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:
2:54:16
Official position:
2135/2220
Gender position:
946/1011
Age category position:
366/386

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!

Racing a trail half – Royston

On Sunday I raced a trail half marathon.  I didn’t stop to take photos along the route, I ran through drink stations and I didn’t hold any gates open for other runners (erm, sorry about that!)

Usually, I don’t race trail races but instead run them at a leisurely pace.  I walk the hills, munch at the checkpoints and take a few photos on the way round.  This time though, two weeks out from my goal marathon, I wanted to run the race hard and to feel comfortably uncomfortable the whole way round – trying my best to run on feel, not heart rate or pace.  I don’t want to run looking down at my watch every few seconds when I get to Mablethorpe and wanted to check how in-tune I was with my body.

I think I cracked it and I certainly had a fantastic race experience.  My best in a long while!

I grabbed a lift with another club runner to the race and seventeen from our club ran in total, all of varying speeds and abilities.  The race we ran was the Royston harvest trail half marathon, but there was also an option to run the Royston harvest trail quarter marathon, starting out along the same course.

Royston harvest trail run WDAC runners

I set out fairly steadily, chatting to another runner for the first mile.  Despite chatting, and the route being off-road on thick grass, I was surprised to see the mile tick by in 9:52.  The first couple of miles are on a gradual incline, with a few small bumps in the path.  At one point you have to duck underneath some racetrack fencing to get out onto a small country track.  You then head out alongside a field and onto a very narrow track that climbs steeply up through a small wood just before mile four.  Although I felt pretty strong still, I was forced into a walk here by the runners in front.  There were about 20 runners ahead of me who were all walking this section, and had I managed to squeeze past the first one, I would have had to continue asking if I could squeeze by those further ahead of me, so resigned to a fast walk here instead.  At least the majority of people were walking fairly quickly at this early point in the race.

Royston harvest trail marathon elevationI had run the race last year, so knew roughly what to expect from the elevation. (1,109ft!)

Mile 1: 9:52
Mile 2:
9:33
Mile 3:
9:57
Mile 4:
12:04

Upon reaching the top of the steep track we came out onto a road.  The quarter marathon runners turned left and the rest of us turned right to continue along our way, heading past the water station for the first time.  I took a sip from a cup before chucking it and carrying on running.  Several of the runners who had been walking in front of me stopped at the water station and I never saw them again out on the course.

There were several kissing gates out on the course, which broke up the route.  I think my body prefers the route to be naturally broken up by road crossings, gates and changes in terrain and it was nice being made to take tiny little mini breaks whilst out on the course.

Mile 5: 10:03
Mile 6:
10:13
Mile 7: 9:58
Mile 8: 10:32

I was still feeling very strong and so amazed at how consistent my running had been throughout the course so far.  I had intended on running hard, but had expected to die off a little before this point.  That feeling never came though and I remained strong throughout.  I was trying not to constantly look at my watch, but rather aim to run by feel.  If I had been running to heart rate, I would have been checking to ensure I was running just under 160 bpm.  Upon looking at my stats after the race I can see that I was spot on, at 159bpm on average during the race.

Royston harvest trail marathon heart rateAt mile 9 we ran through the second water station and it was here that I passed another runner from club, – Ian, who I ran with at Dunstable Downs 20m the previous weekend.  Ian is a much faster runner than me so I knew that I was having a good race when I glided past but had lost sight of him another mile along the track.

Mile 9: 10:18
Mile 10:
9:59
Mile 11: 10:08

With two miles until the end you reach this spectacular hill.  (Image taken from the Royston Runners Facebook page.)  This was the only point where I chose to walk rather than to run, as did the majority of entrants and I overtook several more walkers along this section with my long stride.
Royston harvest trail half hillIt was here that I passed a woman wearing sandals!  I spoke to her briefly as I went past.  Her feet looked amazing – not all battered and beaten like the feet of runners usually do!  Apparently she had been wearing sandals whilst out running for several years with the aim of encouraging her to run more on her fore-foot and discourage heel striking.  I’m not sure how the skin between her big toe and toe number two felt by the end of the race though…there was a lot of downhill just before the end so there would have been a lot of pressure where the toe piece went!

Luckily, this was quite a short (although incredibly steep!) hill and I was soon off running again, enjoying a brief bit of downhill before tackling the lumps and bumps within the final wood.  Everytime the course threw in a welcome downhill, it seemed to be followed by a steep climb the other side again, and the wood was filled with trees, with roots sticking up everywhere so even though legs were tired by this point, you had to really pick your feet up to stop from going flying.

Once out of the wood though, there is an amazing long downhill all the way round the outside of the sports fields and through to the finish line.

