Falling back in love with ultra running

Over the past few months there have been times where I think I’m starting to fall out of love with running.  In the early days, running was such an easy thing to do…throw on some running clothes, lace up my trainers, strap my watch to my wrist and just get out there.  I really never appreciated just how easy running was back then.  Now getting out on a run can become a military operation, planned weeks in advance for a run which might end up being cut short due to lack of sleep (Me) or the spotting of a park on route (Oscar) !

This Saturday, running the South Downs Way 50 reminded me of everything I love about running though, and everything I love about running ultra distances in particular.

I was always going to sign up for the SDW50 this year.  The event had been my main running goal for 2017 – my comeback race from having a baby, booking the race was incentive to return to running and to hopefully feel more like ‘Me’ again once the baby had arrived, rather than just a ‘Mum’.  It worked.  I had a great race last year and, despite having to stop for 25 minutes on route to express(!) I continued to book races into my calendar, including the South Downs Way 100 for this year.

Knowing that the SDW100 was firmly booked in for June, it only made sense to enter the SDW50 again.  Those 50 miles (give or take a couple) are the last 50 miles of the 100 mile race – and miles which I’ll likely be running in darkness next time round.  Having refreshed my memory of the route this weekend I feel confident that I can navigate the miles again in nine weeks time in the dark along with the help of a strong headtorch!

I haven’t really been focusing on the SDW50 this year to be honest.  I’ve actually been a little blase about it all, with my main focus as the 100, closely followed by Milton Keynes Marathon at the start of May where I hope to PB.  I’ve run the 50 before, and know that I can complete the distance.  However, I was a little on edge going in to this event as so many runners from my club of a similar speed to me would also be running the race, with six of them going for the Grand Slam of four Centurion 50 mile events across the year.  Last year I didn’t feel pressured to run at anybody’s pace or to perform a certain way, but this year I worried that I would end up running with one of the other runners from my club or would stress myself into trying to keep up with them.  I’m much slower over road races than all of the others who were there.  Don’t get me wrong – I love chatting to other runners when out on the course, but I hate feeling like I need to keep up with somebody’s pace, or hang back with them when actually that section suits me really well and I can run easily along it.  I race much better when I’m running on my own, even though I always find other runners to chat to along the way.

Friends Kev and Gary were crewing us all and so Kev arrived in his van outside my house to collect me a little before 4:30am on Saturday morning.  I’d set my alarm for 3:30am that morning but definitely hit the snooze button after Oscar decided to wake for a (very unlike him) two hour party at 12:30am.  Tip number one if you’re thinking about running an ultra…don’t live with a toddler!

After picking up another three runners along the way we arrived with the perfect amount of time before the start.  Kit check, numbers on, loo trip, drink, snack, bags on and a walk to the start.

South Downs Way 50 startline

It was lovely to finally meet Lauren properly after having cheering her on at Milton Keynes Marathon a few years back and also to bump into Ally as well, who I also saw at the finish for a chat.  Both ran amazing races in super fast times.  Lauren is also running the 100 later on this year like me and Ally is running the next Centurion 50 mile event in a few week’s time – the North Downs Way.

South Downs Way 50 startline

There was time for a quick photo of our club runners before the off and then followed a gentle jog to the gap in the field, with a bottleneck!South Downs Way 50 WDAC lineup

I felt good from the get go and having started right at the back, the pace was easy.  I didn’t rush to get past anyone, although I saw plenty of others jostling for positions.

South Downs Way 50 starting at the back

(Screenshot of the bottleneck taken from a video shared on the Centurion Facebook group)

About a mile in I started to regret having a peanut butter smothered bagel as a snack less than an hour before the race start.  I had eaten a bowl of porridge with blueberries when I first woke but knew I would need a top-up snack before the run, as I had already been up for so long that morning.  Turns out, a bagel was not the snack I required and I needed a loo stop from early on, on a course when I knew there was barely any course coverage!

