The London Marathon Expo 2019

Child care arranged, train tickets booked (not by me – I would have messed that up!), passport tucked safely into my bag, along with purse for essential pre-marathon purchases and an extra battery pack for my phone (to ensure my phone lasted long enough to take plenty of running related selfies).

Marathon expo time!!!

London Marathon expo

I picked Anne-Marie up at 9am and we made our way to Bedford train station.  Anne-Marie and I met sometime last year through the Run Mummy Run Facebook group.  Another Mum had asked for route inspiration around the town I lived in.  At the time I was struggling to make run club nights and was really missing what had been regular running out with friends so thought it would be nice to get to know some more people I could potentially head out on a run with in the area.  I offered to lead a few runs from that initial post, and before long, a group chat had been created between 8 of us and we headed out on a number of 3-4 mile evening chatty runs.  Anne-Marie also had a place for London this year and only lived up the road from me so we’ve met up for runs a few more times and decided to head down to the expo together today.  Between the two of us we figured we should be able to work out the train connections and arrive at the expo without too much hassle!

Good job we left at 9am for a 10:20 train leaving 20 miles away though…it took us about 40 minutes to find somewhere to park before a mad rush across to the station!

Three train changes later and a number of people who looked like runners stalked in order to find the correct platforms on our way to the Excel, we finally made it, making our way through the entrance as THE London Marathon theme tune was played.

Next hurdle – ensuring we lined up in the correct lines for our race numbers.  I was also collecting for another runner at my running club who couldn’t make it down to London before the race, so was hoping he had left me with everything required to entrust me with his race pack (and then praying I wouldn’t do something stupid like leave it on the train seat on the way home!  (I didn’t!)

Run LDN sign at the London Marathon expo

Numbers and chips collected – time to roam the expo!  I was hoping to listen to Mo’s talk on stage and also the Barbara’s Revolutionaries later on in the day, but unfortunately due to train timetables and having a curfew to be back for (childcare issues!) it wasn’t to be.  However, I did bump into Adam Woodyatt (Ian from EastEnders) whilst queuing to pay for a tube of Body Glide.  I asked him if I could be that annoying person who asked for a selfie, to which he told me that when he last ran the London Marathon he took over 1000 selfies with other runners during the 26.2 miles!

At the London Marathon Expo with Adam Woodyatt

After an unfortunate incident whereby I picked up a really old (pre-pregnancy days) Gu gel to take out on my 16 miler a couple of weeks back, I also made sure to stock up on enough tasty (in date) Salted Caramel gels ready for Sunday.  I won’t be making that mistake again.  I’m sure I can still taste that foul gone-off gel even now!

High on the priority list for the day was also to exchange my Cancer Research UK running vest for something which fitted a little better.  Initially CRUK had sent me out a Large women’s vest.  However, it dug in under my arms and looked ridiculous.  There was no way I would have been able to wear it without a lot of bleeding during the race and then swearing in the post-marathon shower.  A few weeks back I rang and asked if there were any other sizes available.  Apparently there was…if I was willing to wear a men’s Large vest.  I was.  Leaving everything to the last minute (as ever!) I decided to pop on my new male running vest to head out for 8 sunny miles last Saturday morning.  It felt great.  Rather baggy (particularly under the arms) but the vest seemed OK to run in, and I was assured by my friend Steph that it didn’t look particularly out of place.  I had planned to run 8-9 miles with Steph first thing in the morning, followed by a quick drive over to Kettering with Dan and Oscar for parkrun to top up my mileage for the day.  The second I climbed into the car after my run though my body started to cool and I could feel the beads of sweat dripping onto the areas rubbed raw under my left arm where the too-large vest had rubbed.

Kettering parkrun with Dan, Oscar and the buggy(Photo taken by Jon Woods at Kettering parkrun.)

Five days later and the marks are still visible!  The guys on the Cancer Research stand were great.  Really helpful, and I am now the owner of a Women’s XL t-shirt.  I’ll test it out in the morning, so that I have plenty of time to run, sweat and wash before Sunday!  The guys on the stand also filled my bag with temporary tattoos, foam boards, badges and signs to hold up.

Mary Pearson on the Cancer Research UK stand at the London Marathon Expo

We did manage to catch the end of Martin Yelling on the Main Stage before heading back home again.  I’ve been binge listening to the Marathon Talk podcast on my nightshifts just lately.  I’m pretty sure I hear his voice in my sleep right now!

