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?!

A look back at 2018

2018 has been another year with not as much blogging as I would have really liked.  (Just 35 posts in 2018!)  But it has been a year filled with action packed fun and adventure when I looked back through my calendar and in my blog posts this weekend.  (When is my life ever not filled with fun and adventure?!)

Once again, I’ve loved putting together this post and reminiscing over the past year of fun.  Here goes…

My 2018bestnine from Instagram:2018bestnine on Instagram - A Healthier MooObviously lots and lots of running in there!

* Super tasty meal out with Dan on our first date day since having Oscar.
* At the finish of the Robin Hood 100 in September. I finally ran 100 miles! My face says it all.
* At the end of the Milton Keynes Marathon in May. Such a ridiculously hot day. The support from the locals was incredible though.
* Headed up the first big hill of the South Downs Way 50 in April. I had such an epic race that day. Everything fell into place for me out on the trails.
* My Shires and Spires 35m medal from May. I ran my second fastest time on the course despite only using the race as a training run for my first 100 event.
* Volunteering as 30 minute pacer for the first time at Northampton parkrun at the start of the year.
* High fiving Oscar at the 85 mile point of my 100.
* Playing rounders on the roof of the Decathlon building in London.
* Comparing this year’s SDW50 medal with last year’s. A few seconds shy of an hour PB!

My 2018bestnine from my fromteachertomum account on Instagram:

2018bestnine on Instagram - From Teacher to Mum* Oscar playing at Wickstead Park.
* Enjoying his first time paddling in the sea at Wells in Norfolk.
* Our family holiday to the Isle of Wight and one of my favourite pictures of the three of us from the year.
* Just a sunny Saturday afternoon at the park across the road from us.
* Helping to collect potatoes for dinner at Grandad’s house.
* Oscar’s first ice skating trip at Beckworth Emporium.
* Watching the ducks with Grandad in Norfolk.
* My little mini me!
* Enjoying shoulder rides with Daddy at Irchester Country Park.

January:

Obviously a parkrun double was on the cards at the start of the year and I chose to run the Linford Wood/Milton Keynes double again with Laura.

Unfortunately it seems I never got round to blogging about the double event.  (Damn being a busy working Mum and having no time!!!)

The following day Dan, Oscar and I traveled to Wolverhampton for a funeral.  Dan’s Nan had died at the end of November and her funeral was held on the 2nd January.

I marshaled at checkpoint 3 of the Country to Capital ultra.  (I was there again this morning, but working registration and checkpoint 1 this time.)

Checkpoint three of Country to Capital

In January I was frequently working three night shifts a week, managing the occasional parkrun on a Saturday morning and then trying to blog, train for my 100, keep on top of housework and Mum the rest of the time.  Somehow I managed a few parkruns straight on the back of a night shift before heading home to bed, and one weekend after having already worked a back to back night I drove to Biggleswade, slept (if you can call it that!) for an hour in the front of my car, changed into my cross-country kit and ran the final cross-country race of the season!

Biggleswade cross-country

It was also around this time that I had a health scare and was taken into hospital for a few scans.  Although hopefully nothing to worry about I am still being monitored following that first hospital trip.

2018 was the first year of the National Running Show and I was so excited to visit in January.  I was looking to meet new people and spend lots of money on fun running things!  There were some great guest speakers and I bumped into a couple of people I knew through blogging at the show which was fun.  I also managed to pick up some pace bands, which I’m hoping are going to come in handy for when I run London Marathon in April later this year.
I’m an ambassador for the event this year and although I’m poor and can’t really afford to spend any money at the show this time round, I can’t wait to see and hear all of the fantastic guest speakers they have lined up for next weekend!

The National Running Show

I volunteered for first time as pacer for 30 minutes at Northampton parkrun, coming in at 29:58 – I couldn’t have gotten much closer to target than that!

Northampton parkrun pacer

At the end of the month we had a second funeral to attend for my Dad’s cousin.  Another cancer victim in our family

February:

Dan was taken all over the country with work during 2018, often away for days at a time.  I put a shoutout on our club Facebook page to see if anybody would be able to loan me a treadmill in the build up to the South Downs Way 100 and I was lucky enough to be able to borrow a treadmill!