Mile 12: 11:48
Mile 13:
11:25
Nubbin (0.7m): 9:06

The course was a fair bit over distance.  I’ve come to expect that with trail races though and as a lot of the extra was along a lovely downhill section I didn’t mind too much!  It was nice to breeze through the finish line knowing that I had worked hard and was able to collect my certificate and cake.  Not bad for a £6 entry fee!

Royston harvest trail half marathon certificate and cake at the finish

Watch time: 2h 22m 12s
Official time:
2h 22m 16s
Position: 117/158

Following the race I was eager to check my predicted times on the Fetch website to look at what time Fetch thought I would be able to achieve over the marathon distance.  I covered 13.1 miles of the incredibly hilly course in 2h 15m 36s on Sunday, which gave me a predicted time for my future marathon of 4h 42m 44s.Marathon predictorWell below my goal of a sub 5 hour marathon!  Sunday’s half was so hilly I did wonder how I would get on in an actual road half marathon at the moment.  I haven’t raced one in a long while and I would like to think I could achieve a new PB if I were to race one right now.  Basically, racing last weekend has given me bucketloads of confidence to relax and enjoy my taper this time round, knowing that I’ve put the hard work in ready for marathon day.

11 days and counting…!

Do you use race time predictors to work out what you should be capable of achieving?
Where is the hilliest place you have ever run/walked?

Come help me marshal!

Next Sunday I shall once again be a sector lead for race company Go Beyond at Northampton Half Marathon.  I will be out on the same section of course as last year at Great Houghton between miles 7-9.5.

Yesterday afternoon I attended a briefing with the other sector leads and Race Director Steve Adams to ensure we understood what was to happen on raceday itself and that we were able to relay any information down to marshals within our section.Go Beyond crew hoodie

I am still a couple of marshals short across my stretch of the course so if you are free next Sunday (6th September), live near to Northampton and would like a race t-shirt and free entry to another Go Beyond race then please leave a comment on this post, drop me an email or send me a tweet.

Go Beyond host a variety of races across the year from 10ks to duathlons to ultras to triathlons.  The Shires and Spires 35m race is always one of the first to be added to my race calendar each year, but I have also marshaled at Coombe Abbey and Northampton Running Festivals, Mud & Mayhem Duathlon in Thetford, Thames Trot and Country to Capital.  (Click links to read my blog posts).  Take a look at the Go Beyond full events calendar to see if any events take your fancy in the upcoming year.

The marshaling itself won’t be too taxing and will involve standing on a corner and warning runners about a turn or traffic as they approach.  It would be lovely to meet some more runners from the area so if you are available to help, please let me know!  Also, entries are still being taken so if you wanted to enter and then wave at me as you zoom past somewhere along the Great Houghton stretch, I would be sure to wave back too!  :)

Changing subject slightly, has anyone downloaded the new parkrun app yet?  It’s currently only available for Apple devices annoyingly, but I have an iPad for work so I downloaded it to test it out.

iPad screenYou can set yourself targets that you wish to achieve and the app also lets you hunt out other parkruns near to you, telling you details about each of the courses so you can assess whether or not they have PB potential!parkrun app for iPadYou can keep track of all of your parkrun times and volunteering weeks.  It also lets you ‘make friends’ with other parkrunners so you can see their progress easily.

parkrun app for iPad

It’s a shame there isn’t an Android version yet, but I’m sure the demand for one will be high enough that one will be developed soon.

Are you free next Sunday for a few hours and fancy helping me marshal?
Do you have the parkrun app on your phone/iPad?

Royston half and a celebrity meet

I’m going to start with the celebrity before I talk about the half marathon, as it was rather exciting to meet Dawn French on Saturday night!  Dan had been looking for a night out that we could look forward to just a fortnight ago when he spotted that tickets were still available for Dawn French’s tour in Milton Keynes.  We booked two central seats and counted down the days.  Of course, when we arrived on Saturday night there was the obligatory pre-performance selfie…

Dan and I before seeing Dawn French

And then we grabbed a quick drink and took our seats ready for the show to begin.

Thirty Million Minutes - Dawn French

Thirty Million Minutes is the name of the tour that Dawn French is currently on as this is approximately the number of minutes that she has been alive for.  The material for her show has come from her life experiences and she told us funny tales of having to check her Mother’s lady parts for glass interspersed with more serious details, such as her Dad’s suicide and her miscarriages as well as her more recent 7.5 stone weight loss which actually came from a cancer scare and the doctor requesting she lose weight before surgery.  I knew several of the stories from reading her autobiography, Dear Fatty, but nothing beats hearing stories from a true storyteller such as Dawn.