Other than the first couple of miles (when everyone was stuck behind other runners along narrow sections anyway), it is fairly easy going until the first checkpoint at mile 11.  My strategy at checkpoints is to grab what food I need, have the lid of my water bottle unscrewed ready for topping up if needed and get in and out as quickly as possible.  Why hang around when you could be moving?!  It wastes time and means you end up getting stiff.  At this first checkpoint I grabbed a couple of grapes and some cheese sandwiches before moving on.  Fruit and cheese sandwiches are always winners for me during an event!  I’d already eaten half of a cocoa orange nakd bar on the way to this checkpoint, and grabbed a carton of chocolate milk out of my bag as I made my way up the hill along the other side of the road.

South Downs Way 50 the first big hillI’m aware that these pictures don’t make the hill look too ‘hilly’, but trust me, it was!  And, just like last year, the photographer was perched up at the top taking photographs!South Downs Way 50 the first big hillAnother runner struck up conversation when he spotted I was wearing the event t-shirt from last year and I ran with him for a few miles until he told me he needed to slow down.
Mile 15 was our first crew ‘checkpoint’ and I felt slightly guilty for not stopping as I waved at Kev and Gary as they stood cheering me by.  I passed two of the runners from my club here as they had stopped to top up on supplies from our crew.  There was just one from my club ahead now, which really surprised me and I knew wouldn’t last.  (Although I later surprised myself by coming in as 3rd runner of our 7).

Not long after this we headed slightly downhill through a small wooded section and I almost ran into the back of another runner who had squatted down on the path to pee!

Checkpoint two at mile 16 was in a slightly different location this year and I walked in, got some Tailwind, watermelon, more cheese sandwiches and made my way back out again in less than 30 seconds.  Smooth going!  I still felt good.

There were a couple of rather steep hills between checkpoints two and three at 26 miles.  There were also several runnable sections too which I made sure to take advantage of.  The course really suits me as it has rolling hills – dictating which sections to walk.  I usually really struggle mentally and also with my consistency over long flat sections, but had no problems with these this time round, which I’m putting down to the large number of miles logged on my treadmill this Winter!

South Downs Way 50

The third checkpoint was where I had stopped to express last year and this year, where I finally spotted a portaloo to use!  I grabbed some chocolate chip cookies, MORE cheese sandwiches and watermelon, Tailwind and topped up my water.  All in all I think I stopped for about 5 minutes here, but it was 5 minutes well spent.

South Downs Way 50

I knew I was having a good race and used the climb following this aid station to check in with Dan.  He hadn’t realised that he could track me online and so I let him know how to do this.  He also let me know that ‘Oscar’ had sent me a good luck video earlier that morning.  I had turned my internet off in order to save battery but after hanging up with Dan I quickly checked WhatsApp to find a lovely little video where Oscar waved madly at me, said “Sit down Mumma!” and then gave the camera a kiss!  It definitely made me smile.

South Downs Way 50

For the next aid station you have to cross over a set of railway tracks.  Oh how I’m going to love all those steps at mile 84 of the 100 mile version of the race(!)  I knew I needed more Tailwind here but couldn’t see any on display so asked one of the volunteers for some.  She told me that I was lucky, and they had just a little left.  Taking a few gulps from my bottle after being topped up I spluttered out that she could definitely make it go further by watering it down more…it was super strong!

I nicknamed the next section ‘Australia’ last year as the views, with the sun disappearing behind the hills reminded me of scenes I’ve only seen in programs about Australia.  This year though, the sun was still high in the sky (albeit hidden behind clouds!)

South Downs Way 50 It also definitely looked less Australia-like this year!South Downs Way 50The last two checkpoints follow in quick succession; starting with a lovely little pitstop in Alfriston at 41.6 miles with indoor seats to perch on for a few minutes.  This checkpoint is quickly followed by the final checkpoint at Jevington just four miles later.  It’s perched high up some steps alongside the road and I felt rather bad that I just called up the hill to thank the volunteers, continuing on my way rather than stopping in, but I didn’t need anything with only four miles to go and thought it better to keep moving at this point.

