My planned races for the first half of 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SDW50 route 2018

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

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

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

SDW100 start list

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

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

My goals for 2018

2017 whooshed right by without me feeling like I was really able to clock what was going on.  Four family deaths in as many weeks was quite an emotional hit for our family at the end of the year and although we now seem to have brushed ourselves off and gotten back up again, spending time with family and looking after ourselves was a higher priority this Winter.

At the start of 2017 I set myself several goals that I wanted to work towards.

  • Achieve 100 parkruns and order my black parkrun t-shirt

    Typically leaving it all to the last minute I completed my 100th parkrun on Christmas day, having run 33 events across 2017 to achieve my goal.  Year on year my participation at parkrun has increased – in 2015 I ran 24 parkruns, and a further 26 in 2016.  My participation will most likely drop during the coming year though, as I work overnight on both Friday and Saturdays at the moment, leaving me needing all the sleep on Saturday mornings before Dan heads off to the football.
    Unfortunately I haven’t been able to order my black parkrun t-shirt yet as parkrun are awaiting more stock.  The email currently implies that I should be able to order the t-shirt by February, so I will look forward to wearing that in the Summer when the weather gets a little warmer!
    Christmas Day parkrun at Sheringham

  • Increase my parkrun tourism to twenty different courses

    19!  Argh, so close!  I could have made it, as I had pencilled in a visit to Buckingham on the final Saturday of the year.  But, Dan was due to work that day and unsure of his start time (as it relied on other developers rolling out different portions of the software before him).  I was working until 7am, so would have had to drive home to collect Oscar before driving back past my workplace on the way to Buckingham.  It would have been very stressful for a super tired Mary so in the end, I managed to catch up on a little sleep before Dan went into work that day.
    My 20th course will be this coming weekend, as I am heading down to Wendover to marshal the Country to Capital ultra for Go Beyond.  The car load of marshals I am heading down with are all parkrunners so the decision was made that we would set off a little early for our marshal point and ensure we got some tourism in on the way down!

  • Bring my weekly mileage back up to at least 50 miles on average each week

    This was a no-go due to all the traveling I did towards the end of the year, although over the past few weeks I have been able to start working back up towards this higher mileage again – ready for the races I have planned in 2018.  I should easily hit this by the end of the month.

  • Complete at least five more events of marathon distance and above

    Five completed!  South Downs Way 50m, Pembrokeshire Marathon, Shires and Spires 35m, Chelmsford Marathon and Gower Marathon.

  • PB at the 5k distance

    Tick!  So chuffed with this because it came from nowhere towards the end of the year when Laura offered to pace me to a sub 27m parkrun…and I came away with a new PB of 26m 35s!

  • Take more pictures with my DSLR

    I took several pictures with my big camera throughout the year, including plenty of Oscar – having played with the settings a little more.  I would like to continue taking more photographs this year, as the results are so much better than the photographs I take with my phone, although time is an issue.

  • Find an easier way of living

    I’m no longer teaching(!) having given up my job as a Computing teacher at the end of September.  I don’t think there is ever an ‘easy’ way of living though and I am someone that will always find myself looking for bigger and better and easier, even if I am doing OK.  I think I’m doing OK at the moment.  Dan and I are making it work and Oscar’s happy, so that’s all that matters.

  • Make more time for my family

    I was able to make a lot more time for my parents and Oscar throughout 2017, but feel I neglected my relationship with Dan, especially towards the end of the year.  Bringing a child into the relationship hugely shifts the dynamics of everything you’ve always done and been.  Dan and I had been together for nine years before Oscar arrived and we were used to our monthly cinema trips and meals out when it took our fancy.  We haven’t been to the cinema since Oscar was born and although we have been out for dinner, it’s usually during the day so as not to disrupt Oscar’s bedtime routine.

Five goals out of eight definitely achieved, and another two very close to being achieved.  I’d call that a success overall!

Goals for 2018:

  • Volunteer at least six times at parkrun including in the role of pacer

    parkrun ICE numberLooking back on my parkrun page the other day I realised that I hadn’t volunteered at all during 2017!  Having Oscar around does make it infinitely more difficult to guarantee I’ll be able to volunteer during a certain week, but there are still several roles I can volunteer in with him by my side, especially as the weather gets warmer again.
    I’d also love to give pacing a go this year, having informally paced several friends in the past.  Running a 30 minute parkrun is something I am fairly confident that I can achieve at a chatty-pacer pace.  I can run parkrun in this time whilst pushing Oscar in the buggy, and the run obviously becomes much easier without a two stone baby slowing me down!  I wouldn’t be able to sign up to pacing an event knowing that I had Oscar though, as I wouldn’t be able to nip round other runners to ensure I definitely made the time.

