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?

The Gower adventure post-marathon

Last month I went to Gower for the weekend in order to run the EnduranceLife coastal marathon.  The race was great, but the Gower weekend is always about so much more than just the race.

It’s a great chance for 20+ like-minded individuals from my running club to get together, forget about work and responsibilities, enjoy running, head out on some fantastic walks with amazing views, eat good food and enjoy a drink or two, and that is very much what we did over the course of the weekend!

Race day was the Saturday, leaving most of us the Saturday evening, all day Sunday and then Monday morning to enjoy the rest of our break away.  About half of our group needed to return home on the Sunday due to work which was a shame, but for the first time I was able to stay from the Friday right through to the Monday, no longer having to rely on the no-holidays-during-term-time policy which I had to when I was working as a teacher.

I was the last runner to return to the cottages following the races on the Saturday afternoon, along with the other marathon runner who had run that day.  Everybody else appeared to already be showered, changed and ready for the evening ahead.  A quick shower and a guzzle of a chocolate protein shake and I was ready to crack open a can of cider and traipse back down to the pub for dinner with everyone else.

The following morning when we woke we all congregated in the larger of the three cottages, where we were handed sausage and bacon baps and casually relaxed around the cottage, chatting mainly about the race the day before and our plans for the rest of the weekend.

The plan for the day was to hike over to a different pub to where we had eaten the previous two nights.  The new pub was approximately 7 miles away, where we would be able to enjoy a Sunday roast before hiking back to the cottages later that evening.

Gower marathon course

Three of the guys headed over to the pub via cars in the morning as some of our party had to leave following the meal, and we also wanted a fall back option should not all of our crew feel up to hiking back to the cottage following our meal.

Signpost to Rhossili

The trail that we followed was pretty much the last seven miles of the marathon course from the day before, completed in reverse.  All those steep hills we had climbed up towards the end of our race the day before, we were now scrambling back down.  Some of us in more style than others!

Margaret heading along the Gower coastal trail path

As we found ourselves at the top of a steep climb just before 11am, we decided to pause for a breather and to hold our own personal two minute silence for Remembrance Day.

Pause for Remembrance Day at GowerPause for Remembrance Day at Gower

 

Although there were large sections of fairly easy going flat trail up at the top of the cliffs, there was also a lot of technical trail and I was glad I had packed a spare pair of trail shoes for the walk.  I definitely learnt from my Converse-mistake in 2015!

Gower marathon courseGower marathon courseGower marathon course

It ended up taking us about three hours to get to the pub, and we really appreciated the warmth of the pub as we entered.  My hands were so cold following the walk that following a trip to the toilet, my fingers wouldn’t work as instructed and I had to call on the aid of somebody more sensible who had worn gloves for the hike to do the button up on my jeans!

We spent a good couple of hours in the pub before waving off the five who were headed back to Northamptonshire and four more in a car back to the cottages.  It left just six of us to follow the precarious coastal trail back in the now fading-light.

Armed with a decent set of headtorches and a borrowed set of gloves for me(!) we were much faster on the return journey and made it back in just under two and a half hours.

Feeling rather weary from our marathon the day before and the seven mile hike we had completed twice that day, we weren’t too late to bed on Sunday night!

Monday morning and we were all busy packing our bags.  It is tradition that Kev always cooks everybody a large cooked breakfast on the final morning, so once again we piled into the largest of the three cottages to plates of sausages, beans, egg, mushrooms and bacon.  There were a variety of different ‘chairs’ around the large kitchen table and we all pitched in to help get the food ready and dished out to everybody.

A couple more runners disappeared after breakfast, leaving just Steph, Tom, Kev, Amanda, Sandra and I for a final walk down to the beach.

WDAC shells on Gower beach

WDAC shells on Gower beach with Tom, Steph and IThe weather was absolutely stunning.  The sun was out, and although we were still wrapped up in coats (Although Tom braved it in just a t-shirt!) it was such a lovely day.

Gower beachGower beachGower beachAfter building up our club name in pebbles, Tom, Steph and I made our way down to the edge of the water.

Tom, Steph and I on Gower beachAll of us got caught by the tide at some point whilst we were searching for shells and wildlife in the little pockets of water on the sand.

Shell at Gower beachThe others automatically turned to me with their questions about the shells and wildlife that we found, as I grew up not far from the beach, but I could only answer a small selection of their questions!