Testing out the treadmill

After 17 months, Oscar finally started walking on his own on Valentine’s Day!

I also worked on the registration desk of our club trail race, the Welly Trail Half.

Welly Trail Race medals

March:

I ran the Milton Keynes Half on Mother’s Day.  The first Mother’s Day without my own Mum.  Initially hoping for a shiny new half marathon PB, my dreams turned to dust when I had to pull over and limp the final eight miles after getting a sharp pain in my calf at mile 5.  I was absolutely gutted and there were a few tears that morning.

MK half marathon finish

The following day though, Dan, Oscar and I hopped into a very full car and headed off to York for our first family holiday.  It was very much needed and I really enjoyed taking some time off from work, running and actually getting to spend some precious time with my boys.

Dan, Me and Oscar on holiday in York

Following my calf injury I booked in to see Fred at StrongLines.  He taped up my calf and gave me a number of exercises to complete over the coming months to strengthen my weaker areas and ensure I made it to the start line of my 100 in June.

Physio taped up calf

nearly collapsed as I stood scanning barcodes at Northampton parkrun in the freezing cold one Saturday, luckily feeling much better after a trip to Magee’s and with a hot chocolate in hand to increase my sugar levels.

Laura and I volunteering at Northampton parkrun

April:

Laura and I ran our traditional pre-Stanwick 10k run.  It tipped it down this year and the usual route was flooded so they had to divert the course.  (Laura and I still made it across the ford, but barely!)

Flooding at Stanwick 10k

I stepped down as website editor from my running club committee, and received a lovely bunch of flowers and thanks at the AGM.

Flowers from the AGM

One of my goals for the year was to complete the South Downs Way 50 in a faster time than I had the previous year as I’d still been breastfeeding back in 2017 and had stopped to express along the way!  I’d have been pretty gutted if I had not been able to run the 2018 event faster!
Luckily, I achieved my goal, and finished nearly an hour faster than I had ran the event the previous year, smashing all of my goals for the race and building my confidence ready for the 100 miles along the same piece of course later on in the year.

South Downs Way 50 medal

I started working for OCR (the exam board) and as my training day meant spending a Saturday morning in Coventry, I obviously tied it in with some parkrun tourism!  😉

Coventry parkrun

I then spectacularly managed to mess up some parkrun tourism when I arranged to meet Laura at Luton parkrun.  Turns out there are two parkruns in Luton!  Luckily we each turned up at an event we hadn’t run before so still increased our tourism count even though we didn’t see each other that morning!  Not my finest moment though!  To think I was so chuffed to have arrived before Laura that day, when I always leave everything to the last minute!

Wearing my cow cowl at Luton Wardown parkrun

May:

This year we attended four weddings and two Christenings, the first Christening fell on the first weekend in May for my friend Zoë’s little boy Oliver.

Olivers Christening with Oscar

The following day was the Milton Keynes Marathon.  Probably the hottest weather I have ever run in!  I had decided by mile 11 to just enjoy the run rather than to run hard, and I had such a fun race!

Milton Keynes Marathon - spotting Oscar

A few weeks later I offered to pace another runner to a PB at the Shires and Spires ultra.  The runner I was pacing achieved more than she had hoped for, taking over an hour off from her previous best, and crossing the lady as third in her age category, winning a trophy along the way!

Shires and Spires 35m

June:

I didn’t blog much in June.  (Once, about the Shires and Spires race.)  All of my time was spent marking for OCR, working shifts at Tesco and preparing to run 100 miles at the South Downs Way.

I ran my first attempt at the 100 mile distance on the 2nd weekend in June, managing to get to 78 miles.  Possibly the busy lead up to the event was what caused my downfall in not completing the race.

SDW100

July:

As an ambassador for Decathlon I was invited to go and take part in filming for their Summer campaign – Sport for Every Body.  I had so much fun down in London with a bunch of like-minded fitness bloggers and was sad when the day came to an end, even though I had the most stressful trip down and my interview answers on camera were so poorly constructed!

