from Wendover to Little Venice.  Checkpoint three is the ‘feeding station’ and at about mile 25 on the course.

There were six runners from our running club out on the course, and plenty of names we all recognised on the start list this year.

With delays to the crew van, we were rather concerned that it was going to be a bit hit and miss when it came to setting up our checkpoint station in time, but luckily the crew van arrived armed with the famous Go Beyond cake and lots of other goodies with just enough time for us to set up our feeding station.  We were soon joined by the partner of the guy sat in first place through checkpoint two, who then kindly kept us informed with his location using her phone tracker.  I always enjoy chatting with the crew of fast ultra runners and usually come away having learnt something.  It’s always handy to know how different runners like the stations to be presented too.

Two of our runners came through within the first fifteen runners (eventually finishing in 7th and 8th position), and I also recognised Cat Simpson – who went on to place as second female in the race.

One of our female runners, Helen, came through as fifth lady – a position she remained in until the end.

As checkpoint lead, being that I still wasn’t feeling 100%, I decided to place myself away from the food and instead by the chip timing base, jotting down runner numbers along with clock times as they came through.  I had another member of our club alongside me helpfully shouting out runner numbers as they passed, and the other three crew that I had travelled down that morning with helped runners to fill their drinks bottles, unpacked food as necessary and generally kept the place fairly clear during the event.

Checkpoint three of Country to Capital

Even though we were at a point more than halfway into the race, there never really seemed to be much of a lull and the day went by really quickly.  Four runners withdrew at our checkpoint and a handful of runners just scraped through before cut-off.
We spent thirty minutes or so desperately trying to hunt down a lost runner, but it turns out they had already headed back to the finish, having pulled from the event at the previous checkpoint.  Please runners, – if you run a race, let a marshal have your chip back and tell them you are pulling.  Preferably pull at an actual checkpoint as well, rather than between marshal points.  It makes our job much easier and we can usually provide a nice warm car, food and blankets to keep you comfy until transport arrives to ferry you to the finish.

Luckily, I hadn’t been working on the Friday night, but was due to work Saturday night, so on my return home after wolfing down the chicken tea I had instructed Dan to make over the phone I made my way to bed where I managed to grab a couple of hours sleep before heading in for the night shift.
All good practice at no sleep ready for the 100 in June!  😀

Do you chat to spectators at events?
What food do you like to see on a checkpoint?
Do you enjoy running speed sessions on your own?

The Runner’s Runner of the Year awards

I realised the other day that I never got round to posting the videos I made for my club’s ‘Runner’s Runner of the Year’ award for 2017 on the blog.

Every year since I first joined my running club committee, it has been one of my roles to produce videos detailing the achievements of runners nominated for the award at the end of the year.

Our club awards evening is held at the start of December every year, and in the weeks leading up to the awards evening members are asked to nominate a male and female runner who they feel have been inspiring, encouraging, supportive, hard working, have improved a great deal or have just been a fantastic runner across the year!  It’s an opportunity for an award to go to somebody who isn’t necessarily the fastest runner at the club and is an award viewed very highly by all club members.

Once nominations are closed, I usually have about a week to put together the videos, choosing one or two reasons given for each person nominated to display on the video alongside images of them in action throughout the year.  The videos take me probably about 20 or so hours to create in total – with the picture finding the most time consuming part!

I love, love, love making the videos each year though and am reluctant to give up my role on the committee purely so that I don’t have to stop making these!

It sounds rather sappy, but whenever I’m feeling a bit low with my running or things become rather routine, I whack on the videos from previous years and my love for running returns again.

Running club Christmas do 2017(Me, Steph and Laura at this year’s awards do)

Male video for 2017:

(Winner: Michael Quinn)

Although I really hadn’t expected to, I also received a few nominations again this year:

* She quietly gets on with racing trail marathons and ultras and does really well; this area of running often goes unnoticed.

* Mary has quietly tallied up an impressive number of runs this year. She’s on track for her 100 parkruns and ran a 50 mile Ultra 6 months after giving birth. She’s amazing and an inspiration to all those of us who complain there isn’t enough time in the day to run! 🏃🏽‍♀️

* A fantastic year of running since coming back after the birth of Oscar with many PBs and great races.

Female video for 2017:

(Winner: Helen Etherington)

We have some very inspiring runners at our club and over the past couple of years I have really struggled to narrow it down to just one person from each gender to nominate.  There are definitely some very worthy winners of this award.

Does your club have an awards evening?
What do you find motivates you when you start to lose your focus and drive?

My planned races for the first half of 2018

This year I’m going to have to be rather careful about the races I choose, looking closely at which days races fall on and ensure that I check out my work shifts in advance of that week.

Currently, I’m contracted to work just Saturday nights in the supermarket where I work (10pm-7am).  If I manage to get a fair amount of sleep on the Saturday (often not possible if Dan is away at a Wolves’ game) then I can power straight through on the Sunday and complete a shorter race before falling into bed and catching up on my sleep.
However, the supermarket I work at operates using ‘flexi-hours’, meaning alongside my one shift a week, I also have to be available for two others if required – potentially being added on to the rota for Friday and/or Sunday nights if staff numbers are looking short when the rota is drawn up the previous month.