Shell at Gower beachAs the three of us made our way back towards the others we came across a jellyfish on the sand.

JellyfishI’d not seen a jellyfish so big before, and as I looked up, realised that there was a whole line of jellyfish along the beach.

Jellyfish line at Gower beachIt was a little eerie!

We climbed the steep path back up and out towards the National Trust shop where we headed for a quick browse.

Climbing up from Gower beachBasically we did everything we could to savour the last minutes of our lovely day and put off returning home and getting back to the everyday grind.

Gower National Trust shopI’ve already pencilled Gower 2018 in the calendar!  😉

How often do you visit the beach?
Have you seen jellyfish before?
Hikes to a pub…yay or nay?!

ALL the walkies

If you follow me on Instagram you will probably have already picked up on the fact that I am going out on a lot of walks just lately.


My family are going through rather a tough time at the moment so I am heading back to Norfolk as often as I realistically can at the moment to help out my Dad. Having Oscar with me when I travel back means that I am rather limited in ways that I can help out, although his cheeky grin usually brightens up everyone’s day when we are back.  He has started walking completely on his own this week and likes to run towards me full pelt, before dive bombing his face into my lap!

I am usually limited to nap times when I can actually be of much use around the house.  Oscar always seems to sleep in when we stay over, although I never can! He really enjoys playing peek-a-boo around the hospital bed in the lounge and loves the fact that there is a keyboard in the hallway for him to play.Oscar playing the piano Just lately I have been heading back to Norfolk four days each week, sometimes staying over between the days when I can’t face another two hours of traveling.  With Oscar’s weekly swimming lessons and nursery days, staying over isn’t always very practical as I’ve had to rush around quite a lot.  From next week I’ve decided to cut my visits back to 2-3 days a week.  The traveling and constant packing and unpacking of the car (it’s impossible to travel light with traveling with a baby!) was wearing me out and I was starting to feel the pressure to keep up with my own home and commitments back in Northamptonshire.

After all the recent rushing around, last weekend I very much appreciated the chance to get away and have a proper break in Gower with my friends. Dan spent much of the following week working over in Dublin, and my car spent a couple of days in the garage so this past week has been a little different from the norm, but it felt nice to have a brief change.Oscar and Blue out on a walk One of the easiest ways I can help out when I’m in Norfolk is by taking my Dad’s dog Blue out for a walk.  Around 2pm Oscar starts to get crabby and I know that he needs his nap.  I feel that it is important for him to spend some time outside every day and he adores dogs and dog-spotting as I push his buggy around the village I grew up in.  I usually aim for about an hour’s walk with Blue each afternoon, and sometimes, when Oscar sleeps in, I can also take Blue out on a short run with me in the morning too.  He’s a fairly good dog, so although I always start by juggling both the dog lead and the buggy in my hands, as long as I choose my route wisely I can let him off and then not worry about finding myself wound up in a dog lead which has also been wrapped around the buggy first! Oscar and Blue out on a walkI adore Autumn.  It is absolutely my favourite season.  Wrapped up all cosy and warm in scarves and gloves, rambling to pubs with log fires and enjoying hot chocolate to warm up your hands.  Nothing better.  And the leaves are so beautiful at this time of year too.Oscar and Blue out on a walkMy friend Amanda thought that I had actually arranged the leaves in this picture I took the other week… Autumn leavesBut that wasn’t the case.  They had arranged themselves!  Such a beautiful mix of colours and shapes. Good job the leaves have been photogenic, because I definitely haven’t been with the winds the way they have been just lately! Windy dog walk…My hair was rather knotty that night!

A little while into our walks, Oscar usually puts his feet up on the front bar of his buggy and begins his nap.  When I return after an hour or so, rather than wake him, I then try to get on and help out with any jobs I can do in the house, as I can keep an eye on him through the window in the kitchen.  Although now that it’s getting colder, I might have to drag the buggy up the step and inside the front door so that he doesn’t get too chilly during his nap.Oscar asleep in the buggyMy friend Amanda also has a little boy, Charles, who is just five weeks older than Oscar.  Oscar and I met up with Amanda and Charles at Holt Country Park a couple of weeks back to have a catch up and to take both boys out for an Autumnal spin in their buggies.