I strongly made the final climb up to the Trig point and started to make my way along the narrow, slippy path back down towards Eastbourne.  The clouds were threatening to rain at this point, and we’d been very lucky with the weather until now.  I had twice put on my jacket for the odd spitting shower but the temperature was fairly warm, and the rain never really stuck around.  It had made the rocks on this section rather slippery though.  This being the most technical section on the whole course.  My hamstrings had a few spasms along this section and out loud I told my legs they needed to co-operate for just a little longer…pretty please!

In my head I had secretly hoped to run 25 minutes faster than my time last year (12h 06m).  25 minutes was the amount of time I had stopped to express so I thought it was probably fairly achievable for me to gain back those minutes in my finishing time this year.  As I reached the bottom of the hill though and broke into a faster run I realised I would most likely go sub 11h 30m.

Running and maths never work and despite being just two miles from the finish now and having been out on the course for 10h 40m I was convinced I would have to run really fast to go sub 11h 30m.  Mile 48 ticked by starting with a 12:xx and I realised that actually, I should probably be targeting 11:15 instead.

I still felt really good.  No pains, no aches, I’d fuelled well, I was still running!  In fact, other than road crossings and twice when I walked a handful of steps, I ran pretty much the whole of the last two miles, passing several other runners along the way and changing my target at the last minute to 11:10 – coming into the stadium to the most glorious sunset.  It was honestly the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen and I really regret not asking somebody to take a photo of me in front of it after crossing the finish line.  Unfortunately my official finisher photo, despite showing colour, definitely does not do the sky justice as the photographer was using a flash so that I was the focus of the photo.

I could not stop beaming as I ran around the track!  I’d picked the pace up for the track finish, although definitely not enough to be considered a sprint finish!

As I turned the corner at the bottom of the stadium I noticed that opposite the gorgeous sunset, was a gigantic rainbow.  What a lovely finish arch!

South Downs Way 50 finish archI took this shot a few minutes after I finished but I wish I had taken more pictures, and actually of something, rather than just randomly pointing in the direction of the sun!

Looking on the Centurion Running Community Facebook page yesterday, I found these two images which another runner had taken which give a much better impression of the view we finished to…

SDW50 sky pictures

South Downs Way 50 sunset

It tipped it down not long after I finished and I was glad to bump into Nic, who had finished about ten minutes ahead of me and who had the keys to Kev’s van so that I could grab some warm clothes.  I took a quick picture with my medal in the fading light and queued up for my free sausage bap and hot drink, unsure of how long the other 4 runners from my club would take to come in.

South Downs Way 50 medalOfficial time: 11h 7m 22s
Position: 277/353
Gender position: 52/81
Category (senior female) position: 21/35

Turns out I took quite a lot of steps that day(!)

South Downs Way 50 Garmin step count

The good, the bad and marshaling fun

*Touch wood* but the start of my marathon/ultra training has been going really well.

I was never a big fan of speed sessions when I used to run them with my running club.  That’s no criticism.  I know it must be difficult to try and arrange a session each week to suit 10 or more runners, all training for different events.  But, I am finding it so, so satisfying ticking off speedwork sessions on my own.  I find that I can really focus on each mile whilst I am running it and am buzzing by the time I arrive back home, eager to share my consistent split times with Dan.  (Who couldn’t care less!)

Last week I had a set of 400s on my marathon race plan.  A one mile warm up followed by 400 metres at 8:20-8:40mm pace, with a 400m recovery as part of each set (repeat 12 times) and then a one mile cool down.  I was chuffed with my splits, and the session felt very manageable. (Strava workout link)

400s speedwork pace chart

My splits read as 8:30, 8:34, 8:28, 8:30, 8:22, 8:37, 8:29, 8:28, 8:35, 8:35, 8:32, 8:30.  All within the range they should have been, and leaving me feeling me so excited about my training – I struggled to get to sleep that night.

Wednesday night was the club trail run and I ran out on a slightly soggy but enjoyable 10k run with friends.