  • Complete at least six more distances of marathon and above

    I have at least this many pencilled in to the calendar already, although more on that in another post.  Having ticked off my 100 parkruns I am slowly working towards joining the 100 Marathon club, with thirteen marathons and eight ultras under my belt.  Just another 79 events to go then(!)

  • Complete a 100 mile race

    This is the big stretch goal for the year.  The one I will be working really, really hard towards.  I’ve entered the South Downs Way 100 in June, and am currently in two minds whether or not to also enter the Autumn 100 in October as a ‘back up’ event just in case it’s not my day on the day of SDW100.  I want to complete 100 miles this year!

  • PB at 5k, half and marathon distances

    This goal is rather vague, but definitely achievable.  These three distances aren’t my main focus for this year (the 100 is) but I would like to think I can improve my speed further in order to bank a 5k PB, my half marathon is out of line of all of my other race times and that with the added exercises from the physio I have been working on each evening lately, that my body will be much stronger to deal with the latter half of the marathon distance and help me to tick off a faster time there too.

  • Put aside £500 from side hussles each month towards the deposit for a second property

    Purchasing a second property has been on my to-do-list for a long while, but I need to stop talking about it and start actively working towards it a little more.  Although I’m no longer bringing home as much money from working my main employment as I once did, I have begun drawing in money from several odd jobs as well as saving money in several areas for our household.  Dan and I sat down and looked through our budget when we decided I was going to step away from teaching, and before the new year we sat down and clearly went through a budget for the year, to be reviewed monthly.

  • Respond to/clear notifications on my phone quickly

    I’m awful at responding to anything straight away and often end up leaving notifications on the top of my phone screen for a really long time until I remember to deal with them (usually on my 4am break at work on a Saturday morning!) or until Oscar swipes them off by mistake.
    It really bugs several of my friends to see so many little icons on the top of my screen, and I must admit, every time I pull out my phone my heart drops a little to think of all the messages I still need to reply to or action.  If I’ve taken the time to pull it down to check, I can surely spend a few extra seconds responding to that message as well?

  • Phone notificationsEat less processed food and encourage my Dad to do the same

    I spent a lot of time with my Dad in December.  New to living alone my Dad is currently going for the quick and easy to prepare/pull out of a packet deal when it comes to meal time.  He’s all about the here and now.  “I’m hungry?  Well I must need feeding immediately!”  At the moment he doesn’t think twice about buying a pack of five donuts (because that works out cheaper per donut than purchasing them individually) and then eating them all in the space of a day and a half (because otherwise they don’t taste as nice).  He can cook, and will cook, but doesn’t enjoy doing so for just him, which is perfectly understandable, and I’ve often felt similar in the past.  He has had false teeth since a teenager (when he stood too close to a friend playing with a cricket bat) so doesn’t worry too much about damaging his teeth.  But he doesn’t understand the problems this type of food can do to his heart and sugar levels, so I’m hoping to educate him a little.  When I stayed with him for a week before Christmas we spent some time making large quantities of vegetable lasagne (Dad is like me and isn’t a massive meat fan) and he has enjoyed these, so perhaps I could also have a think what snacks we could make in bulk to prevent him dipping his hand in the biscuit tin seven times a day!
    Vegetables for Vegetarian LasagneI tend to make home-made meals for Dan, Oscar and I at least 5 days of the week, but it is the snacks and sugary things I struggle with when it comes to processed food.  When Oscar is hungry, just like my Dad he’s hungry immediately, only as he’s only 15 months old I can’t reason with Oscar that he just has to wait five minutes whilst I prepare something!  I often keep a handful of raisins or child fruit gummies in my bag for ease, but I would prefer him to have actual fresh fruit or vegetables as a snack.
    As I work the hours of 10pm-7am a couple of nights each weekend, I’ve struggled with not having processed snacks just lately as well.  Because I only work part time I don’t want to go about meal times the same way as the full time night staff do.  (They tend to have their main meal at 1am during our ‘lunch’ break, have breakfast as normal when they return from work, sleep through lunchtime and then have their tea with family at a normal time.)  I’ve been having my three daytime meals at the normal times, but am ravenous by the time I finish work and have been snacking on anything I can quickly get my hands on at the end of the shift.  Not good!

*Edit – I just thought of two more goals I want to add to my list…

  • Move at least 10,000 steps each day

    I know 10,000 is just an arbitrary number, but I used the number 10,000 as a focus to get moving each day during my pregnancy, achieving at least 10,000 steps on every one of the last 71 days before Oscar arrived.  I felt so much better for remaining active during those days where I often just felt like slobbing out at home.  I’d like to have another go at sticking to 10,000 steps for each day of the whole year this time.  (Currently nine days in and achieving it with ease!)  It’s on days when I travel that I really struggle with getting up and about.