Decathlon blogger meetup

We started to make a massive dent in our garden this Summer, but due to the heatwave, could only get so far so that’s another mission to add to our 2019 to do list!

Our back gardenOscar ran his first toddler dash at our club race at the end of July.  Although I had visions of him happily toddling the whole length of the race, arms in air as he crossed the finish line, in reality it rained heavily for the duration of the race and Oscar sulked as soon as he realised the other toddlers were much older and bigger, therefore faster than him.  He ducked under the barrier at the first opportunity and it took a lot of convincing from Dan and Me to keep him going until the end!

Oscar at his first Toddler dash at the Welly 5

August:

I went to support Guy at the Grim Reaper race at the start of August.  He was attempting the 70 mile distance, which had been where I ran my first 70.  He had horrific heat for his attempt though, so I went along armed with ice lollies for him and the rest of his support crew.  Sadly the heat got to him and the blisters which grew on his feet prevented him from getting past 40 miles on the day.

Guy at the Grim Reaper

We met up with friends and their toddler at Clumber Park later in the week, not realising at the time that I would actually be running part of my 100 miler around the park later in the year.

Me and Oscar with Julie and Alfie at Clumber Park

It was also our fourth wedding anniversary on the 9th August.  (That time has gone by so quickly!)  A fourth anniversary is represented by flowers and fruit.  I bought Dan a plant for our lounge and he treated me to a delivery of roses then we headed out for a date night dinner with Oscar in the evening after Dan had finished work.

Fourth anniversary rosesDan, Oscar and I on our fourth wedding anniversary

August was also Dan’s 30th birthday, which we celebrated by having some of his closest friends over for the day.  It was a fairly quiet celebration, as we were due to head off for a holiday to the Isle of Wight the next day.

Dans 30th birthdayWe made a break for four days to the Isle of Wight to stay in a static caravan owned by Dan’s parents.  It was the first time I had ever been to the Isle of Wight (or stayed in a caravan!), and we had a fantastic time away.

Oscar, Dan and I at the Isle of Wight

We headed back home ready for the weekend so that I may work and then we continued our Summer adventures by visiting my Dad in Norfolk the following week.  So much lovely family time together, although we did have to attend the third family funeral of the year whilst we were back – for my Aunt/Godmother.  Another cancer victim.

Dan, Oscar and I at Sheringham railway

September:

I booked to run the Dunstable Downs marathon at the start of September rather last minute.  The race fell a fortnight before my second 100 mile attempt, but I didn’t feel well going into the event and made the decision to pull before even getting to halfway, resulting in a massive knock to my confidence before goal race day.

Dunstable Downs Marathon

I gained a new niece – my brother had a baby girl, Evie.  Our second niece by that name.  (Obviously the first by my brother!)

Me and Baby Evie

September was all about the completing my first 100 miler – the Robin Hood 100.  I was so, so happy to cross that finish line and know that I had completed the distance I had set out to complete as one of my main goals at the start of the year!

100 mile finisher face! (Robin Hood 100)

We also celebrated Oscar’s 2nd birthday with friends at West Lodge Farm this month.

Oscars birthday cupcakes

I followed my 100 up with the Squeaky Bone relay race a few weeks later, running with three good friends as part of a relay team.

Squeaky Bone relay raceAt the end of the month I was chosen as an Ambassador for The National Running Show, which is something I’m really looking forward to attending again this year.

The National Running Show ambassador

October:

In October I offered to show other local members of the Run Mummy Run community some local running routes, and have regularly run out with a little group that live nearby since.  I also got involved with the RMR takeover at Kettering parkrun, volunteering to set up and take down the equipment after the run.

Run Mummy Run takeover at Kettering parkrun

Dan, Oscar and I took a trip to Wolverhampton to meet a friend’s baby.

Dan and Oscar meeting baby Grayson

Oscar got sick the following week and ended up hospitalised with pneumonia which was a rather scary time.  The day after he left hospital I headed up to the Peak District to run the Dusk ’til Dawn marathon through the night with friends.  I had so much fun, even though it was freezing out there!