The rough pattern my training is going to fall into over the coming weeks is as follows:

Monday – rest day (off the back of 2, possibly 3 nights of work a rest day is required!)
Tuesday – speedwork (session will vary each week).
Wednesday – buggy run during the day (To get Oscar to sleep.  O goes to an afternoon group I’d like him to stay awake for when he would normally nap, and he falls asleep during a buggy run!) and trail run in the evening.
Thursday – tempo run (hopefully at running club as often as I can manage).
Friday – long run (Oscar is in nursery all day).
Saturday – parkrun/easy run.
Sunday – mid-length run (10 miles +).

This should fit nicely into my schedule, the only times I might have to change things around being when Dan works away from home during the week, resulting in me being unable to get a speed session or tempo run in as I will have no break from Oscar.
I also intend to keep up with my core work and physio sessions during as many days of the week as I can manage/remember/make time for.

Last week my training was a little out of sync as we ended up in A&E with Oscar in the early hours of Wednesday morning.  Both Dan and Oscar had been rather poorly since the weekend and Dan and I woke to Oscar having convulsions in the middle of the night which was incredibly scary, for both us, and him.  We spoke to 111 who advised us to give Calpol, a drink and to strip O down to cool him off.  The convulsions did stop after half an hour and we were able to put him back to bed, but when they began again an hour later we made the decision to rush him into A&E for a check over.  The doctor who saw him put the seizures down to Oscar having picked up a virus and then no longer being able to regulate his temperature – severely overheating and causing his body to go into shock.  He prescribed a mix of Ibuprofen and Calpol throughout the following day to help keep his temperature low and for us to keep an eye on him over the next couple of days.
It did take a couple of days, but luckily Oscar is fully back to his usual cheeky self again now.

So last week I moved my planned buggy run from the Wednesday to the Thursday and ran Oscar down for a little play in the park to cheer him up.  He loved it and was desperate to climb up and slide down the slide over and over again.  He started to kick up a bit of a fuss when I went to put him back in the buggy for the return journey until he saw that we would be passing dogs along the way.  (Oscar is obsessed with dogs, ducks and cows at the moment!)

Running Oscar to the park

When I woke on Friday I knew that I had whatever it was that the boys had had earlier in the week.  My throat hurt and I couldn’t stop coughing.  I had a 13 mile run on the plan for the day, and with Fridays being my only child-free day I was desperate to get out and run those miles.  I should have stayed home and written off the run for the day but I didn’t.  I was too stubborn and went out anyway.

It was a horrible run.  Despite barely being able to touch my lunch, (leaving most of it plated up in the fridge for another day) I felt nauseous and needed the toilet from the end of mile one.  The route I had planned ran past a toilet at mile 3 so I continued, but I knew a fair while before I got there that I would only be running as far as the Visitor Centre at the local lakes and back that day.

Rubbish run

An awful, awful run, but I did actually feel better for getting out at least and added 6 miles to my total for the week.

I headed to bed early on Friday night, as Saturday was going to be a busy one for me.

At 6:40am on Saturday morning another runner from my club – James, arrived to pick me up for the drive down to Uxbridge where we were due to marshal at the Country to Capital ultra for Go Beyond, along with two other runners from our club who we collected along the way.

James has also signed up for the South Downs Way 100 this year, so there was lots of training talk going on during the drive down!

Cassiobury parkrun

(Picture from the Cassiobury parkrun facebook page)

A week earlier James had suggested that we set off for our checkpoint a little earlier so that we may take in a parkrun on the way down.  Both Sally and I jumped at the chance to add to our parkrun tourism total, even though Sally currently has her arm in a sling!

Sally and I at Cassiobury parkrun

The course at Cassiobury parkrun was lovely and flat.  It consisted of two and a half laps around the park.  Marshals were super vigilant about keeping runners out of the cycle lane, as the park was a busy one and there had been reports of runners/cyclists getting knocked during the event in the past.  Even so, there were several runners who insisted on staying in the cycle lane, despite being shouted at, which was a shame.