As we filed out of Milton Keynes theatre at the end of the show and headed towards the car park Dan noticed that we were walking right past the stage exit, which had a fancy car outside.  He convinced me to wait a few seconds, and then the next thing I knew Dan was introducing us to Dawn who was stood infront of us with a permanent marker asking if we would like an autograph!  Her bodyguard took a photo of Dan and I with her (although it took him three attempts as he struggled to use Dan’s phone!)
Dawn French with Dan and I in Milton Keynes

She was very nice and joked with us about Dan buying the tickets and picking up brownie points for his new wife and then, without me requesting she gave me a personal signing in my program.  :)
My program autographed by Dawn French

Very glad Dan decided to pick a program up and that he convinced me to wait a couple of minutes on the walk back to the car!

Sunday morning I was up bright and early and off to Royston half marathon.  I headed up with Hayley and June from my club.  The race itself only cost £6 to enter.  (This is such a bargain, especially knowing that the Great North Run costs nearly £50!)  I got my place for free though as June’s daughter could no longer make it so I took her number.  When I went into the number collection tent to ask for a name change I provided entertainment for the ladies as I struggled to pronounce June’s daughter’s surname then told them my name was Mary Moore before quickly correcting myself with Mary Pearson!  One day I’ll remember that I have a new name!

Quick pre-race selfie…

Me, Hayley and June at Royston half marathon

 

It was a beautiful morning – perfect to run my first trail half marathon.  I had no expectations for time and just intended on enjoying the run.  I’ve run 13.1 miles in training in 2:03 before with my half marathon race PB currently at 2:08.  I’m not at that standard at the moment though, so thought after looking at last year’s results from our club runners and dependent upon hills I would probably be coming in anywhere between 2:30-2:40.

I quickly realised that it was too sunny for me to be wearing a t-shirt underneath my club vest so about a mile in I leapt off into a field and pulled both tops off, just putting my race vest with number attached back on again.  I tucked my red t-shirt into my race belt.  I can’t believe how warm it still is when we’re nearly into October.  At this rate I’ll be one of the nutters running the cross-country season in a vest and shorts!

The course was described as ‘hilly’.  In my experience of races, courses are never described as hilly, always as undulating.  At mile 9 I can remember thinking this course could be classed as undulating.  I’d not run anything I really felt classed as ‘hilly’.  Then the hills hit!  About 2.5 miles from the finish we began a very steep climb to the top of a hill.  From here it was beautiful though – we could see all along the golf course and down into Royston on one side and it overlooked a wood on the other.  At the start Kev had told me that the finish was a rolling downhill from the big hill.  I thought this must be it…one big hill then freerunning back down again.  Not the case!  We headed alongside the golf course for a little way before turning into the wood.  Here, there were roots sticking up everywhere and there were steep downhills and steps followed by more steep uphills.  I struggled more with the steep downhills though – really must learn to let myself go and trust my feet on the downhills!

Eventually we came out into a clearing and could see the finish in the distance at the bottom of the hill.  Luckily it wasn’t a direct route straight down the hill so I managed to pick up a bit of speed as the track gradually made it’s way down to the bottom, around the outside of the field and through the finish.  Because of the mixup with my name when I signed up, the marshals recognised me and cheered me in by name which was nice.

I recorded the distance as an extra 0.5 miles and I came in just under 2hr40m.  But most importantly I’d enjoyed myself and ticked another half marathon off my list.  All good training for my upcoming marathon and ultra.Royston half marathon on the garmin

(Official time 2:35:51)

For £6 you can’t expect too much, but I was happy to see two water stations on the course and to receive a finisher’s certificate at the end of the race.  (Mine is only not filled in because I took someone else’s number on the day but I will add my name and time when I get my official time through.)Royston half marathon certificate We also got a cake at the finish.  Runners certainly know runners and their needs!  :)Cake at Royston half marathon

This race was part of our club trail league so there were quite a few of us there today, despite it being on the same day as Cransley half marathon, a closer race which is part of our road running league.  We nabbed a runner’s husband to take our photo at the finish as we were munching on cakes and drinking Guinness and coffee (or in my case, water).WDAC runners at Royston half marathon We also took a post race selfie of June, Hayley and I before jumping in the car to head home again.Me, Hayley and June at Royston half marathon

Getting home was an eventful journey as we had been travelling for about half an hour when heavy smoke rose from the bonnet of June’s car!  Luckily we were outside a services so I popped in to ask for a large bottle of water to top up her tank.  It looks like she might have a leak.  We set off once more, only to be stopped be a police line as a fatal car accident had just occurred on the road home.  Eventually we made it back again though!

Accidents are unfortunate, but Babcock Partners LLC can help you find the right attorney to deal with its legal issues.

Have you ever met a celebrity?  I never know what to say!  Or at times I don’t recognise them and end up having full length conversations with them about their children!  (Frankie Dettori!)
Trail or road half marathons.  Which do you prefer?