Dusk 'til Dawn sunsetMy birthday is the 31st October and I celebrated(!) by hosting a Halloween party for four of Oscar’s friends and their Mums, and then did my paper-round in the evening!  Oh how glamorous it is being a stay-at-home Mum in my 30s(!)  We had so much fun at the party though!

Mini pizzas at our Halloween party

November:

Dan had treated me to a spa day for my birthday, so on the first Friday in November we headed to a spa in Kettering for the day.  It was lovely actually being able to spend time with just Dan again after so long.

Birthday spa day with Dan

I ran the first cross-country race of the season at Dunstable.  It was ridiculously hard!

Dunstable 3CXC course

trip to Gower with friends for the marathon came the following weekend and it was nice to have some time completely away from being Mum for a couple of days and escape the madness of working five jobs!

Gower marathon start beach

The following weekend was the second cross-country event in the series.  Our home race and again, ridiculously hard.  Made even harder by the fact that a friend and fellow runner from the club had died the morning before following a cardiac arrest whilst out on a run.  (Guy, who I had supported at Grim earlier in the year, and who had paced me at the Robin Hood 100.)

Wellingborough 3CXC race

December:

December was a brighter month.  With Christmas on the way, Dan, Oscar and I were invited down to London to film for the Decathlon campaign ‘Bikes are for Christmas’.

As Oscar was of an age where he understood the magic of Christmas a little better this year we made sure to fit as much of that Christmas magic into the month as possible.

We took him Ice Skating at Beckworth Emporium…

Ice skating at Beckworth Emporium

…to have our photo taken in a giant snow globe at Bosworths Garden Centre…

Oscar, Dan and I having our photo taken inside a snow globe

…and to West Lodge Farm Park to meet Santa.

Oscar meeting Santa at West Lodge Farm Park

We spent Christmas with my Dad, Aunt and Great Aunt in Norfolk and then just enjoyed having some time off as a family for the remaining few days that Dan had off before needing to return to work.

Oscar and Me in front of the Christmas tree

And then, just like that, we’re already two weeks into 2019!

What were the highlights of your 2019?

Christmas running

The week before Christmas is when I really start to feel Christmassy.  The cross-country series my running club runs in holds it’s final cross-country race of the year the week before Christmas, and my club always organises a Christmas Eve run around our local country park, finishing with hot drinks and sausage rolls at the cafe.

Everybody gets into the Christmas spirit at the Letchworth cross-country race.  Santa hats, tinsel and then Christmas themed sandwiches and cake at the finish (think ham and mustard, turkey and stuffing, brie and cranberry…!)

After a disappointing first two events of the series where I walked on numerous occasions and didn’t run the races I had hoped, I decided to wear my heart rate monitor for this event and to stick to a very reserved 165bpm over the cross-country course in order to remain consistent during my run.  No walking would be a success!

We set off and I managed a strong start as we first ran a lap of the field passing our supporting club members and out at the end onto the farmyard tracks.  I was ahead of runners I knew would probably overtake as we continued.  Several runners from my club went on to overtake me around the 1 mile mark on the course.

As we turned a narrow corner, we passed a chap playing Christmas songs on a brass horn of some sort which picked everybody up ready for hill we knew would soon be coming up.

The course heads out along farmyard tracks.  You run a lollipop shape around a couple of fields and then head back down the lollipop stick again the way the course first headed out.  The front runners always turn back onto the stick of the lollipop just as I’m about to leave it and so I like cheering other club members on here.  It was nice to see a couple of our runners in the top 10 as they turned back for the finish.

There’s only really one hill on the course (it’s on the stick so you run it twice), but I focused on trusting my heart rate monitor, overtaking several runners who had resorted to walking both times we made the climb.

I felt rather lumbery in style, but satisfied that I was getting the job done without giving in and walking the hills or with crazy varied paces over the 5.5 mile distance.

There’s a horrible short, sharp bank to climb with quarter of a mile to go.  Luckily there’s usually a marshal on hand to help haul you up, and I took advantage of the hoist out of the hole this year!