Cassiobury parkrun

(Picture from the Cassiobury parkrun facebook page)

I felt a fair bit better than I had done the previous afternoon but still hadn’t dared to eat anything before leaving that morning, just in case it made me a) sick b) need to rush to the loo or c) both of the above.  I decided to just jog my way around the parkrun and enjoy a new course.  In actual fact I was fine with food again by Saturday though.

Cassiobury parkrun

(Picture from the Cassiobury parkrun facebook page)

Official time: 28:26
Position: 192/421
Gender position: 38/177
Age category position: 8/17

I had decided to wear my Country to Capital top from 2016 seeing as I would be marshaling the event later on that morning and ended up running the parkrun just behind a man pushing a double buggy who was wearing a Country to Capital top from 2017!  After getting my barcode scanned, I made my way over for a chat about C2C and future races we both had planned for this year.  He told me of the ‘Last Man Standing’ race he had entered.  An event of laps where you must complete each lap within an hour, or be timed out from the race.  The laps continue until you are the ‘last man standing’, with all other entrants timed out.  It sounded good!

Cassiobury parkrun was the 20th different parkrun event I have run (Bedford, Blickling, Corby, Daventry, Huntingdon, Kettering, Kings Lynn, Linford Wood, Ludlow, March, Market Harborough, Milton Keynes, Northampton, Peterborough, Rugby, Rushmere, Sheringham, Wimpole Estate and Wolverhampton being the other 19!)  This means that I am now officially on the parkrun tourism table of fame*!  :)
* not it’s official title!!!

Once James, myself and Sally had all finished the parkrun we collected Paul from the sidelines (who had decided to sit this one out) and drove over to checkpoint three of the Country to Capital.  Country to Capital is a 45 mile race run along trails and the canal path from Wendover to Little Venice.  Checkpoint three is the ‘feeding station’ and at about mile 25 on the course.

There were six runners from our running club out on the course, and plenty of names we all recognised on the start list this year.

With delays to the crew van, we were rather concerned that it was going to be a bit hit and miss when it came to setting up our checkpoint station in time, but luckily the crew van arrived armed with the famous Go Beyond cake and lots of other goodies with just enough time for us to set up our feeding station.  We were soon joined by the partner of the guy sat in first place through checkpoint two, who then kindly kept us informed with his location using her phone tracker.  I always enjoy chatting with the crew of fast ultra runners and usually come away having learnt something.  It’s always handy to know how different runners like the stations to be presented too.

Two of our runners came through within the first fifteen runners (eventually finishing in 7th and 8th position), and I also recognised Cat Simpson – who went on to place as second female in the race.

One of our female runners, Helen, came through as fifth lady – a position she remained in until the end.

As checkpoint lead, being that I still wasn’t feeling 100%, I decided to place myself away from the food and instead by the chip timing base, jotting down runner numbers along with clock times as they came through.  I had another member of our club alongside me helpfully shouting out runner numbers as they passed, and the other three crew that I had travelled down that morning with helped runners to fill their drinks bottles, unpacked food as necessary and generally kept the place fairly clear during the event.

Checkpoint three of Country to Capital

Even though we were at a point more than halfway into the race, there never really seemed to be much of a lull and the day went by really quickly.  Four runners withdrew at our checkpoint and a handful of runners just scraped through before cut-off.
We spent thirty minutes or so desperately trying to hunt down a lost runner, but it turns out they had already headed back to the finish, having pulled from the event at the previous checkpoint.  Please runners, – if you run a race, let a marshal have your chip back and tell them you are pulling.  Preferably pull at an actual checkpoint as well, rather than between marshal points.  It makes our job much easier and we can usually provide a nice warm car, food and blankets to keep you comfy until transport arrives to ferry you to the finish.

Luckily, I hadn’t been working on the Friday night, but was due to work Saturday night, so on my return home after wolfing down the chicken tea I had instructed Dan to make over the phone I made my way to bed where I managed to grab a couple of hours sleep before heading in for the night shift.
All good practice at no sleep ready for the 100 in June!  😀

Do you chat to spectators at events?
What food do you like to see on a checkpoint?
Do you enjoy running speed sessions on your own?

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?

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.

Slowly.

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?