We took a leisurely stroll around the park and out into the town to visit Folly Tearoom for hot chocolate and cake. Hot chocolate at Folly tearoomChocolate cake at Folly tearoomThe boys shared a scone and enjoyed swinging their legs in their highchairs. Both Amanda and I agreed that however delicious the drink and cake had been, it was probably a mistake to go for a double whammy of chocolate and so we both downed glasses of water before heading back on our return journey.Oscar and Me at Pearson road in Holt, NorfolkAmanda even spotted a sign made for us on the way back, so we had to stop for a photo!

Which is your favourite season?
Do you enjoy walking?
Do you have a dog?

The EnduranceLife Gower Marathon (Pt 1)

When people say they are put off joining a running club I find it such a shame.  Joining my running club was definitely one of the very best things I ever did, and it helped me to fall in love with running.
My running club are so supportive, helpful and friendly…and they hold a huge amount of social events and weekends away too!

I first went on the November Gower weekend away in 2014, although the yearly trip had already been running for a few years before I first joined in.  I ran my sixth marathon that weekend, – my first one on trail.

I headed back to run the marathon in 2015, although poor weather (horrific hill fog, hail and wind) meant that a large number of us were pulled from the course when it was deemed too unsafe to run along the edge of the cliffs for the final few miles of the race.

Last year Oscar was only a few weeks old, and although I obviously loved spending time as part of our new little family unit, I still really missed the yearly getaway with other runners from my club.

My name was one of the first on the list for Gower this year and, no longer tied down to term time hours through school, I was able to go for the full weekend this year for the first time.  Traveling down on the Friday morning, and returning at lunchtime on the Monday.  Oscar usually attends nursery on a Friday and I just added a one-off extra nursery day to his routine on the Monday for this week as well.

Once again, this year I entered the marathon distance.  In total for the weekend, there were two others from our club running the marathon, one running the ultra, thirteen running the half marathon, two running the 10k distance, two injured runners who had decided to support as they were no longer able to run and one runner’s Mum.
We had quite the crowd in our three large cottages for the weekend!

Oscar’s nursery had messaged me earlier in the week to say that for Children in Need they were going to host a breakfast for parents along with their children on the Friday morning, so I loaded up my car that morning with running gear as my tummy rumbled away.  Not having to feed either Oscar or myself was a big timesaver as I had spent all morning finishing off my packing, but I was HUNGRY by the time I arrived outside the nursery doors at 7:30am.  I passed several parents walking back out in the other direction as I arrived but thought nothing of it, assuming they had been unable to get an hour off from work for the charity event.  It wasn’t until I arrived inside and realised that there were no other parents in sight that I must have gotten the week wrong!  I hurriedly made an excuse about having not been able to give Oscar any breakfast that morning, so he still needed to be fed and rushed out to Tesco to pick something up for me!  Turns out the breakfast event is this Friday instead!

It did mean that I arrived at my friend Steph’s house (who I was giving a lift to) in plenty of time and we had set away long before 9:30am though.  When usually, I would most likely have been late!  😉

We had a fairly easy journey, and even passed a car containing three of our runners along the way (although they still managed to arrive before us!)

When we arrived at the cottages there was enough time to all hang out for a bit and grab a quick drink before walking the mile down to Rhossili for dinner at the pub.  Those who couldn’t take the day off work on the Friday joined us at the pub for food and drinks as soon as they arrived.

Alarms were set before bed and I woke feeling rather refreshed on Saturday morning at 6:30am, having slept right through the night.

I walked the mile to the Race HQ along with one of the other marathon runners, the ultra runner, and our support crew of two.  We made our way down the road with a slight wind behind us, occasionally glancing up at the steep hills around which we knew were part of the marathon route, arriving to a long queue of runners snaking out of the registration tent.  Spots of rain had begun and all we wanted to do was to huddle up in the tent until our race was due to begin!  Tom, our ultra runner was fast tracked through the queue, as the briefing for the ultra race was now imminent. When it was my turn to pass through the registration desk process it became apparent that the marshals were unable to locate my chip, so ended up changing my race number – crossing the number off my hand, and giving me a brand new race number with my details written on in marker pen.

Having declared how much I love the Clif bars to several others before the race, I managed to acquire three in total from friends which I then tucked away into my bag for the race! :)  Winning!

The ultra runners were late setting off meaning that us marathon runners were very late starting our race briefing.  The briefing then seemed to last forever.  I, along with a few others were getting rather agitated by the time the briefing had finished and the race director told us to congregate at the start line in about 5 minutes time.  (Why not head straight to the start now?  We were already 20 minutes past our start time!)