Although I can ‘power through’ for a little while following one night at work, I struggle with two or three in a row, especially if Dan is not around during the daytime to have Oscar so that I am able to have some much needed sleep.  I found myself arriving a little early to Oscar’s 9:30am swimming lesson this Monday morning.  I had worked all three nights over the weekend so I pulled Oscar’s spare blanket over my legs and set my alarm for three minutes.  I enjoyed every one of those three minutes of nap time.  They were very much required!

My work schedule has also meant that I’ve had to change my marathon/ultra training plans around slightly, and the majority of my longer runs during this training cycle will probably take place on a Friday morning when Oscar is in nursery.  If I’ve only worked a couple of shifts over the weekend then I might be able to fit in a mid-length run late on a Sunday afternoon, but once I’ve had a nap first!



Therefore the races I currently have pencilled into the calendar for the first half of 2018 are as follows:

Biggleswade XC – this weekend.
I really hope that I can make this race.  I will have only worked the Saturday and Sunday nights of this week in the supermarket, but I am also working all day down in Wendover, marshaling at Checkpoint 3 of the Country to Capital ultra on Saturday, which always leaves me exhausted as it usually ends up being rather a full on day!
love cross-country and this is the final race of the season for our club.  I missed the last event before Christmas as it coincided with my first three-night weekend of work and I just didn’t have the energy to make it to the start line.  I’ll be sensible, and if my body tells me I need to go home rather than to the race then I will.  But, if you see a green vest poking out from underneath a child’s blanket in the front seat of a red Ibiza on race morning, please just knock on the window and make sure I’m up in time for the race warm up!

MK half marathon – March 11th
I really want to run a half marathon at this point in my marathon training cycle to see where my fitness level is at.  Fingers crossed by that point I will be looking somewhere around a sub 2h 5m half time.  By typing numbers into calculators online, everything points towards a 2h 1m half marathon, but I have my doubts I will be running quite that quickly by March.  We shall see…

Oakley 20 – March 18th
I don’t intend on ‘racing’ this event, but I will use it as part of my long run training.  A long run alongside hundreds of other runners where I don’t have to carry my water bottles and can pick up a nice cozy hoodie at the finish!  I’ve run the event several times before and it’s a lovely course – two laps; one of twelve miles and then a lap of eight.  A few rolling hills, but I much prefer this type of elevation to the flat.

South Downs Way 50 – April 7th
I am loosely following Hanson’s Marathon Method for my marathon training again this training cycle as I started to see such success with it last time (and can already see success in the paces I am using from the book during this cycle).  However, Hanson’s long runs top out at 16 miles.  My training cycle will not only include Oakley 20 along with a couple of other 20s, but also the Centurion 50 miles at the South Downs Way.  Not quite what the plan reads with one month before marathon race day(!) but with my main goal race for the year being almost four times the distance of a marathon, a couple of longer runs needed to be slotted in.
I ran the South Downs Way 50 six months after Oscar was born and was so happy with my achievement.  I really want to go back and see what I can do when I don’t have to stop and express mid-way round though and when I have been able to slot in a few more training runs during the months leading up to the event.
I am a little nervous that there are seven runners from my club all running the event, all from the same running group as me.  I don’t want to feel pressured to run with anybody or to find myself ‘competing’ to place where I feel I should around others from my club as I very much need to run my own race over an event as far as 50 miles.
As the final 50 miles of my goal race, it will hopefully help me when it comes to running the 100 mile event, as I will be more likely to remember the path if it is fresh in my memory.

SDW50 route 2018

Milton Keynes Marathon – May 7th
It will be my fourth time running the MK marathon this year and I am determined for a sub 5 at the event this time round.  Hopefully achieving a sub 4:30 on race day if I’m honest.
Fingers crossed it’s not too hot on the day, as that is when I struggle most.  As a fairly local marathon, there is usually a great turn out of support from our running club and the end of the race is a lap of the MK Dons stadium.  Always a great finish!

Shires and Spires 35 – May 20th
Much like Oakley, I don’t intend on racing this event either, but instead simply using it as part of my long run training.  Held slightly earlier in the year than usual (it’s usually a June race), Shires and Spires falls just three weeks before my main goal race so should fit in nicely before starting to taper for race day.
I’m thinking about offering to navigate a beginner ultra runner round on race day, so they don’t have to worry about the self-navigating element of the event alongside the fuelling and running of 35 miles.  I’ve run the event four times now, and headed out to recce the course as part of training runs numerous times.  There are usually quite a few from our club who tackle this as their first ultra event, so I thought it might be nice to give something back and offer to run with them if they were interested, and it would also help me by getting the miles in without seeing me push myself too hard on the day.

South Downs Way 100 – June 9th
The main event!
There are two guys from my club also running the SDW100 this year, both experienced in ultra running, and much faster runners than me, but like me, not having run a 100 mile race before.
I’d like to think I can make it.  100 miles scarily doesn’t sound as far as it used to a few years back.  I’m feeling positive about achieving the distance at the moment and I’ve received such lovely comments from friends and other runners since announcing my (rather ambitious!) goal for the year.  I had offers of a pacer and crew immediately and so many people had wonderful things to say about my determination.  It was so nice to know people had faith in my ability to complete the event.
I will do it.

SDW100 start list

I will wait until after the 100 to see what races I want to schedule in for the second half of the year, but I hope to focus on some new-to-me races.  All of the races above I’ve already run in the past (with the exception of SDW100) and whilst it’s great that I loved them so much that I want to return and run them again, I really want to add some different events to my list.

What races do you have lined up for 2018?
Any race suggestions for the second half of the year?