Martin Yelling at the London Marathon 2019

This is the medal I’ll be making my way to the finish for on Sunday…

London Marathon medal 2019

Fundraising progress – I’m a smidge under £2000 now (the minimum target I was asked to raise by CRUK in exchange for my marathon place).  All being well I should hit this target by Friday as I’m spending the day at ASDA in Rushden, rattling my charity bucket and raffling off a £50 photoshoot voucher for a local photographer.  The target I set myself to raise for CRUK by the end of the year is £3000, and I will continue working towards this target until I reach it.
{Shameless plug for my donation page here}  (Thank you so much to all who have already donated.)
I’m also offering anybody who donates before the marathon on Sunday the chance to win a pass for two to West Lodge Farm Park.  (Just add ‘West Lodge Raffle Tickets’ in the comment section of your donation and for every £1 you donate you will have an extra chance in the raffle!)

I say that I should hit the target ‘all being well’ because Oscar currently has what we believe to be Slapped Cheek.  He is covered in a nasty red rash – lumps and bumps all over his little body!  The nursery he goes to have asked me to get the doctor to confirm Slapped Cheek before dropping him off for his regular nursery session on Friday, as it could also be a number of other things which might be contagious, or harmful to the member of staff working at the nursery who is currently pregnant.  He seems OK in himself, he just has this awful rash all over his body, which (if it is SC) could take 3-4 weeks to fade!  Hopefully it’s nothing serious.  He’s still adamant that he’ll be the one pinning my number on at the weekend anyway!

Oscar wearing my London Marathon number

For anybody who fancies tracking me on Sunday, my number is 51911.  I have no idea how I’ll do.  My speedwork sessions began with 8mm pace at the start of the year with the intention of dipping under 4h 30m at London.  I’ve still regularly ran 5-6 days each week but the sessions haven’t been as quality as I would have liked over the past couple of months.  After getting attacked back in February, I really struggled to get out for runs on my own again for a long while and although I tried to run on the treadmill to begin with, I really struggled with the speedwork sessions and long runs as I find I change my stride too much when restricted to the movement of the treadmill.  I also took a hit with flu for a couple of weeks, am undergoing tests at hospital right now and was diagnosed with anaemia a few weeks back, so my training cycle definitely hasn’t been as planned.  But when does a training cycle go to plan?!!!  What will be will be on the day.  I’d still like to think I can achieve a marathon PB (4h 54m 08s).  But, with the marathon, anything can happen on the day!  Watch this space!!!

My race number for London Marathon 2019

A long blogging hiatus as it’s been an incredibly busy few months.  But I’m hopefully back again now and on it.  Although I’ve possibly regained my momentum a little too late for the London I wanted to enjoy this year, I am finally coming out of the funk I’ve been in and ready to fill my days with lots of long Summer runs again!

Countdown to London Marathon

Are you heading to the London Marathon expo this year?
Have you ever had/heard of Slapped Cheek?
Are you as navigationally challenged as me?!

Raising money for Cancer Research UK

This year I will be running the London Marathon for charity.  Something I had always planned on doing one day but was never quite sure if I had the energy to fundraise alongside marathon training.  (So obviously the best year to give it a go was the year I also had a potty-training toddler, five part-time jobs and builders in working on the house, right?!)

London Marathon on the computer

My Mum died from cancer at the end of 2017 so I felt it was really important that I run the marathon this year in her memory, with the aim of raising £3000 for Cancer Research UK in the process.

If you follow me on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram, you will probably have already seen the events I am planning on holding as part of my fundraising.But, to cover all bases, I’m going to list them both here as well.

On the 29th March I am holding An Evening with Ronnie Staton. 7pm at Diana’s in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire.

An Evening with Ronnie StatonRonnie Staton is a Race Director, ultrarunner, coach and has recently recovered from a stroke. This amazing guy is kindly giving up his time to provide a talk based around his experiences.  Anybody that has ever attended a HoboPace event knows that Ronnie has a way with words – he offers heaps of wisdom and isn’t short of stories to share!  Extremely inspirational and incredibly engaging – I’m really looking forward to hearing him talk! Tickets are just £10 and available online.

Then on the 14th April I will be holding Eggsplore Wellingborough. This event will be held at Whitworths Football Club, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire. The cost is just £20 per team of up to 4 people to include a free hot/soft drink and chocolate at the finish.