  • Raise money for a cancer charity

    For obvious reasons.
    I haven’t decided fully how I’m going to go about it yet but I’ll announce on the blog when I do.

Do you set yourself goals each year?  What are your goals for 2018?
Were you successful in achieving your goals for 2017?
Any suggestions for bulk baking snacks I could get my Dad to make?

A marathon update

I have Chelmsford Marathon next Sunday.

Chelmsford Marathon number

In the last four weeks I have run a grand total of three times.


This wasn’t how it was supposed to go!  I was supposed to run Ealing Half Marathon at the end of September and achieving a PB.  Which would then lead nicely into a new PB at Chelmsford Marathon at the end of this month.

It all started out so well…

At the start of the Summer I couldn’t have asked for better results from my training – I PBd in 5 mile, 6 mile and 10k distances all in quick succession.

Then – injury, illness, my Mum being rushed to hospital and a very busy month of work all happened and the three weeks I was forced to take off fell at such a crucial point in my training cycle.

When I run Chelmsford next weekend it will be with the aim of getting round to the finish and completing my twelfth marathon.  There will be no time pressure.  I want to enjoy the race and am looking forward to spending 5+ hours out in the countryside without a toddler wanting me to read the same book for the twelfth time that day and without feeling like I should be tidying up the house or offering help in some way to somebody.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t want to cut my marathon time down further.  Of course I do, but undertrained and returning from injury, this is not the time to be doing that.  With all that has been going on I have lost nearly 2 stone in the last four weeks, so my body is not at it’s strongest currently.

Following my back injury in September, I’ve made several visits to the physio.  I’ve been going to Strong Lines in Wellingborough, and cannot recommend Fred enough.  Since my first visit I’ve been religiously completing my exercises to strengthen my core.  Fred established that my left side is much weaker than my right but my whole core strength is pretty shocking.  Something which deep down I knew, but didn’t know how best to go about fixing.

I have a series of exercises to complete each day, including some resistance band walking and planks in various positions.  Fred used my phone to film me completing the exercises, which makes it super easy to check form and remind myself just what it is I need to be completing each day!

After watching me run on the treadmill, Fred established that my cadence was much too slow.  Something I have focused on in the past.  I currently fall naturally into a rhythm of about 140spm, when actually I should be running closer to 180, so this is something I need to focus on during road runs over the coming weeks as well.

I’m feeling so confident that I will be able to see improvements in my running with the addition of proper core work this Winter.  I can already feel the benefits of the exercises after just a few weeks.

I received my annual rejection magazine from VLM for 2018 last week along with everybody else I know who hadn’t already guaranteed their place through a Good For Age entry or deferral. London Marathon rejection magazine 2018 A couple of weeks earlier though I was lucky enough to be announced as an ambassador for Milton Keynes Marathon 2018.  Milton Keynes was my very first marathon back in 2012 and so I have a soft spot for the race, having run it three times now (2012, 2013 and 2015) with the half marathon last year whilst pregnant.  I’ve always enjoyed the event and it has been lovely to watch it grow into such a successful race in such a short amount of time.  (The first Milton Keynes Marathon was held in 2012 the first year I ran it.)

You can read all about the other ambassadors on the MK Marathon website.

As well as Chelmsford marathon next weekend I will be running Gower marathon in November.  A tough, off-road, coastal trail marathon with a whole bunch of my running friends.  We go every year (although I couldn’t last year as Oscar was only a few weeks old at the time).  I’m really looking forward to the weekend away.  I could definitely do with one at the moment!

After that I just have a couple of cross-country races pencilled in to end the year and I was thinking about entering Bedford half marathon in December to try and finish off the year on a high.  My half marathon PB is in desperate need of updating, sitting at 2:09 from many years ago.

I haven’t fully organised next year’s calendar yet, but the target will be Milton Keynes Marathon in May.

Oh, and this…! 😉

Have you ever had to go on the wait list for a race?
Do you add in much core work to your weekly training?

A slight change of marathon plan

So my goal marathon for 2017 has always been Mablethorpe.  I’ve run the race three times now (2013, 2014, 2015), the route is pancake flat, the race always seems to attract other runners from our club and I know where to buy the best milkshake from after the race(!)

But, there were a few snags with my target marathon being Mablethorpe this year.

  • It falls just one week after the half marathon I won a place at (Ealing half).
  • I will be returning to work full time in September for one month – finishing two days before Mablethorpe marathon.  I have been working full time since May whilst juggling raising Oscar, training, blogging and keeping on top of housework and family life, but a teaching workload in September will be much greater than one in July.
  • It will be just a few days after Oscar’s first birthday (27th September – added purely so Dan remembers when it is!) and we had wanted to hold a get-together on the Saturday for close family and friends.