Quick smile and a wave to our two photographers on course…

Letchworth Three Counties Cross Country - Standalone Farm Letchworth Three Counties Cross Country - Standalone FarmI managed a little kick at the finish and still felt comfortable at the end, so my mission to race smart was successful.

Christmas cookie

Position: 332/400
Gender position: 107/161
Age category position: 13/16

First Christmassy run done, onto the next with parkrun the following weekend.

I headed to Kettering parkrun for my final parkrun before Christmas.  Although initially unsure how busy it would be (Kettering were holding a pacing event on the 22nd) it didn’t actually feel too busy when we were running around.  The initial plan had been for me to run with Oscar in the buggy and for Dan to use a pacer to attempt a new PB, but after loudly banging piles of shoes around downstairs for twenty minutes Dan came to the realisation that he had left his running trainers at work the previous day so would not be able to join in with a parkrun that morning.  Following our frantic search for his shoes, it left me with just enough time to jump into the car and make it to the start line in time for the start of the briefing.

So instead Oscar stayed at home with Dan and I jogged around the course with Laura, who I hadn’t run with in a little while so we had a catch up and an easy run round.

Laura and I at the Kettering Christmas parkrunI have this massive fear that one day on the Kettering course I’m going to slip and fall over on the boardwalk and then slide out under the barriers and into the water below!  Hopefully this won’t ever become a reality!

Official time: 31:46
Position: 269/432
Gender position: 75/187
Category position: 5/16

The club Christmas Eve run was different this year.  A couple of friends I normally run with couldn’t make it this year and I had worked a night shift on the Sunday (the night before), so rushed home at the end of my shift to sneak a quick hour of sleep in before heading over for the run.  I then ended up arriving late and missing the start anyway.

I had a lovely run with a friend and her husband who I managed to catch sight of as Dan dropped me off at the park, but I missed the annual pre-run photo and missed seeing a lot of people before they left for Christmas which was a shame.

Dan met us at the end of the run and Oscar was in a foul mood after a poor night of sleep.  It had taken Dan the length of my entire run to get Oscar to walk not quite as far as the cafe entrance and then we had a battle to get him into his car seat for home again afterwards.  It took approximately half an hour to convince him to stay in his car seat long enough to be buckled in for the journey home!  Not a battle we had planned on facing on Christmas Eve morning!

So frustratingly, the parkrun Dan and I had planned to attend on Christmas Day (Sheringham) had been cancelled a few days earlier.  National Trust had decided that due to the heavy rainfall in the area that week, they wanted to give the ground a little time to recover between runs.  The Sheringham event is fairly close to where my Dad lives…ten minutes away.  (Why oh why was parkrun not a thing when I lived at home?!)  The next nearest event that was being held on Christmas Day was in Norwich, nearly an hour’s drive from my Dad’s house and in the complete opposite direction to where my Aunt lives (Kings Lynn) who we had promised to pick up mid-morning and bring back to my Dad’s for lunch.  So a Christmas Day parkrun was sadly off the cards this year.

Did you take part in any Christmassy runs this year?
Does your parkrun ever get cancelled due to the weather?
Any tips for reasoning with a stroppy two year old to convince them to get into their car seat?!  Haha!

Dusk ’til Dawn marathon

My intention for the Dusk ’til Dawn event this year was to have another crack at the ultra distance (50 miles). I’ve been on the start line for this event three times already. First in 2013 when I won a place through Operation Ultra in Women’s Running Magazine. Next in 2014 when I returned with friends Kev, Tracey and Tom. Finally in 2015 when Tom and I returned to attempt the distance (with friends also running ahead). The 2016 event fell a few weeks after I first came home from hospital after having Oscar, then the event didn’t take place last year and here we are, already in 2018…

Although I knew that a half marathon and marathon event were now also on offer alongside the ultra distance, I really wanted to prove that I was able to complete the 50 mile ultra event within the time allowance.  The race is called ‘Dusk ’til Dawn’ due to it’s start time coinciding with nightfall on the Saturday night and the cut-off for the event at the point the sun rises the following morning.  As Richard, the Race Director’s Father had sadly passed away this year, the race began one hour before dusk, to be known as ‘Eddie’s hour’.  The extra hour was another reason I felt like I was meant to enter the ultra distance this year.