Eggsplore Wellingborough

On arriving at registration, the team leader for each team will be given an envelope containing a tick-list of 20 items to find around Wellingborough. Their envelope will also contain scrap paper and pen for planning out a route and raffle tickets for each member in the team (which may be exchanged for a drink and chocolate on return).
Runners can use the time between collecting their race pack and the race starting to plan out the route they want to take. The earlier a team arrives, the more time they have to plan their adventure!
Teams will be set off from 9:30am. They then have two hours to return back to the Football Club, having taken photographs of as many items on their list as they can find.  Be the first team back having completed the challenge to win a prize.  Book online now.

If you’re not able to attend either of my events, or they’re not your thing I would really appreciate if you could share them with anybody you think might be interested. Friends, on your social media, at your place of work, anywhere you visit frequently.  Please help spread the word!

I’m also hoping to be popping up at a few supermarkets over the coming weeks with my charity bucket and I do have a Virgin Money giving page which I’ll pop the link in for here…
Donations page.

In all honesty, if I’d swapped the amount of time I’ve put into planning both events so far into overtime at my actual job then I would have generated more money so far, but I guess that wouldn’t have been in the spirit of things!  I’ve really struggled with the fundraising challenge despite all the hard work I’ve put into it.  Asking for donations is really out of my comfort zone and I’ve been turned down again and again by companies for prizes.  I’ve got a lovely bunch of friends who have helped me round up a nice bunch of prizes for a raffle at my first event now though.

Thank you so much to everybody who has already helped me out on my fundraising journey. I really, really appreciate all of the help I’ve received so far.

Hanson’s Marathon Method plans

I have a charity place in the London Marathon next year. (I’m running for Cancer Research UK)

The fundraising target I have set for myself is to raise £3000+ by the time I run London on the 28th April.  The charity asked for a minimum pledge of £2000 but I hope to raise more.  I will post details on the blog as I have them in the New Year, but the two main events I will be holding are:

1) An evening presentation led by a race director.
2) A pub quiz based entirely around running questions.

I’m really looking forward to finalising arrangements and for these fundraisers to unfold.

I read a BBC news article online the other evening entitled Fraudulent charity runners condemned.  I was horrified to read that ‘following a BBC investigation, 1278 people who accepted places paid for by charities in 2017 were recorded as raising nothing.’  It goes on to mention that in regards to the 2017 Great North Run ‘The highest proportion [of people raising no money] was reported by Cancer Research UK which also had the largest number of runners.  Of the 758 people who took its charity places, 318 (42%) raised nothing.’

That’s awful, really.  I know that I have been asked to raise a minimum of £2000 in order to run London next year.  If each of those 758 runners raised even half that amount, £758,000 would make such a huge difference for the charity.  The article goes on to say that although some runners just simply do not show for race day, often a large number of runners still go on to complete the event.

Not only do I want to raise at least £3000 as part of my fundraising, but I want to train for a time that I will personally feel proud of achieving.

I want to aim for at least a sub 4:30 marathon.

This would mean taking more than 20 minutes off from my current marathon PB (4:54 – achieved at Chelmsford marathon in 2015, pre-Oscar).

Chelmsford marathon 2015I have never completed a full training cycle successfully.  I always get sidetracked by interesting ultras, or trail marathons or long runs with friends along the way.  This time though, I am determined to remain on task and focused, with no other races booked in until at least May 2019!  (Although I have two cross country races within the next couple of weeks, but both under 6miles in distance).  I even successfully resisted entering the Country to Capital 45m and the brand new Rose of the Shires 50m ultra in April – agreeing instead, to marshal at both events.

I’ve read a lot about the Hanson’s Marathon Method over the past few years and noticed the difference to my times and endurance as I began to adopt some of the key principles of the plan into my training week.

Hansons Marathon Method bookI had particular success following the tempo sessions.  They allowed me to have belief in my ability to run continuously at a tempo pace over longer distances.

The speedwork sessions were also so useful, as I am unable to attend speedwork sessions on a running club night (Dan doesn’t return home from work in time for me to get there) and I never really know how to structure the sessions myself.

Running 5-6 days a week does really work for me and I definitely notice the gains to be had from more frequent running.  Having organised set workouts on a plan encourages me to get out and run on those days.

My main concern with the plan that my rest day has to fall on a Monday.  (I work through the night on a Sunday until 6am Monday morning.  I then only get a maximum of an hour of sleep before Dan leaves for work and I have Oscar on my own until Dan returns at 9pm.  By that point I’m absolutely exhausted having had just one hour of sleep from the previous night and it would be an impossible ask to head out for a run on Dan’s return.)  This then means that I can’t really be very flexible if something crops up later in the week where I would normally be able to swap my rest day around.