Recently, after a long discussion with Dan we made the decision to have Oscar Christened.  Because both of our families are a two hour drive from where we live it made sense for us to combine Oscar’s Christening with his first birthday celebrations and the date suggested to us by the Vicar was October 1st – conveniently a date all three Godparents could make too.  Something we thought might be an issue, knowing how busy the weekends in all three calendars get!

So Mablethorpe is off the cards.  If I did rock up to the start line for 9:30am on September 1st, I doubt very much that I would be able to run 26.2 miles, shower, change and drive the 90 miles back for the ceremony at 10:30am.

No, the easiest thing to do would be change my target marathon so I’ve decided to run Chelmsford marathon again.  Which to be honest (don’t tell Dan) I’d already decided to do anyway.  Partly as a backup in case I fell short of my target at Mablethorpe, and partly to tick off another marathon from the list, getting ever closer to that magic 100 marathon number.  I used Chelmsford as my backup marathon in 2015 after my Mablethorpe sub 5 attempt didn’t go to plan.  (That year I literally returned home from Mablethorpe, searched for nearby marathons that were taking place a fortnight later and had booked Chelmsford within minutes of waking the following morning.)  In that scenario the plan worked, and I ducked under the sub 5 bracket by 6 minutes.

This time I want more.

Chelmsford marathon falls three weeks later than Mablethorpe did.  On the 22nd October.  Swapping my target race will allow me to run hard at Ealing half marathon towards the end of September and still recover enough in time to race hard at the marathon.  (That’s the plan anyway!)

I am kind of sad that I won’t be running Mablethorpe again this year (and also missing the opportunity to add another marathon to my tally), but I will be back.  It’s a lovely race with great marshals and a super flat course.  You run right alongside the beach twice on the route and last time I ran, there was somebody there handing out little bags of seaside pic ‘n’ mix.  Winner!

The last couple of weeks of marathon training have been a bit sporadic so having those extra three weeks now is reassuring.  The final week of term was a fairly busy one for me and I was working late or attending leaving dos most evenings.  The Saturday of that week I headed to Rushmere parkrun (new course for me!) before a friend’s hen do, and the following week saw Dan, Oscar and I all end up with food poisoning following some dodgy chicken during a meal out.  Rubbish!

Quick recap of the Rushmere parkrun, as I’ll kick myself if I don’t write about it and there were some pretty nice pictures on their Facebook page too.

Rushmere parkrunRushmere was my 86th parkrun and 13th different course.  I ran with Laura and as per most parkruns we just chatted our way round.

Rushmere parkrunDan has promised to take Oscar on a Saturday morning soon though so that I may run a parkrun hard once more!

Rushmere parkrunLaura and I had an afternoon at Go Ape planned as part of a friend’s hen do, and I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to heights so I needed to save a bit of energy to get round the high ropes course at Woburn!

Rushmere parkrunRushmere is a lovely off-road two-lap course, with friendly marshals providing banter rightthe beginning at the event briefing.  The absolute best thing about the Rushmere parkrun though is that it has a PB gong!

{Official time: 35:05   Position: 143/187   Gender position: 53/74   Age grade position: 11/13}

Technically it wasn’t a parkrun PB for me, but it was a course PB (having never run the course before, so I leapt at the chance to ring the gong!  I think the gong should be part of the mandatory kit when a new parkrun course starts up.  I’d want to run faster just to have the opportunity to ring it at the end  I wouldn’t have a clue where to start looking when it came to buying one of these though!

After parkrun, it was Go Ape.

Go Ape for Steph's hen do(I survived!)

And After Go Ape it was time for a quick flick with the wet wipes and a dress thrown on before getting glammed up for Afternoon tea.

Afternoon tea for Steph's hen do

I’m a jam then cream kinda person.

Afternoon tea for Steph's hen do

This week I’m back on target with my training again.  I even made it out to a club training session on Thursday night which I haven’t been able to do in ages!  (Baby logistics as Dan doesn’t return home from work until 6:20pm and club starts at 6:30.)

I’ll sit down with my training plan on Sunday and tweak it slightly to reflect the extra weeks I have now gained before race day, and also the week of training I missed when I was ill.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to stick 100% to the Hanson’s Method when I started training, but the elements I’ve incorporated have definitely been doing me some good.  Not only have I PBd over three different distances just lately but I generally feel stronger and healthier.  I’m looking forward to seeing what else I can achieve during this training cycle!

Have you visited Go Ape?
Jam then cream or cream then jam?!