However, when I first entered the event months ago, Tom had also signed up for the ultra and we had planned to run it together.  I had fully intended on completing my 100 mile ultra journey at the South Downs Way 100 in June earlier in the year.  I hadn’t planned on stopping at mile 78 of the SDW, continuing to train and then eventually completing my 100 mile event three months later in the middle of September, just six weeks before the 50 mile Dusk ’til Dawn ultramarathon.

My feet hadn’t fully recovered from the 100 by the time the week of Dusk ’til Dawn arrived, and Tom also informed me that he would be pulling from the event due to injury/lack of training/a house move.  With five other runners from my club running the marathon event I decided to make the switch down to the marathon distance and knew that this was the sensible choice, although one day I will be back to prove myself at the 50 miles!

I hadn’t had the best week leading up to the marathon.  That Wednesday afternoon Oscar had been incredibly grouchy and tearful when we returned from the baby group in town.  He refused most of his tea, asked for a glass of warm milk and disappeared to bed very early in the evening.  I put it down to being overtired, but he was back up and crying for me by 9pm with bright red cheeks and a very high fever.  He wanted to do nothing but lay on my chest and cuddle.  He had a hacking cough which developed further over the next few days and despite maximum doses of Calpol that evening his temperature never stayed down for long.  Needless to say, the next few days were spent with Oscar laying across me feeling rather sorry for himself on the sofa downstairs.  By Friday afternoon I was still relying on Calpol to get his temperature down.  The bottle states that a child shouldn’t be taking maximum doses of Calpol for more than 3 days in a row, and I worried that I wouldn’t be able to get a doctor appointment for him over the weekend if his temperature remained high by the following day.  So I booked him a last minute appointment at the doctors in town for Friday afternoon.  Once seen by our doctor, he was referred straight to Kettering hospital with suspected pneumonia.  A quick google on my way to hospital revealed some alarming pneumonia facts, but also cleared up for me that he had most likely caught it from another child, rather than just gotten cold because I had let him run around in the garden without his coat on.  Luckily, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been and after being observed in hospital Oscar was sent home with a course of antibiotics to take which cleared things up really quickly.  It was rather worrying when we were first referred though.

Dan was home all day on the Saturday so could take over from me as head rest and medicine-giver for Oscar.  I needed to get out of the house after spending the last two and a half days cooped up on the sofa.  Packing for the race was done last minute and I was rather blase about the whole thing.  Meh, it’s just a marathon, right?…Turns out I ended up missing the printed instructions from the list of race essential equipment, so had to borrow a set from a friend when we arrived.

The weather was pretty rubbish the whole journey over.  The windscreen wipers were on most of the time and we knew it was due to be pretty cold that night.  Lots of layers were absolutely necessary!

The race is known for the ‘Grim Sweeper’ who runs at the back of the pack, picking off runners who don’t make the cut-offs in time.  I’ve met the sweeper once before, back in 2013 when I ran with Charlie Sharpe, the sweeper for that race, having won the event the year before.  Rather fitting that the sweeper head was covering the defibrillator as we lined up for our race briefing before setting off!

Dusk 'til Dawn Grim Sweeper head

I was in two minds whether to run alone or as part of the group, but in the end the six of us from Wellingborough ran together and I realised how much I missed being out there running long distances with friends!  Having not run the marathon course before (or read the directions for the marathon distance beforehand, initially thinking that I would be running the ultra) it was probably for the best that I stayed part of the group anyway to be honest!

Dusk 'til Dawn starting photo

We nearly missed the start, leaving it to the last possible minute to sneak back to our cars to change out of jeans, boots and oversized hoodies and into our running gear for the night.  The six of us were casually waltzing over to the start line, my phone in hand – getting ready for a pre-race club photo when we realised that the countdown to the start had already begun!  As everybody crossed the line for the start of the race I was still busy trying to zip away my phone and pull the headtorch from my bag for the run!