I’ve written out the plan in full as written in the book, but there will be tweaks on the days I run.  Mainly Monday and Wednesday runs will be swapped (as mentioned above) and Friday and Sunday runs (as Sunday has become our family day at home and I work Sunday evenings).

Hanson's Marathon Method plan

So, first run on the plan starts tomorrow (although the first week is filled with easy runs)…wish me luck!

Which training plans do you use for your marathons?
How many times per week do you prefer to run?

The 3CXC league: the first two events

Our club competes in the Three Counties Cross Country series each season and it’s one of the groups of races I absolutely love.  Cross-country, being off-road and running over challenging terrain is very much my thing.

The first two events have been tough ones though, in more ways than one.

I ran the Dunstable race last year, but never posted a recap.  I had travelled back from Norfolk to Northamptonshire for the race the night before, receiving a phone call on the return journey from Dan to say that his Nan had just died back in Wolverhampton.  Dan had spent the day visiting his Nan who had suffered from a heart attack a few days earlier.  I had been unable to head to Wolverhampton along with Oscar as my Mum had been gradually getting weaker and weaker all week, having not spoken since several days before.  Her eyes had been closed all day on that Saturday, but I stayed alongside her, watching Oscar coasting around the hospital bed that had been placed in my parents’ lounge for her to rest in.

The next morning Dan took care of Oscar while I got myself ready to head to the cross-country event.  It’s the event in the Three Counties Cross-Country league that is the furthest away and so I travelled down with a friend to the start.  The race was a tough one.  A bottle-neck start and a tough climb in the final mile.  But, I enjoyed the race.  We finished, headed back for rolls and cake, talked race tactics and tried to work out who would score for our club that season.

On arriving back at the car I checked my phone to find a missed call from my Dad and also one from Dan.

My Mum had died as I stood on the start line to that race waiting for the gun to go and I hadn’t even known.  Not that there was anything I could have done of course.  I rang Dan first.  My Dad had already told him the news and Dan had begun to pack a bag for both Oscar and I.  I don’t think I even showered when I arrived back home from the muddy race.  Just checked Dan’s packing, threw in a few more bits, tucked Oscar into his car seat with a blanket and cup and set off for Norfolk.  When I arrived my Dad asked me if I would make those horrible phone calls.  We’d already prepared for this day and made a list a few weeks earlier so that we were sure not to miss anybody out when it happened.  Most people kept the phone conversation short and sweet, perhaps aware that it wasn’t the time to offer small talk or keep me on the phone for long.  There were a few who made the task unknowingly harder; breaking down on the phone or keeping me on the phone without any pause for conversation back.  It wasn’t the nicest job I’ve had to do as an adult.

Because I’d not written about the race last year I think I had almost pushed the full memories of that day out of my mind until I typed the postcode into my phone the other week and watched the map scan across to the race HQ, ready to give directions for the drive.  I felt anxious for the whole journey.  More so when on my arrival I was directed to the very same parking spot we had been in last year.
That’s where the similarities ended though and I quickly made my way to the start to surround myself with other club runners, not that there were many out for the first event of the series which was a shame.

Due to the large volume of runners expected at the first race, the organisers had made the decision to reverse the course this year, meaning that Heartbreak Hill would come very early on into the race.  It was a tough hill to climb, but at least I didn’t succumb to a walk this time round!

Heartbreak Hill on the Dunstable 3CXC course(This photo gives you a little idea how tough Heartbreak Hill was!)Dunstable 3CXC courseIt was tough going to start with – very crowded along the narrow track heading away from the start line and it was impossible to find your place in the race.  Eventually though, the path widened and the pack started to thin out as everyone fell into their own running rhythm.

Somehow, the reverse course was so much harder than it had been the previous year.  I didn’t walk Heartbreak Hill, but there was an incredibly long, drawn-out hill in the final mile that from talking to faster friends after the race, I found out even they walked parts of!

Dunstable 3CXC courseUgh.  I hate this photo of me.  I look like I have lost all tone that I gained from training for the 100.  If anything is an incentive to up my fitness game, this is it.  So, I’m keeping it real and will leave this picture up on here.  Just let it be known, it’s not my favourite!

It was a tough course.

Position: 403/483 (Fairly happy with this.  I’m usually much nearer to the back!)
Gender position: 402/481
Age category position: 13/17

I had thought that the Dunstable event was tough, but that did not prepare me for running our home cross country event!  I haven’t had a chance to run it since 2015, when I was at my fittest, and boy did it show how much fitness I’d lost running the course again this year! The day before the event, our club heard the devastating news that we had lost one of our members.  He had suffered a cardiac arrest whilst out on the Wednesday night trail run and despite the best efforts of other runners, ambulance crew and hospital staff, that Saturday morning he died.  I wrote a little bit about it on Instagram last week.