One of the marathon runners from our club was concerned about the cut off times on the course so, as we now had a further 5 minutes to wait for the start, she headed over to look at the course map to see if it would be possible to turn off at the half marathon marker point instead, and if so, at what point that fell on the course.  As we headed over, I heard another female runner in discussion with the RD over what time the cut off was. He was reminding her that we needed to arrive by 2:15pm – 5 hours 15 minutes – at mile 19.9 on the course.  I butted in and asked if the 2:15pm cut off would actually be extended to reflect the fact that we were now so late starting the race and was told that no, it wouldn’t.  That there would be plenty of time to cover the ground if we were to run all the flats and downhills on the course.  Knowing the course, and knowing how technical the downhills on the route are, I knew that having 4 hours and 45 minutes to get to 20 miles would actually be a tough ask for plenty more runners than just me.

EnduranceLife Gower marathon 2017

I was a little antsy as I stood on the start line waiting for the start of the race, knowing that half an hour of my time to get to the one and only cut off point at mile 20 had already been taken up by the briefing.  To add to things, when I had turned my Garmin on during briefing, it had flashed ‘Low battery’ at me repeatedly, before turning off.  I decided to try and use the Strava app on my phone to record my run – something which I hadn’t done before.

EnduranceLife Gower marathon 2017

We bottlenecked as we all left the field before heading down a little farm track.

The first year I had run the marathon course the start line had actually been located at Middleton, the village we stay in.  (The start was literally right opposite our cottages.  We rolled out of bed and headed over for our numbers still in our pyjamas that year!)  But since 2015 the course has started further up the road, meaning that the first sharp hill is now very early on in the course.  One of my strengths is uphills.  I have long legs and can use them to my advantage to power up past those runners around me.  Much harder when you are still surrounded by all the other runners though, and it was difficult to get into any real stride here.

It didn’t last forever though and we did space out a little after this.  With so few of us from my running club running the marathon this year, this would be the first year where I was running the course completely on my own (something which I usually prefer), and I was surprised that at no point during the 28 miles of the marathon was I ever not in sight of another runner.

Coming back down the other side of that first hill is rather tough.  The descent is steep, with rocks sticking out in random places and a stream usually pours out of the side of this hill, although I didn’t see any evidence of that this year.  I saw one woman whose dog was attached to her waist actually leave the ground and go slamming into the hillside as the dog took off at a faster pace than her legs could keep up.  She got up and released the dog before continuing.
It must be an amazing sight to see the serious front runners agilely run down this first hill.  Most of the runners around (me included) were cautiously picking their way down the less slippy parts and looking less than impressive!

You hit the first beach of three around mile 3.5.  I passed the other female marathon runner from our club just before arriving at the sand.  I hate running along the beach.  These beaches are wide enough that you have plenty of space to pick your running line – along the grassland at the top or down by the shore.  The sand was actually fairly firm mid-way along and so I stuck to this line, along with the majority of other runners.  The beaches on this course are my nemesis and the point at which I lost my running mates last time I ran the event.
The beach stretches out far into the distance.  My pace always begins to pick up automatically as it sees the longest flat piece of ground it has done for a while and I really struggle to either hold myself back, or be able to maintain the pace my body wants me to run at.

This year I decided that I wasn’t going to let the beaches defeat me, and I was actually going to maintain a steady pace across all three, which I did manage to do, passing several runners who had chosen to walk sections of the sand along the way.  Running events like these it becomes all about the mind games, and I won on this occasion!

After the beach there was another short climb and then we were out onto grassland again.

EnduranceLife Gower marathon 2017EnduranceLife Gower marathon 2017EnduranceLife Gower marathon 2017EnduranceLife Gower marathon 2017

We ran for a little way along a boardwalk made up of short planks to act as a path for pedestrians cut into the sandy track.  We had been warned that it would be slippy here.  The track was fairly narrow and there were still lots of runners around at this point.  The wooden slats were pretty uneven and jutted up in several places.  I figured that as they were so uneven I wouldn’t be able to slip on them.
That was a mistake.  I slipped and went down hard onto my knee.  (My knee is sporting a fantastic dark-coloured bruise now.)  Both the guy in front of me and the one behind checked that I was OK before continuing after I went down.  I got up quickly and could feel the stiffness in my leg immediately, limping briefing for a few strides before it loosened up.

(I’ll get the rest of the race recap up later this week)

Have you fallen during a race before?
Do you prefer up or downhill running?