Even then, we had gone more than half a mile when Gary turned back, declaring that he thought he had probably left his headtorch in the boot of his car as he had just realised it wasn’t on his head!  What an organised bunch we were!

The first few miles of the course were the same as the start of the ultra route and I recognised long sections of the trail.  There are some tough, technical climbs (and descents) on the course.  I am fairly confident at picking my way up steep, rocky ascents.  I don’t have quite so much confidence with my downhill running but I have definitely improved since the first year I headed over to the Peak District for the race.

Because we had the extra hour this year, it meant we were running in daylight for the first few climbs and got a chance to appreciate our view.  As I waited for others in our little group to navigate to the top of the climbs I pulled out my camera for a few photos.

Dusk 'til Dawn hills

Dusk 'til Dawn hills

Dusk 'til Dawn hillsYou can see the extent of the climbs we were making.  The above photo is the majority of the way up the first big hill.  You can see the drop in the distance to the left of the photo.

IMG_20181027_172632Some sections were more technical than others.  This first climb wasn’t too bad, but later climbs involved more careful placing of feet on the rocks that were jutting out.  I worried that the rocks would be slippy from the rain we’d had earlier in the day but they ended up not being too bad.

Dusk 'til Dawn hillsThe sunset was a really pretty one from so high up.

Dusk 'til Dawn sunsetAfter that we just trotted around the remaining miles.  Strava tells me I ran 26.56 miles in total, so fairly accurate for a trail marathon distance!

I recognised the point where my parents and Dan had sat on the side of the road in a car at the first checkpoint (now several miles into the course) back in 2013.  I had been the last person to come into that checkpoint then, but not the last to leave and I started picking other runners off from that point back then.  It felt like so long ago!

Navigation was fairly straight forward this year.  Gary had run some of the ultra course in 2015 and Kev had run some of the ultra course back in 2014, so between us we barely needed to check directions for which way to go, although took along paper instructions with us just in case.  Gary had run the marathon course with Tom back at the 2016 event, which was held just a few weeks after I had Oscar, so Gary was fairly confident in how to navigate the marathon course once we turned off for the shorter distance.

I didn’t enjoy the race as much from the point we split off from the ultra route.  The majority of the marathon route was run along roads, whereas the ultra had been almost entirely on the trails.  The roads on the marathon course were fairly flat and long and runnable and not what I had expected having run the majority of the ultra route before. I like the challenge of technical terrain!

There was a really eerie section along an old railway line where we ran through a couple of large tunnels.  I ran in the middle of the pack here, with some runners from our group speeding off ahead and some falling behind.  Everybody’s voices were echoing all around the tunnel as we ran and it made it really hard to locate whether someone was ahead of you or behind.  I was glad to be running with the others as we ran through this section, and I was very glad when we turned off and began our next climb!

There was another really eerie section where we ran alongside a field of sheep…or the field of red eyes, as the sheep all clustered into the corner nearest to the path.  As our headtorches reflected on their eyes they glowed red like demons.

I didn’t really eat much out on the course, choosing just to pick at a couple of bits on offer at the checkpoints.  We weren’t moving particularly fast and I didn’t feel like my body needed any more to keep it going so I kept my snacks in my bag for the race.

The last mile or so was run all on road.  Gary ran ahead to beat us to the finish, but the rest of us all trotted over the line together and headed into the hall for hot drinks and pasties.  That cheese and onion pasty and hot tea at the finish were the best things I’ve been handed at a finish line for a long while!  It had been super cold out there on the hills, and at any point we had stopped we all really began to feel the chill.  We were all ready for something warm at the end!

I changed back into my boots, jeans and a hoodie fairly quickly afterwards, babywiping as much mud from my legs as I could spot in the toilets!  The medal is a nice one.

Dusk 'til Dawn marathon medal

Official time: 7h 18m 57s
Position: 13/20
Gender position: 4/7

I traveled back from the race with Gary, who has heated seats in his car.  I had those seats heated to the max for the whole journey home to warm up!

Have you run a race at night before?
What was the nicest food you received at the finish of a race?