 

 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

 

He was the first non family member to visit following Oscar’s birth and brought with him the most thoughtful gift in a baby vest, emblazed with ‘WDAC’. He said that he was sure Oscar would soon be whizzing round parkrun and would need a vest of his own to wear to represent the club. – I would never have gotten as far as 78 miles in June at my first 100 mile attempt had it not been for the fantastic crew that I had behind me on race day. It was a really hot day and all I really wanted was cold fruit out on the course. I’m pretty sure the fruit he handed me was actually a selection of what he had brought for his own lunch. – Three months later at the 100 mile event I did complete, once again, a lot is owed to my crew and pacers on the day, selflessly giving up their weekend to help me achieve the goal that meant so much to me. He acted as both crew and pacer that weekend, running me the final 20 miles to the finish line of my biggest achievement to date. Listening to me whinge about blisters on my feet and telling me tales-keeping me motivated for the hours it took to complete those final miles. – Yesterday, our club wore black ribbons as a way of paying our respects to Guy, one of our own who suffered a cardiac arrest out on a club trail run on Wednesday night and very sadly passed away on Saturday morning. Other clubs honoured the minute silence we held at the start of our home cross-country race. – Our club is very much a second family for so many and it was so touching to see old members and those who weren’t running the race still turn out to show their support. ❤️ He was one of the good ones and will be missed. – #WDAC #runningcommunity #runningfamily #3CXC #threecountiesXC

 

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The night before our home race I laid out pins, scissors and ribbon on our kitchen table, and along with two other club members we folded together 120 black ribbons for runners, marshals and club supporters to wear the following day, wherever our club members may be racing.

I had offered to help hand out race numbers to members before the cross-country race and so now also handed out black ribbons for them to wear.  I handed them out to previous club members, those from other clubs who had run with Guy in the past and made themselves known to me, and friends.  It was really hard.

The minute’s silence at the start of the race was fitting.  We’d published information that it would take place on our club social media the day before in the hope that it would be heard over the pre-race chat.

The race started and we shot off across Croyland Park towards the first set of hills.  The far side of the park has loads of small up and down sections.  Great, I would imagine if you were ten years old and out on your bike, but pretty energy sapping when you were running the whole section twice during a cross-country race.

I had my first little walk at mile 2.  I felt like a total failure!

Wellingborough 3CXC raceThe best part about running a home course is all of the fantastic support on offer.

Wellingborough 3CXC race

The number of brook crossings had reduced from four to two since the last time I ran the course.  I’d been told by my friend who was Race Director for the day that the race inspector had not been happy with the size of the crossing, but I wasn’t sure if it had changed or not.  The day before apparently they had been out to widen the crossing point and had added a dam in order to ensure the water was deep!

In actual fact, the crossings weren’t that bad.  It wasn’t too slippy getting into or out of them.  The crossing was too wide to jump all the way across, instead, a gradual slope down the bank to a ridge, enabling you to jump into the water below.  Much less daunting than when I ran it previously.

Wellingborough 3CXC raceIt wasn’t as cold as I was expecting either.  At it’s deepest the water came up to about my knee.

Wellingborough 3CXC raceWellingborough 3CXC raceNot everybody managed to stay upright during the crossing…!

Wellingborough 3CXC raceThere were a couple more sneaky walks as I entered the other side of the park.  I was feeling proper fed up with my body by now and vowed to take some trips over to Croyland park in the near future to train on the hilly ground.

Wellingborough 3CXC raceThe far side of the field was very open (with very little chance for unseen walking breaks…I got spotted and shouted at once!)  I was glad to see the brook crossing in my sights once more, knowing that there wouldn’t be too much longer before we reached the finish now.Wellingborough 3CXC raceI really powered down the final hill, not letting anybody come past on my way to the finish.  Strava says my last bit of mile was run at 7:30mm pace.  I just wanted to be done!

I was the last runner to finish for our club, but did still manage to push the scores down for some of the other teams, so at least my run still counted for something.

Position: 341/404
Gender position: 108/158
Age category position: 17/23

Although I had a shocking race, my positions at our home event weren’t too far off those from the first event, so I would assume that most others found the course as challenging as I did which was some sort of comfort.

Three more races to go!  One more before Christmas and two in the New Year.  Here’s hoping I’m a little stronger by the time they roll around!

Have you seen race photos and just thought ‘Ugh!’
Are you taking part in cross-country this year?